To celebrate the creation of our horrific and irresistible zombie mobile phone animations, one of our team members has taken time to summarize an article on the origin of the zombie legend. We'd like to add that the word "legend" doesn't necessarily incur that it's just a myth.
A Zombie, as defined by the Caribbean version of Voodoo, is either a human being bereft of all willpower, or a re-animated corpse. The latter kind is often controlled by a “master”, most often the creator him or herself, but at times someone else with the ability to control them. It is said that there is little in the way of scientific evidence of the existence of Zombies, but I keep my own counsel on that.
Even though Zombies were (or are) a rare product of voodoo practice, Zombies are pretty common these days – at least in movies and games. The genre of Zombie films has enjoyed something of a revival over the past ten years, with many new films, dozens of re-makes and marketing and distribution of the old classics. At the time of writing, the ground-breaking novel I am Legend is scheduled for movie premiere in December 2007, starring no one less that Will Smith. (Read more about that book below.)
There are plenty of stories of people returning from the grave dating back to the medieval times, when it was thought that souls could return from hell to posses dead bodies. The difference between these tales and the myth(?) of Zombies is that Zombies are resurrected (or reanimated) by other people through rituals.
This definition, however, would effectively mean that the Zombies in movies like, say, Resident Evil aren’t actually true Zombies as they are raised from the dead by more modern means, even though they still used drugs. Therefore, a simpler, more up-to-date definition of Zombies might be creatures that have died – indeed, are still dead – but still move, hunger for flesh or brains and are generally nasty.
There are some cases of Zombie-encounters that have come to international attention. One of the most famous instances was when a man called Clarvius Narcisse was found alive by his sister in 1980 – some 18 years after his funeral! He was confused and his memory was muddled, and doctors failed to find any conclusive answers to his worn condition. Reportedly, Clarvius claimed to have been held captive and used for slave labour for two years, all the time in a drugged state. He managed to escape after a fellow captive had awakened from his chemically induced half-sleep and killed their captor, and was thereafter on the run for the remaining years.
One of the first scientific investigations into the existence of Zombies was carried out by Doctor George de Rouquct, at Haiti. He reported encounters with men with lifeless stare and sunken chins, working hard without apparent sweating and walking stiffly. Dr de Rouquct didn’t go on to draw any conclusions on the origin of their odd behaviour, and his notes have mostly been published in anthropological publications.
Continued in Brrrains! Zombies Explained, part 2.