Zombies are big news at the moment, but do you know how it all started? Read this to find out about where zombie mania comes from.

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The history of zombies

Zombies are everywhere these days – on television, in movies and in books. The current image of the terrifying flesh-eating zombie comes from George Romero’s 1968 classic film Night of the Living Dead. Nowadays many people like to frighten themselves with the idea of the ‘Zombie Apocalypse’, and enjoy learning how to destroy zombies by decapitation or shooting them in the head.

However zombies are not new. The term, from the Kongo word nzambi which means ‘spirit of a dead person’, has been long associated with the Vodou religion of Haiti (popularly known as Voodoo). As with West African Vodun, from which it is descended, Vodou has strong ties to the supernatural and magic practised by witch doctors called bokors.

In Haitian culture zombies are not evil creatures but victims. They are said to be people who have been killed by poisoning, then reanimated and controlled by bokors with magic potions for some specific purpose, usually to work as slave labour. The bokors were widely feared and respected. It is said that they used to be in the service of the secret police and those who defied the authorities were threatened with being turned into the living dead.

For a long time most people assumed that zombies were nothing more than mythical figures, like werewolves and vampires. However this changed in the 1980s when a man called Clairvius Narcisse claimed that he had been turned into a zombie by means of drugs and forced to work on a sugar plantation for two years before escaping. Wade Davis, a Harvard scientist, investigated the claim and obtained something called ‘zombie powder’ from Haitian bokors. The main active ingredient was a neurotoxin found in puffer fish which could be used to simulate death. The bokors also explained to Davis that a second poison, made from the datura plant, known as the zombie cucumber, was given to victims after they were revived from their death-like state. This kept the ‘zombies’ in a submissive state so that it was easy to force them to work. Davis wrote several books on the topic, including The Serpent and the Rainbow, later made into a horror film by director Wes Craven.

Although the book was very popular with the public, some scientists were sceptical of Davis’s claims. They said the amounts of toxin in the powder samples he found were inconsistent and not high enough to produce zombifying effects. Although many people in Haiti still believe in zombies, there have been no publicised cases in the last few decades and Davis’s theory remains controversial. The Zombie Apocalypse seems unlikely to take place soon.

Discussion

Are you a zombie fan? Why do you think people like frightening themselves with zombies so much?

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Kimchi's picture
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Kimchi 24 April, 2021 - 13:45

I find zombies terrifying but I think that they never existed and that they will never exist because I find impossible for a human body to stay immortal.

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Kostantinus's picture
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Kostantinus 3 March, 2021 - 09:54

When I was younger I really enjoyed films about zombies. One day I thought, maybe it's time to become an adult so I stopped watching zombie movies. I think, some people like those horrible creatures, because people need some fantasy and dangerous things in their lives, in other words they need to feel some kind of stress, adrenalin in their blood. Now I became a fan of werewolves and Marvel heroes. In my point of view they are cooler than all zombies in the world.

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Jenny201's picture
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Jenny201 3 December, 2020 - 10:15

I don't like zombies, but I'm keen on watching these fictional movies. People like to frighten themselves with zombies so much is because of some reasons. When they imagine being in these situations, they feel scared to face death and lose their family and friends - the end of the world. Watching zombie movies makes audiences feel more and more authentic. Every scene and every detail give an impetus to the fear level of human, they can't stop thinking about the existence and devastation of zombies. As a result, thinking too much about it makes them frighten themselves.

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Vuquan's picture
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Vuquan 24 August, 2020 - 15:15

I am a fan of zombie because they look cool. I think ghost or zombie not alive so i don't scare of them, people scare of them because they just thinking too much about them so they can be obsess them.

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enana's picture
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enana 9 August, 2020 - 03:26

I'm not a fan of zombies but I do like them.
Because when the people see a movie, one impersonates in their place and feels all that adrenaline that is happening in the movie, also because they imagine a life without their family and friends, only with an apocalypse that they have to deal with until it happens and survive it's the main thing.

