Zombie Origins, History and Tradition

All About The Zombies

There are three types of Zombies, all named after Zombi, the voodoo snake god, or possibly the West African word zumbi meaning “fetish”. All three enjoy what is commonly called cannibalism, although that would be technically incorrect since they are no longer human. They do, according to legend, like to eat brains, which is based on the earliest stories of losing free will.

The earliest English use of the word zombie was around 1810 when historian Robert Southey mentioned it in his book History of Brazil, but that was in reference to a West African deity. African words like nzambi and ndzumbi have similar meanings in tradition. The modern term “zombie” only came into general first world use in 1929, with the publication of William B. Seabrook’s book, The Magic Island.

The first two types of zombies usually come from black magic practiced in the Caribbean, typically in Haiti. Zombies created by magic (voodoo bokor and black magic) are often controlled by the bokor or voodoo sorcerers who call the bodies forth from graves. They seem to have no sense of self-awareness. We’d like to point out that it has been illegal to make zombies in Haiti since 1835. The earliest references to being an undead zombie are actually based on stories from the horrible treatment of slaves beginning in the 1600s and the loss of free will.

Zombies are also rumored to be created from living people by using a combination of tetrodotoxin, found in Japanese pufferfish, and an unknown hallucinogen. Each is powdered and put into the living person’s bloodstream. We’re not sure how Haitians get their hands on the Japanese pufferfish. 

It is worth pointing out that zombies produced through magical or simple chemical means are slow-moving, and often smell from decay. Although it should be noted that the apparent slow movement is sufficient speed to keep the zombie no more than a few yards away from even a running Olympic caliber athlete.

It is also important to note that zombies are universally fearful of bright lights and fire, are unusually strong (even the slow ones), and can only be killed by a severe head/brain injury or decapitation.

Are mummies zombies?
It depends. There is a debate in the pseudo-scientific about whether a mummy is a zombie, but the consensus is that they are both undead, but some mummies can be leaders (with a goal) as opposed to other undead mummy creatures who serve a master, with no free will of their own.

On film, primarily conceived in George Romero’s 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead, zombies came forth because “the was no more room in hell”. Other films, including Night of the Comet, The Last Man on Earth, and The Omega Man indicate that through comet droppings, scientific means, or even a type of vampire. Plan 9 From Outer Space indicated a possible UFO or Alien connection. Most would agree that the second ‘zombie’ on film, The Mummy (1932, featuring Boris Karloff), was a creature brought back for simple revenge. To save on answering 500 zombie trivia e-mails, the first zombies on film were feared in 1932’s White Zombie, starring Bela Lugosi.

Much more dangerous is the scientifically developed zombie. These creatures seem to have boundless energy, superhuman strength, enhanced speed, and sometimes moderate intelligence. These first appeared once CGI (computer graphic imaging) made a super-fast zombie movement visually possible. Films like the Resident Evil series, 28 Days Later and the Dawn of the Dead remake showcased this new enhanced zombie behavior. 2004’s Shaun of the Dead went with the classic slow-moving zombies.

Trapped in a world of Zombies?

Here is a Zombie Primer:
1. Stay calm. If zombie movies have taught us anything, screaming like a little girl, whether you are a man, woman or a little girl will get you killed for sure.
2. If you find yourself surrounded by zombies, an unproven but possibly effective method of escape could very well by entering their midst and acting like one of them. This worked for Shaun and his friends.
3. Avoid population centers, and only go to markets and malls during daylight hours.
4. It goes without saying that you should barricade yourself, but we’re telling you to anyway.
5. If you are not religious, you may want to start if you find yourself surrounded by zombies.