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.

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Discussion

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

Comments

Lizard20's picture
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Lizard20 8 November, 2015 - 14:55

No i am not a big fan of zombies.
I dont known why people like scaring themselves with zombies so much because i dont like scaring my self with zombies and i dont know anyone who does thats why i dont know.
Maybe some people just enjoy being scared but i dont understand how anyone can enjoy being scared by zombies specifically

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57 users have voted.
Dugg's picture
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Dugg 8 November, 2015 - 14:36

I am a pretty big zombie fan i watch some series involving zombies and i think zombies often bring a lot of action and fighting to mive anf sieres wich i appreciate. Personally and don't think zombies are scary but i think that people get a rush out of getting scared. Thats why there a so many horror movies people like to challange themself and se how tuff they are.

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59 users have voted.
Noh8m8's picture
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Noh8m8 8 November, 2015 - 13:59

I would not exactly call myself a zombie fan. I have watched some movies with zombies that I did enjoy but it was not the best movies i have ever seen, due to that I do not like the gross parts with blood and bodypieces everywhere. Also the movies are quite similar to each other. I do think the theories of zombies are very interesting though, actually more interseting than lots of other mythological creatures such as vampires and werewolves. That is probably because zombies feels close to us and the idea of a zombie apocalypse makes us wonder what we should have done in that situation. I think that is why zombies are popular and people like to frighten themselves with them a lot, it feels so realistic.

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43 users have voted.
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Daffodil4 8 November, 2015 - 12:38

I think that zombie fans believe that an inhuman creature, a former human who is controlled by a master is exciting and the fact that there have been some people who have given themselves out to be real zombies makes it much scarier.

Books, movies and tv-series nowadays are, as it says in the text, full of strange creatures like zombies, vampires and werewolfs. Many people like to explore alternative ways to live and they think that to imagine that maybe there are other kinds of humanlike living beings is thrilling. These zombie movies make the viewer’s everyday life more interesting.

I am not a zombie fan, I find it hard to believe in these creatures, and zombies are therefore not scaring me. Besides, I don’t like scary books or movies at all, zombies is just not my thing.

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8 users have voted.
Wyvern's picture
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Wyvern 8 November, 2015 - 11:39

I actually dislike zombies, mainly because it's been overused. The story (or reality) about the Haiti witch doctors however, I think is very interesting. Zombie slaves to do my laundry. Nice! Zombies are most popular in the western world where I think we live a little too safe and our fantasy tries too make up for the lack of thrills or kicks. That's the reason why zombies are not very popular in the middle east or other catastrophe-ridden areas don't like zombies because they got enough trouble and fear already.

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7 users have voted.
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Avalag 8 November, 2015 - 09:16

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

I find the possibility for zombies really interesting, but they have become so boring recently, all they do nowadays in most movies and games is that they are huge hordes but they walk really slowly and don't really try to catch you. I think people like frightening themselves because it's an easy way to get excited because fear isn't really that common anymore, not in that kind of way at least.

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8 users have voted.
I_love_9gag's picture
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I_love_9gag 8 November, 2015 - 08:38

I feel pretty neutral to zombies, I don't believe that they are scary but they aren't really "nice" either.
The mythes concerning them are very interesting, and the movies are mostly good, but then again, who doesn't enjoy a good horror movie/story. but to summarize my short text. No I am not a fan of zombies.

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8 users have voted.
esouth's picture
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esouth 7 November, 2015 - 19:28

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

I would not say that I am a zombie fan. I think the reason I don't like zombies is a magazine I read at the age of seven, which made me really scared at the time. Now I obviously know that zombies aren't and couldn't be real, but I still remember how frightened I was.
I think the main reason people get scared of xombes is the fact that they are supposed to be dead. If someone dies and gets buried, they should remain dead. Another reason might be the big influence zombies have on media, and they are portrayed. Someone who enjoys watching The Walking Dead probably have a pretty good idea of what a zombie would be like, and because of that they most likely know they wouldn't want to encounter one in real life.

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7 users have voted.
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daisybuchanan 7 November, 2015 - 17:08

No, I'm not a zombie fan (at all, in fact). I just think that the thought that they once were normal people but don't have anything human left in them is really frightening.
So, not being a zombie fan, I can't understand why people would enjoy watching movies about them. I understand that one can like to read books about them, because it's a completely different thing and you can imagine the zombies to look in whatever way kind of resembles the author's description of them. But movies just make everything seem so real, but maybe that's just what people like about them. Perhaps they just like the adrenaline kick or the "excitement" in zombie movies.

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7 users have voted.
20David00's picture
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20David00 7 November, 2015 - 15:38

I would consider myself as a "zombie fan". I enjoy watching horror movies and the idea of a zombie apocalypse is rather fascinating. The main reason to why i like zombie/horror movies is that they are always very action packed, there is always something happening. I believe that the reason to why people frighten them selves with horror movies is the excitement and the action.