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Fyawaii217's picture
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Fyawaii217 10 June, 2020 - 07:39

I'm not actually a zombie fan or genre reeks. Because sometimes I think that's out of the reasoning

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Anggriyani's picture
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Anggriyani 10 June, 2020 - 07:19

I like watching horror movies. Like a movie about zombies, because it is quite challenging. But, if it is in the real world, I am also afraid.

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AndiAnugrahSAr's picture
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AndiAnugrahSAr 10 June, 2020 - 06:55

In my opinion Zombie is an Islamic hero from Brazil who opposed slavery policies in 1550 AD.However, in historical records the name of the Islamic warrior is Zumbi dos Palmares

Maybe it has nothing to do with it, but every time I hear the word Zombie I am immediately drawn to the name of the Brazilian warrior

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Giovannichoi's picture
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Giovannichoi 10 April, 2020 - 10:51

I hate zombies. I really love the other monsters, like vampire or werewolves, but I feel something is wrigglng in my clothes and chill is running down on the spine when I see zombie and heard about "Z" of zombies. So when my uncle shows me the Walking Dead, and WORLD WAR Z, I used to kick him and escape from him. And my uncle shows me that at dawn, I can't sleep well at least 7 days. I hate them. I can't understand why people like zombies. And I think people like to frighten themselves by watching "zombies" because eating people's flesh, bite people and tear people is very very very violent and can make people who watch them blow their stress. I will NEVER play zombie games and zombie films even in the future.

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Elife's picture
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Elife 21 February, 2020 - 16:44

Really, I'm not a zombie fan, but I like some scary movies. I think people like frightening themselves with zombies so much, because they are curious and like to feel the adrenaline.

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yiyii69's picture
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yiyii69 25 February, 2020 - 17:56

I really like zombies but they kinda scare me a bit. i think thats why a lot of people like them, the feeling of being scared. its just addicting.

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Lorretta 1 October, 2019 - 15:02

Im absolutely not a zombie fan. I think they are disgusting and terrible. Imagining when your country is full of walking corpses. People have no where to live and no where to hide. Day by day,they live in fear and dont even know when they die. That's creepy.

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gean123's picture
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gean123 27 August, 2019 - 15:48

Yes, I'm a great fan of zombies, I think that people like zombie movies because we like to imagine the situation, we are terrified to think of a humanity in an apocalypse, our lives without our family and friends. The films of zombies are just great, the better examples "War World Z" in this film show us a scientist that look for the cure for this virus thus facing problems also , other great example is the serie " THE WALKING DEAD" this serie It shows us the problems that this group of people suffer, the thing What sets this series apart from the others is that it focuses more on the evolution of the characters and does not focus on zombies as the main antagonist

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MaribelMC's picture
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MaribelMC 27 August, 2019 - 14:48

I found this text interesting because I consider that I like films that are related to zombies, in addition Some people get scared of zombies because they're living dead, I always imagined if some moment I saw a zombie would be something traumatic, more than anything I would be afraid if it was night, the movie that most caught my attention is "Zombie Station" because people fight for their lives, is or virus that spreads and is difficult to disappear, the most beautiful thing is that his father saves his daughter, these zombie movies are charming.

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AlexisContreras 27 August, 2019 - 14:06

I'm not a zombie fan because zombies are very ugly and disgusting, however what i like about them is their history and how they are interpreted by diferent cultures. I believe that they want to feel something out of the ordinary, and in such a way get an adrenaline kick. Some people may feel too little excitement in their comfortable lives. This is their way of filling that gap.

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arielthein's picture
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arielthein 22 June, 2019 - 09:03

I don't understand why people like to frighten others with zombies! I mean, who knows, they could be real, researchers are still not sure. I think people should also think about myths, zombies and all that along with science

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parsasoroori's picture
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parsasoroori 10 April, 2019 - 18:58

No, I'm not a zombie fan. I enjoy science-fiction movies; but movies about zombies couldn't be true. How a composing body can walk or run :DD

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smilemaria85's picture
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smilemaria85 3 March, 2019 - 16:57

I literally hate zombies. I think they are blood crudling. But i love zombie films. And it is astonishing! I always close my eyes during the scary scenes but i LOVE the story of the zombie films.

