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A group of actors acting as zombies

A zombie or zombi is a mythical dead person who has returned to life as a walking corpse (the living dead). Mythical things that have been "re-animated" are called undead. The Zombie myth came from the Caribbean.

Zombies have become very popular in horror movies. They are dead creatures that have been brought back to life by science or some spell, and eat the flesh or brains of living people.

The Living Dead[change | change source]

A walking corpse, usually called a "zombie", is the name used to refer to a dead person who can walk, think (in some cases), and who attacks living persons. Generally, the living dead are cannibals. A small part of the brain still functions. The heart, lungs and other vital organs are working. And the zombie can use its skeleton and muscles to move. The skin is rotten. Its hair and nails are falling apart. Its eyes are drizzled in red and yellow colors. Zombies are usually covered in blood. They often have open wounds. And they are dressed in ripped clothes.

Voodoo Zombies[change | change source]

A Voodoo sorcerer or 'bokor' can bring dead people back to life. The zombie is under the control of the sorcerer because zombies have no free will. A zombie is a trapped human soul. If a sorcerer can catch the trapped soul, the sorcerer becomes more powerful.

Examples[change | change source]

Wade Davis, a Canadian ethnobotanist (someone who studies what effect plants have on people), wrote about zombies in two books, The Serpent and the Rainbow (1985) and Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie (1988). Davis went to Haiti in 1982 found out and wrote about how a living person can be turned into a zombie by two special powders being rubbed into a wound. The first powder brought a 'deathlike' state because of a certain poison in it, called tetrodotoxin (the same deadly poison found in the Japanese blowfish). At just the right amount, it can make a person almost die, but not quite. The second powder, puts the person in a zombie-like state where they seem to have no will of their own. Many people still do not believe what Davis wrote about, but in Haiti, lots of people recognized the "zombie drugs". This could mean that, while the drugs could have no physical effect on the person, the strong belief may psychologically make them into the zombie they expect (like the placebo effect).

Zombies in history[change | change source]

Ancient civilizations[change | change source]

In Mesopotamian mythology, Ishtar, the goddess of love and fertility once said in anger:

"Father give me the Bull of Heaven,
So he can kill Gilgamesh in his dwelling.
If you do not give me the Bull of Heaven,
I will knock down the Gates of the Netherworld,
I will smash the doorposts, and leave the doors flat down,
and will let the dead go up to eat the living!
And the dead will outnumber the living!"

Middle Ages[change | change source]

In the Middle Ages, many people believed that the souls of the dead could come back as ghosts and haunt the living, often because of a crime that the living person had committed. Sometimes, the ghost could actually take on a physical shape and touch or attack things or people.

Zombies in Films[change | change source]

A zombie with his victim in the film Plan 9 from Outer Space

Zombies appear a lot in horror and fantasy films. Normally, the zombie is a mindless, clumsy corpse which eats human flesh. Zombies can not be called cannibals because they do not eat each other, only humans. The first zombie references appeared in the 1600s. Since that time, zombies have appeared in lots of films and books.

Characteristics[change | change source]

In zombie films, zombies are almost always:

  • Mobile but technically dead, without a heartbeat or other vital signs
  • In a decaying state, with discolored skin and eyes
  • Non-communicative, groaning and howling instead of speaking
  • Unemotional, with no mercy toward victims
  • Hungry for human flesh (zombies ignore animals like dogs or cats)
  • Clumsy and violent
  • Vulnerable to destruction of the brain, which kills them
  • Unaffected by injuries, even normally fatal ones, as long as they do not hurt the brain too much
  • Contagious, a bite from a zombie causes the victim to become a zombie
  • Does not attack other zombies, leading to swarms of zombies

Other pages[change | change source]

Other websites[change | change source]