Haitian Zombies

Discussion in 'The Human Condition' started by MrRING, Jan 12, 2004.

  1. MrRING

    MrRING Justified & Ancient

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    Haitian Penal Code:

    Article 249. It shall also be qualified as attempted murder the employment which may be made against any person of substances which, without causing actual death, produce a lethargic coma more or less prolonged. If, after the person had been buried, the act shall be considered murder no matter what result follows.


    Haitian zombies - an interesting phenomenon, particular to those who have seen or read Wade Davis' The Serpent and the Rainbow... "I wann hear you SCREAM!"

    There isn't that much online, but it's interesting what is. This site:

    http://www.themystica.com/mystica/articles/z/zombies.html

    has the follwing:

    To make a zombie, a voodoo practitioner makes a potion that consists of mainly the poison of the pufferfish (one of the strongest nerve poisons known to man, the clinical drug norcuron has similar effects and is used during surgery) that is given to the intended victim. This causes severe neurological damage, primarily effecting the left side of the brain (the left side of the brain controls speech, memory and motor skills). The victim suddenly becomes lethargic, then slowly seems to die. In reality, the victim¹s respiration and pulse becomes so slow that it is nearly impossible to detect. The victim retains full awareness as he is taken to the hospital, then perhaps to the morgue and finally as they are buried alive. Then, at the voodoo practitioner¹s leisure does he come to retrieve the victim, now become a slave, as a commodity (at one time it was said that most of the slaves who worked in the sugar cane plantations of Haiti were zombies. One case in 1918 had a voodoo priest named Ti Joseph who ran a gang of laborers for the American Sugar Corporation, who took the money they received and fed the workers only unsalted porridge). A zombie will remain in a robot-like state indefinitely, until he tastes either salt or meat(so much for ³The Night of the Living Dead²). Then the zombie becomes aware of their state, immediately returning to the grave. The reality behind the zombie has only been taken seriously by medical science within the last ten years, since the use of CAT scans of the brain, along with the confessions of voodoo priests, explaining their methods. Previous to that, zombies were considered mental defective by science or explained as stunts to try to confuse scientists

    And this site:

    http://www-personal.si.umich.edu/~wmwines/WASP/essays/zombies.html

    says that Wade Davis' "zombie powder" has not really been proven to do what they say it can...

    Anybody got any more info?
     
  2. Kondoru

    Kondoru Antediluvian

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    Quite coincidentaly, I have just purchased a copy of William Seabrookes `Magic Island`. Ill let you know when I get it.
     
  3. Mighty_Emperor

    Mighty_Emperor Beloved of Ra

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    Yep - Wade is quite heavily criticised on a number of fronts - the book reviews (references if you want them) tend to criticise his style of anthropology while this article goe sinto more details on his flawed studies of the zombie powder:

    http://www.chemsoc.org/chembytes/ezine/2002/garlaschelli_nov02.htm

    I'd class both books (as well as few other publications of his):

    The Serpent and the Rainbow
    Wade Davis (1985)
    PB (1994)
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0446343870/revenantmagaz-21
    (1997):
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0684839296/revenantmagaz-21
    HB (1986):
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0671502476/revenantmagaz-21
    (1986):
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0002176017/revenantmagaz-21
    (1988):
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0517608243/revenantmagaz-21

    Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie
    Wade Davis (1988)
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0807842109/revenantmagaz-21
    HB:
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0807817767/revenantmagaz-21

    as suspect.

    --------------------------------------------
    HA: Good find - despite earlier stories (like Lafcadio Hearn's 1889 "The Country of the Comers-Back") it was Seabrook's tale "Dead Men Working in the Cane Fields" (which is in that book isn't it?) that got made into the first zombie movie "White Zombie" with Bela Lugosi. Both short stories (and a good selection of other early ones and an nifty overview by the editor) can be found in:

    Zombie: Stories of the Walking Dead
    (1985)
    An anthology of stories edited by Peter Haining

    I got it for 1p from Amazon (plus p&p).