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7 users have voted.
basket00's picture
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basket00 7 November, 2015 - 15:21

I would not say I´m a zombie fan. I do understand why people like zombie so much but I mean for me it´s so unrealistic that it just becomes borring and that´s why I don´t like watch zombie programs.

I do understand why peolpe like to watch horror movie. I think they like feeling more alive when they watch horror and zombie movies. I also thnik that the "I do not know part" is frightening for a lot of people and I think that´s the reason why people frightening themself when they watch zombie movies. I aso think there´s one more reason, the zombie looks extremly scary.

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7 users have voted.
millaw's picture
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millaw 7 November, 2015 - 15:16

Yes, I guess I'm kind of a fan of zombies. I mean, I've seen a couple TV-series/movies and played some video games with zombies in that I've really enjoyed. Though, I think I starting to get pretty unoriginal with zombies. A lot of movies etc use them, and I'm getting kind of tired of it. But, if you can keep the story intresting I'm totally a fan.
I also think the thought about a zombie apocalypse is pretty intresting. Like, how would you survive? Who would survive? It's of course a terrible thought, but still intresting. I think others agree, it's frightening but you can't not think about it.
I think people like frightening themselves with the idea of zombies because it feels kind of realistic. Often in zombie movies/series/games it's a virus that turns people into zombies. And in real life new deceases and viruses is discovered and spread evey day. For example, ebola. Ebola came quick and was deadly. Deceases like ebola helps the theory that a zombie virus could exist, and makes it feel very close and realistic.

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6 users have voted.
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MBlomman 7 November, 2015 - 13:28

i am not a big fan of zombies because I find them overly dramatized in some movies/tv-series and books. Although I like some Zombie movies like the walking dead. it depends on how you illustrate the zombies I think. If you make a series with Zombies you have to be careful so that it doesn't become to much of the zombies. I think people like frightening themselves with zombies because it's the cool thing to do right now and as the world is facing a lot of changes today anything can happen even a zombie apocalypse. I don't believe in zombies myself but I understand people who believe that the apocalypse will come and so on.

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6 users have voted.
Dade's picture
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Dade 7 November, 2015 - 13:13

I am not a zombie fan because I think, that the idea of a zombie, as represented in the movies and tv shows i have seen, is to unrealistic. On the other hand, the idea of a ''living dead'' is quite interesting. I believe that in general people like to scare themselves with this idea because it would turn the world upside down.

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8 users have voted.
lussebullen's picture
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lussebullen 7 November, 2015 - 12:28

I think zombies are really frightening, because of the fact that they are neither dead or alive. They are somewhere in between and plus that they eat human brains. They can't control their bodies because their brains aren't working as it should, so they have only one instinct, and that is too eat brains.

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6 users have voted.
Paula2205's picture
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Paula2205 7 November, 2015 - 12:04

I am indeed a zombie fan! I enjoy watching The Walking Dead and playing zombie-survival video games. I think that zombies are so frightening because a zombie outbreak could potentially wipe out the entire human race and put everyones survival skills to the test. Some people find that, well, kind of awesome. Although, I Believe their opinions would change if they were to actually face an apocalypse of that sort.

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6 users have voted.
cupcake123's picture
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cupcake123 7 November, 2015 - 12:02

I am not a fan of zombies, but I had a period when I watched and loved "The Walking dead". For some reason I stopped, and I really do not know why, because I loved it so much. Anyway, I think people like horror because it is kind of a rusch to get scared by movies and stuff. It is like a small adventure or something.

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6 users have voted.
the29th's picture
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the29th 6 November, 2015 - 19:36

I'm not actually sure why people love zombies so much. I guess it's for the same reason why people love horror movies, something that is also a mystery to me. Maybe they just like the adrenaline? Though I do think the idea is pretty cool and many good tv-shows/movies/video games have come from it.

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7 users have voted.
Joh00's picture
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Joh00 6 November, 2015 - 13:35

I'm not a fan of zombies. I don't find zombie stories that exciting and I think that is becuase it's so unrealistic , there is no way zombies could exist. I don't know why people like frightening themselves with zombies. Perhaps they think it's exciting to see if they get scared when watching or reading a zombie story.

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7 users have voted.
Husmusen100's picture
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Husmusen100 6 November, 2015 - 12:20

I don’t think zombies are frightening because I have always known that they are not real. When I was younger I thought they were frightening but not because of what they do but because of the way they looked.

I think people like to be scared by zombies because they are so well created in movies. They are also humans that are not dead or alive. We humans also like abnormal creatures. I’m not sure though because I personally can not relate to this.

