Zombies & Religion: Voodoo

You’re walking down the street on your way to work, same as you do every day. A stranger steps out of a shop and walks towards you. Even though you try to move out of the way, they crash into you. After a few muttered apologies, they leave. Only then do you notice that your forearm is bleeding from a small cut and going numb. Within minutes that entire side of your body loses sensation. A little while later you are unable to control any of your movements.

You’ve been made into a zombie.

How can it be that easy, you ask? If you lived in Haiti, where Voodoo reigns supreme, there would be no question about the existence of zombies. However, unlike other “breeds” of zombie we have explored here at ZSC, zombies created by Voodoo are living, breathing humans.

Victims are dosed with a neurotoxin. There has been extensive debate about which neurotoxin is actually used during the zombie making process. In The Serpent and the Rainbow, victims were given a dose of tetrodotoxin powder. Tetrodotoxin is found in puffer fish and its history of being extremely lethal puts the legitimacy of these claims into question. But for the sake of simplicity, we’ll use it here.

The tetrodotoxin works into the nervous system and shuts it down. The victim’s breathing will become shallow. Their body is unresponsive to stimulation. While they cannot feel, move, or breathe properly, most victims remain fully aware of what is happening to them in this state of living death.

Treatment of tetrodotoxin involves maintaining the body until it processes the chemical. Most villages don’t have the means to put someone on life support, let alone the manpower and supplies to do so when that person may pass away anyway. Tetrodotoxin has no known antidote. Once the physician sees no visible signs of life, they declare the patient deceased. The victim then ends up buried alive.

In the cover of darkness the Bokor, or sorcerer, will venture to the graveyard to dig up the victim. At this time the newly made zombie is given a powerful hallucinogenic. Most believe the substance to be derived from the datura plant. Datura causes violent hallucinations and photophobia (extreme sensitivity to light). One dose will affect the victim for approximately 48 hours.

The heavy influence of the Voodoo religion in the region is the key element to the zombie creation process. If the victim survives exposure to the various chemical compounds at play, they should recover themselves and become normal within days. Believers that go through the process convince themselves, with influence from the Bokor, that they are actually a zombie. These zombies will continue to work under the bokor for years. It is only when family members see them that legitimacy of their “undead” condition comes into question.

Bokors are believed to be able to manipulate the zombi astral, the spirit of a person. What we call the soul. Those that practice dark arts (making zombies, curses, etc…) are said to capture souls inside jars. Some will sell the jars as charms. Others gather them. The more captured souls in their control, the more powerful the bokor. To go against a powerful bokor is begging to be “cursed”. That is why so many of these living zombies strive to believe their conditions and remain in service to the bokor.

If the family recovers their loved one, they won’t find much of that person left. Years of believing yourself dead and exposure to powerful hallucinogenic drugs warps the brain. Zombies without a bokor riding herd on them often end up in asylums. Those who aren’t discovered tend to haunt graveyards, as they feel closer to the dead than the living.

We here at the Zombie Survival Crew consider these zombies to be victims. That is unless they attempt to harm a crewmember. Unfortunately it is difficult to tell them apart from the other breeds. Keep in mind that newly claimed zombies of this type would appear sweaty. Their eye movements will be erratic, and though it will be difficult to tell, they are breathing. If you think they are the victim of a Voodoo spell, report the zombie but do not dispatch them.