    Given the books date (1929) I'm suprised its not online as othr works are:

    -------------------
    Lafcadio Hearn:

    Last of the Voudoos (1885)
    http://www.sacred-texts.com/afr/hearn/lastvdu.htm

    New Orleans Superstitions (1886)
    http://www.sacred-texts.com/afr/hearn/nos.htm


    -------------------
    Joseph J. Williams

    Voodoos and Obeahs (1932)
    http://www.sacred-texts.com/afr/vao/index.htm

    Psychic Phenomena of Jamaica (1934)
    http://www.sacred-texts.com/afr/ppj/index.htm
     
  4. MrRING

    MrRING Justified & Ancient

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    I think an interesting question now would be if Haiti still has an extensive use of zombies in an underground way.
     
  5. Mighty_Emperor

    Mighty_Emperor Beloved of Ra

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    Or a better question: Was there ever an actual extensive use of zombies in Haiti?

    The belief in a zombie workforce is widespread throughout (sub-Saharan) Africa (esp. South Africa and Cameroon), and in different forms dates back over 100 years, but there is no actual evidence of it happening despite there being a number of fatalities over it.

    In the Caribbean there is certainly a basis for the belief in zombies but I do wonder how extensive their use was in the cane fields, etc. or (as in the African cases) is belief in them more a reflection of underlying concerns (globalisaiton, migrant labourers, etc.).
     
  6. Timble2

    Timble2 Imaginary Person

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    A long time ago, in a TV documentary on on Haiti, there was an interview with a Zombi. He seemed pretty coherent and I got the impression that after 'dying' he acted in zombi-like fashion because that's what he believed had happened to him.

    Can't rememeber what finally broke the 'spell' for him, but he was still regarded as one of the living dead by his neighbours and shunned accordingly.
     
  7. MrRING

    MrRING Justified & Ancient

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    Wow, that sounds like a great documentary - any further recall about what it was?

    And here is a bit more about modern zombi from THIS MOSTLY ZOMBIE MOVIE PAGE:

    There are many examples of zombies in modern day Haiti. Papa Doc Duvallier the dictator of Haiti from 1957 to 1971 had a private army of thugs called tonton macoutes. These people were said to be in trances and they followed every command that Duvallier gave them. Duvallier had also his own voodoo church with many followers and he promised to return after his death to rule again. He did not come back but a guard was placed at his tomb, to insure that he would not try to escape, or that nobody steal the body. There are also many stories of people that die, then many years later return to the shock and surprise of relatives. A man named Caesar returned 18 years after he died to marry, have three children and die again, 30 years after he was originally buried. Another case involved a student from a village Port-au-Prince who had been shot in a robbery attempt. Six months later, the student returned to his parent’s house as a zombie. At first it was possible to talk with the man, and he related the story of his murder, a voodoo witch doctor stealing his body from the ambulance before he reached hospital and his transformation into a zombie. As time went on, he became unable to communicate, he grew more and more lethargic and died.

    A case reported a writer named Stephen Bonsal described a zombie he witnessed in 1912 in this way: a man had at intervals a high fever, he joined a foreign mission church and the head of the mission saw the him die. He assisted at the funeral and saw the dead man buried. Some days later the supposedly dead man was found dressed in grave clothes, tied to a tree, moaning. The poor wretch soon recovered his voice but not his mind. He was indentifed by his wife, by the physician who had pronounced him dead, and by the clergyman. The victim did not recognized anybody, and spent his days moaning inarticulate words.
     
  8. Mighty_Emperor

    Mighty_Emperor Beloved of Ra

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    I would be a bit suspicious about the claims about the tonton macoutes, etc. as vodou has been used a lot to scare people.

    One documentary I found interesting was, I believe, Richard Stanley's BBC one "The White Darkness" his diary is in FT140:32-38 and can be found here:

    http://www.forteantimes.com/articles/140_voodoo1.shtml

    as well as on his unoffical web site:

    http://www.kotinet.com/nagtloper/write/voodoo.html

    Its a pity the official website is down:
    http://www.thewhitedarkness.com

    Or it might be another one. In it they met a couple of zombies - they both had mental problems and the weird thing is that the 'zombies' family accepted them as being their dead child but tests revealed they weren't related. It tells us important lessons about grief and wanting to believe but does also cast some interesting light on haitian zombies.