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Youjiro's picture
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Youjiro 7 February, 2019 - 09:51

I'm zombie and I'm a zombie fun too.First time of appearance is biohazard. I think zombie film is scary and terrifying to every one,but I extremly afraid decreasing of zombie fan.

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QueenPinkBluebel's picture
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QueenPinkBluebel 3 August, 2017 - 13:44

I'm not a zombie fan because I think they're terrifying and a little disgusting. Although, I like horror films about spirits and demons. I don't really understand why people like these frightening creatures, but each one has his opinion and preferences.

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hadia's picture
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hadia 28 March, 2016 - 07:49

Y-YICKSssss!!
I'm really scared of these creatures.....
Well, I doubt if they really exist :)
I think these are our imagination and weaknesses.....
I remembered the time when I was a kid, Me and My elder sister plus elder brother were watching Scooby-dooby-doo :))
It really seemed to be a very horrible cartoon....It usually made me frightened but was really thrilling too..
That night, the name of episode was Scooby-Dooby-doo and the zombies of Zambia....
Huh, that was really really very scary......and I even started to believe that Zambia is the Country of Zombies :0 Ha ha ha
The scooby's team went to Zambia and they met a family living in a mansion ......then afterwards they came to know that all of them were zombies....Every person over there, in that country, was a Zombie .....
Ha ha ha But now, If i watch the same cartoon again, I don't found it thrilling..... I laugh at my own thoughts ..... That's really funny not thrilling!! Ha ha ha :))

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youaretheonlyone29's picture
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youaretheonlyone29 27 March, 2016 - 14:52

Oh, I think they are the real product of people's imagination. I can't love them at all although i a huge fan of horror movies ): I'm just interested in ghosts or strange things that we can not explain. BTW, the picture up there is dreadful '..'

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COOLIONELA's picture
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COOLIONELA 22 February, 2021 - 14:19

It's only actors, but they have very good make up.
They must've had fun ripping their clothes!
O.O
O

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supita1995's picture
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supita1995 2 February, 2016 - 10:57

I am a fan of horror movies, but my favourites are more about demons and possessions, and not so much zombies and gore.

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Amehsiri's picture
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Amehsiri 23 November, 2015 - 16:55

No I am not a zombie fan at all! I find them disgusting, terrifying and I have never understood the hype about them. Although I am not a horror fan at all so that could be one reason but they don't really bring an interesting story to the table like vampires and werewolf’s do.
Why I think people like to scare themselves with zombies is because it gives you some sort of adrenalin that makes you want more even though you are shaking from fear. There's something exciting about the unknown that we need to find out because we as a human race are very curious.

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Ken's picture
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Ken 24 November, 2015 - 12:35

Hmm… a good point, but simply it seems to me that a horror fan sounds like an adrenaline addict… or a person who is bored of doing the same thing in everyday life! Use adrenaline properly!
\\\└('ω')┘////

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A_Tree's picture
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A_Tree 15 November, 2015 - 16:31

I'm not a zombie fan at all, I concider them among the most boring horror creatures in existence, with very little depth to them. I think that the reason that zombies are seen as so frightening, is because they picture loss of control. The prospect of losing control of yourself and your body is horrifying, along with the prospect of death, eternal non-existance, as well as the general disgust for cannibalism, zombies being reanimated human corpses feeding of human flesh. I think people frighten themselves for the same reasons people practice extreme sports, for the adrenaline rush, for the feeling of being alive and in the moment.

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00joh03's picture
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00joh03 12 November, 2015 - 10:44

I am a fan of zombies, or at least works of fiction containing them. I think that many people imagine being in a zombie apocalypse because in a zombie apocalypse, they would have complete freedom.

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GustafBen's picture
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GustafBen 10 November, 2015 - 09:21

I myself see no problem in wanting too feel a little frightened sometimes to spice up your normal and boring life sometimes. I myself like the concept of zombies and find them entertaining from time to time.

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