Real World Zombies
By James Goodridge
Zombies. The living dead are a sub genre of horror that has been reworked over the decades to remarkable success in various entertainment mediums. The rework started with the British movie 28DaysLater(2002) and its (2007)sequel,comics and graphic novels.Resident Evil(2002) with its graphic games and later movies, AMC channels radical hit The Walking Dead(2011)and SYFY network Z Nation have us all hyped for the coming zombie apocalypse.And we can not forget World WarZ(2013) with the spilling of zombie humanity all over the place.Night of The Living Dead original movies and subequent remakes have long maintained the popularity of the genre.The various movie adaptations of master writer Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend are this writer’s favorites, Last Man on Earth(Lu’ltimo uomo della Terra) (1964)with Vincent Price, Omega Man(1971) with Charlton Heston and Rosalind Cash, the most recent version I Am Legend(2007) starring Will Smith are a three way tie for this writer. Whether sitting in a movie theater,on a couch watching cable,gaming or reading our favorite author in the genre,we get a rush and at the end of the day, we are on the outside looking in to mythos. But what about the phenomena of REAL ZOMBIES ?
Different cultures of the world and its regions have their own myths or legends of zombies but for this piece we will confine and focus on Haiti a historically proud yet unstable country, the western half of what was once Hispaniola (President U.S.Grant tried to purchase the island during his first term for colonizaion of ex-slaves).Originally called Saint Domigue the island was ceded over from Spain to France. Importing slaves from west Africa the French from 1697to the 1790’s were able to export 100 million tons of sugar per year. Tactics used subjugate the slave population from any ideas of revolt consisted of,nailing a slave to a tree by he or shes ears,covering slave bodies with molasses to attract ants and the “blasting of black ass” which consisted of shoving gun powder up a slaves anus and igniting it. During the 1740’s slave revolts were especially horrific to the French because of a method ,by run away slaves or Maroons hidden up in the mountains ( a plantation owner would never venture up alone into the mountain regions of the island)which was to poison livestock, people and soldiers by adding Datura stramonium or zombie cucumber (in the United States it is named jimsonweed). Add the pufferfish( Tetraodonite) with the zombie cucumber and you have a lethal combination, that could also be used for mind control,if administered in small amounts.
After the French were driven out of Haiti and the island self partitioned along race (Haiti Dominican Republic) Haiti was ruled during the 19th century by a series of Emperors and Presidents.Secret societies established themselves practicing voodoun or voodoo led by houngan or voodoun priests. It is said that BaronSamedi the voodoo deity Himself ruled during these times promising the living dead an ever lasting heaven back in Africa.Noted Afro Occultist Rollo Ahmed (son of a Egyptian father and British west Indian mother) briefly mentions another African connection to voodoun in his book the Black Art (1936)the Obeah or Obeah-men and their satanic rituals , wholesale poisoning and sorcery. Mr. Ahmed’s book is a fascinating read along with Unsolved (2000) by the brothers Colin & Damon Wilson. The U.S. occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934 (think of Iraq but less intense) by marines made this country aware of zombies or zombification.An icon of the Harlem renaissance movement,writer, folklorist and ethnographer Zora Neale Hurston may have been the first to document a zombie:October 1936 a naked woman is walking aimlessly along a road in a section of Haiti called the Artibonite valley. The woman is identified as a Ms. Felicia Felix-Mentor who had passed away at twenty nine. Doctors examining her a found a strange disputatious issue in That an x-ray that should have shown a broken bone in her leg from Ms. Mentor’s youth showed nothing.Ms. Hurston stated that Ms.Mentor had “a blank face with dead eyes and her eye lids white as if burned by acid”. The Artbonite valley was yet again the scene of another zombie incident:A young man by the name of Clairvius Narcisse dies in an area hospital of a fever the year 1962. In 1980 a man found wandering the country side is identified as Clairvius by his sister Angelina. According to Clarvius he had been zombified by his brother as revenge over a land dispute. Put to work , it was not until his master died that he was able to escape, although Max Beauvoir supreme vodoun of the Bizangos society stated most likely Narcisse was turned into a zombie because of his carousing and Casanova type ways. The leading expert on zombies today is author Wade Davies who’s book the Serpent & The Rainbow (1985)is consider the go to book on the subject.More recently you can view Mr. Davies and his theories by going to YouTube and put in search for Hamilton’s Pharmacopia from November 2012. Hamilton Morris is best explained as a gonzo journalist second coming of Hunter S. Thompson.He has a six part show about zombies (WARNING IF YOU DO NOT LIKE VIOLENCE AGAINST ANIMALS SKIP THE FIRST PART) the zombie in the locked room is classic.
Its September 2010 morning rush hour in mid- town Manhattan,me and my co-workers from the over night shift at the Jacob Javits Convention Center( to use an old phrase the JJCC is a hot bed of paranormal activity in its own right but thats another story for I guess ghost month) we turn on to 7th avenue and 34th st.and run into a stroke of genius of marketing. About twenty zombies of different sizes, shapes and colors are zombie Walking up and down the block and standing on top of prop cars and by the way handing out goodies to herald the premier of AMC’s The Walking Dead next month , in front of Madison Square Garden/ Penn Station to the delight, derision and indifference of commuters.Even in broad day light and rush hour you could see the unease on some people’s faces when encountering the faux zombies, I myself was being zombie walked/followed by one who resembled the lead singer of The Spin Doctors which was fun until we got to 31st street which is a little past MSG/Penn station,which started the little voice of unease in my mind.”The joke has went too” far voice all we have. but the faux zombie,faux spin doctor finally gave up and ambled back to his zombie work area. This writer feels,real zombies are what I theorize as “stand alone events”, in that some incident based in fact that happened ions ago, gets plied on wilh debatable events as time goes on and becomes muddled. This is life’s mystery. Yes ?
Born and raised in the Bronx , New York James is new to writing speculative fiction. After ten years as an artist representative and paralegal James decided in 2013 to make a better commitment to writing. Curently writing a series of short twilight zone inspired stories from the world of art, (The Artwork) and a diesel/punkfunk saga (Madison Cavendish/Seneca Sue Mystic Detectives) with the goal of producing compelling stories.