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5 users have voted.
Ameno's picture
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Ameno 5 November, 2015 - 16:34

No, I am not a zombie fan and don't like to be afraid. I don't really know why people like to scare them selves and watching horror movies. But one of the reasons maybe is that the Adrenalin starts to flow through their veins. But as i said i have almost no clue to why people like to scare themselves.

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7 users have voted.
Araz21's picture
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Araz21 5 November, 2015 - 16:33

I am not a big fan of zombies because they are not funny and it's not specially funny to watch a zombie movie. From my Point of view, people like zombies and watch zombie Movies because they want to see if they get scared or not.

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7 users have voted.
LallareN's picture
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LallareN 5 November, 2015 - 16:32

I like different games that are set in a world where there's been a zombie apocalypse and you control a group of survivors. I also like horror movies that center around a few people who are escaping zombies etc. I think people like them because they are both alive and dead (the living dead) and because of their mythology.

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6 users have voted.
Aaaa's picture
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Aaaa 5 November, 2015 - 16:24

I am not a fan of zombies. Partly because I barely watch movies or tv-shows although I find them quite interesting and I would probably be a fan of them if I got exposed to the right material. I think that the part of becoming a zombie is the scariest part for me and for most people. Because when you get bitten by a zombie you don't become a cool vampire or a werewolf, you basically die (it doesn't seem like they are conscious). Also zombies usually mean that there is an apocalypse which comes with a lot of other scary stuff.

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6 users have voted.
ainexs's picture
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ainexs 5 November, 2015 - 15:54

Are you a zombie fan? Why do you think people like frightening themselves with zombies so much?
No, I can not say that I a a zombie fan. I do not "not like" them, I just have never been that into the whole "zombie thing". But I did actually really enjoy reading and also watching the book/movie; "Warm Bodies" which is abut a zombie apocalypse etc. It was really good! Someone else also mentioned this but I think that people enjoy zombies so much because they do not fit into the categorize "monsters", because they are closer to humans. They were literally humans before they turned into zombies. I also believe that there is another reason to why people like zombies, and it's that it's not really about the zombies but about the humans. In every movie and book, where there has been or is a zombie apocalypse, the people who still are alive, are really clever and strong and just very tough! So yeah, these are two reasons that I think explains why people like zombies so much!

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7 users have voted.
CheckpointKalle's picture
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CheckpointKalle 4 November, 2015 - 19:29

I'm not a fan of zombies, mainly because don't watch zombie movies. I find the idea of a decomposing and brain-dead creature more ridiculous and unrealistic than scary.

One reason to why people watch a lot of zombie movies might be that they're harder to take seriously than other horror movies. Zombies might be scary, but I still don't think people perceive them as much as a threat as other horror creatures. And even if you're scared of zombies, you (hopefully) have a higher IQ than one, so there should be no problem for you to outsmart a zombie. There shouldn't be that much of a problem to outrun one neither. I beg to pardon if I upset all zombie fans now. I'm just not really for the idea of something as unrealistic as a walking dead...

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6 users have voted.
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Jennie 4 November, 2015 - 18:29

I like supernatural movies and books, but I haven't read much about zombies. Yet, my favorite book series takes place in a world which is ravaged by a disease which turns the infected into basically a zombie, even though it is never written out in the book.

I believe that people are frightened of zombies and a zombie apocalypse because authors and movie directors in this genre are skilled in making the whole apocalypse realistic and trustworthy. Maybe zombie apocalypse movies takes horror to a different level since it's actually relatively realistic.

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6 users have voted.
mmcats's picture
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mmcats 4 November, 2015 - 17:17

I am not a fan of horror movies/books in general, but some zombie movies are exciting and sometimes i enjoy to watch them. I think people like to scare themselves because of the adrenaline, I like the rides on theme parks for example, and that is kind of the same thing. I wonder why I like one kind of adrenaline and not the other?

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6 users have voted.
littlewanderer's picture
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littlewanderer 4 November, 2015 - 15:52

I wouldn't say that I am a zombie fan, though I have to admit I do enjoy zombie movies to some extent, as long as the plot isn't extemely terrible. I'm not amused by movies that are too violent or gory, but I could sacrifice a few minutes spent hiding behind a pillow if the story isn't the exact same as every other zombie movie, because they tend to be quite similar.

Even though I personally am not fond of zombies, there are times when I watch movies about them anyway. I think the reason I do this is that we humans are entertained by abnormal things, something that we don't see every day, and a zombie movie guarantees this content. I would suppose that watching these things that make our heart rate go up leaves us with a rush of adrealine, and that is a reason why we do this.

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7 users have voted.
matildae's picture
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matildae 4 November, 2015 - 14:25

I would not say I am a zombie fan, sometimes I might enjoy watching a zombie movies. Perhaps the reason why people find such amusement in zombie culture is because it might not always be such a radical thought, they might actually believe zombies really exist.

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8 users have voted.

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