    Anyone remember this one? Is it the same as the Stanley documentary?

    [edit: Now I'm focused on retreiving the memories I recall that they were investigating the whole vodou area including the spirit bottles and zombie powder. I'll keep trying to come up with key piece of infomration though.]

    There is no mention in the FT article.

    I'd also question his statement about Faustin Wirkus' autobiography "The White King of La Gonave":

    http://www.scuttlebuttsmallchow.com/wirk1.html

    being the basis of the film "White Zombie" (although it may have been responsible for popualrising vodou in the States which lead to interest in making such a film). That said his story is fantastic (this is from the above link):

    and:

    Google cahced version

    His story is also told in Seabrook's "Magic Island" isn't it?

    Also:
    http://flagspot.net/flags/ht-hist.html#f2k

    --------------
    Sidenote: Damn I'd forgotten Richard Stanley made "Hardware" (I once did a very weird thing with children's soes inspired by that film) and "Dust Devil" - I love those films!!! And the Nephilim videos too!! Blimey I wonder if I can kidnap him or something.
     
  9. Mighty_Emperor

    Mighty_Emperor Beloved of Ra

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    Getting warmer - I'm pretty sure its one fo these:

    "Interview with a Zombie" - I'm guessing this (or something similar is what Timble was talking about):
    http://library.digiguide.com/lib/programme/64877

    "Last of the Medicine Men" - part of Benedict Allen's journeys to see different shaman, witch doctors, etc.
    http://library.digiguide.com/lib/programme/51712

    I suspect it might be the first one - it was done by Roland Littlewood who published his findings in the Lancet:

    http://www.pslgroup.com/dg/3D806.htm

    Which pretty much chimes with my recollections.

    [edit: See also:

    http://www.londonstudent.org.uk/3issue/news/newsinbrief.htm

    and:

    Source

    and this looks to be an interesting article although my German isn't really up to it (I might get it translated later):

    http://www.gwup.org/skeptiker/archiv/2000/1/zombie.html ]

    [edit2: and the Lancet article is:

    Littlewood, R. & Douyon, C. (1997)
    Clinical findings in three cases of zombification.
    Lancet. 350 (9084). 1094 - 6.

    whats odd is that it isn't listed on their site:

    http://www.thelancet.com/journal/vol350/iss9084/contents ]

    [edit3: Nope thats it alright - they tested the DNA of two of the thre zombies they studied. Neither of whom

    The conclusion (initials are the 3 zombies they studied and numbers relate to references):

    Thanks to Timble for the pointer - that would have niggled me for ages ;)

    Now all I need to do is track down the actual documentary.]
     
  10. MrRING

    MrRING Justified & Ancient

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    Another interesting article here:

    http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/caribarch/zombi.htm

    With the following bit:

     
  11. Mighty_Emperor

    Mighty_Emperor Beloved of Ra

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    Mr. R.I.N.G.: Great find - I've emailed them to find out more.
     
  12. Mighty_Emperor

    Mighty_Emperor Beloved of Ra

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    There doens't appear to be much extra info beyond that page but I'll get them to drop me a line if anything is published.
     
  13. Mighty_Emperor

    Mighty_Emperor Beloved of Ra

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    Interesting from the Dominican Heritage disctionary:

    www.news-dominica.com/heritage/heritage.cfm?Id=346

    And searhcing around gives me:

    Which all fits in with Lafcadio Hearne's early reports back from Martinique (Les Pays de Revenants) which suggest the zombie there was a generalised bogeyman, ghost, will of the wisp, demon, etc. and may bridge the gap the Haitian zombie.
     
  14. MrRING

    MrRING Justified & Ancient

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    Interesting article here:
    And an online documentary on Haitian zombies:
     
  15. MrRING

    MrRING Justified & Ancient

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    The whole jumbie term is very interesting. I was reading about calypso music when I noticed the Zombie Jamberee:
    WIKI has this to say about the Jumbie:
    Looking for more information on the Jumbie Dance, I came across this:
    And finally, some online remarks of a modern blogger about jumbies which makes it sound quite alot like out Halloween ghosts tradition:
     

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