Voodoo Zombies: Where Do They Come From?

Updated June 1, 2021
Witch from the indigenous African tribe

Scary stories of Voodoo zombies are prevalent among those who practice Voodoo. Historically, the rest of the world discounts zombie tales as myths. However, those with family members declared dead and buried only to reappear a decade or so later believe Voodoo zombies are very real.

Real Life Voodoo Zombies

There are a few well-known cases of people whose families claimed they were real zombies. In 1997, The Lancet, a weekly medical journal, featured a study, Clinical findings in three cases of zombification. The paper explained that in Haiti there are over 1,000 new zombie cases reported annually. The study explored three documented cases of individuals who were dead but were revived and deemed to be zombies.

Empty Crypt Zombie

A young woman was buried in a tomb after being pronounced dead, but three years she later turned up in her village. She was disoriented and confused. When her tomb was opened, there was a pile of rocks where her body should have been.

A slightly open empty wooden coffin

Zombie Granny

In the 1930s, a village was shocked when a woman they'd buried nearly 30 years earlier stumbled naked into the village. The elderly woman had the telltale signs of zombification with the absent look in her eyes, awkward muscular movement, and rasping breath. She appeared to be suffering from dementia.

Dead Man Walking

In 1962, a man, Clairvius Narcisse, was declared dead after falling into a coma. He was buried and grieved by his family. However, almost two decades later, he appeared in the village market and declared he was Clairvius, even identifying himself to his sister. His identity was proven. Clairvius claimed that he was still alive when buried and was dug up soon after the service. He was enslaved on a sugar plantation until his escape. This isn't a far-fetched scenario.

In fact, in his 1929 book, The Magic Island, American journalist William Seabrook wrote how he was taken to a Haitian plantation where he witnessed several zombies working. He described them as being hollow looking, with lifeless eyes and blank expressions. He wrote how they carried out their duties as though automated like a machine.

Zombie Powder Creates Real Life Zombies

In Voodoo traditions, a Caplata (female) or Bokor (male) is a Voodoo witch that can be hired for good or evil purposes. Creating zombies has long been accepted as something the witch can do through her/his practice of black magic. Once the dead person becomes a zombie, they are owned by the person who paid the witch to perform the magic. There are several reasons a person might want to doom a deceased person to such a horrible fate. The most common one throughout all of the Voodoo zombie stories is slave labor.

Priestess Miriam founded the Voodoo Spiritual Temple

How Does Zombie Powder Work?

Is zombification truly black magic or is it possibly a chemical process? The most obvious explanation for real life zombies is some kind of drug. Scientists quickly discount any type of black magic or supernatural causes. They point to the Voodoo witch and the concoctions she/he uses.

The Caplata or Bokor is said to create what's known as a zombie powder. This powder is a mix of various herbs, fish, seashells, and any number of animal parts as well as mysterious secret ingredients. However, scientists did discover when analyzing the powder that the main ingredient is dried puffer fish. This toxin that can place the victim in a coma. Another toxin discovered comes from a toad.

The pufferfish contains a deadly toxin known as tetrodotoxin (TTX). When this toxin is administered in a small amount, it can make the person pliable.

  • The victim suffers from mental confusion.
  • Neurological pathways are disturbed.
  • The person has difficulty with motor functions.
  • Their breathing is also impaired, making them rasp and gasp for air.

When given in higher doses, TTX becomes a paralyzing agent and can induce a coma. Another toxin made from a toad, bufotoxin, can interfere with the heart function, producing a slower heart rate (bradycardia). If these agents and other are mixed just right, it can make the person appear dead to the average person.

The powder could be administered under a various disguise, perhaps in a tea. The person would then collapse and appear to have died, usually in their own home. They would then be buried and revived later. Using other drugs, they would then be controlled to become a slave.

History of Voodoo Zombies

When examining the history of Voodoo zombies, you'll quickly discover countless tales of the dead being revived. Stories of people buried but seen walking about decades seem to validate the belief in Voodoo zombies.

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Voodoo Zombies: Where Do They Come From?