copyright 2008 by Gary L. Pullman
Suspecting that there might be some truth to the legends of zombies (dead bodies brought back to life through a voodoo spell), Harvard University’s Wade Davis, an ethnobiologist, traveled to Haiti to investigate his theory. Sure enough, he discovered, there is some truth--quite a bit of it, actually--behind the legends of the revenants.
To create a zombie, a voodoo priest, or witch doctor, poisons the victim with a topically applied mixture of frog and puffer fish toxins, which slows both heartbeat and breathing rate to all-but-imperceptible levels. The supposedly deceased person is then buried. Within eight hours, to avoid the “deceased: person’s actual death by suffocation, the body is dug up and the occupant of the grave is administered a Jimson weed paste, which causes a psychotic delirium. The mad revenant is then sold as a slave to a wealthy plantation owner.
The drugs also make the zombies' movements clumsy. They walk in an awkward fashion. They are unable to see well, and they often extend their arms in front of them, feeling their way along to avoid unseen obstacles, just as they are represented as behaving in horror movies.
There's also another type of actual zombie. Known as the philosophical zombie, this version appears in every sense to be just like you and me (well, just like you, anyway), and lives in a world just like yours. There’s only one difference between you and the philosophical zombie. It lacks consciousness, whereas you are a conscious entity (as far as anyone can tell, at least). Its behavior, however, is, or appears to be, just like yours. Philosophical zombies are used in thought experiments concerning the possibility of physicalism and to refine ideas about phenomenalism. As one might suspect with anything pertaining to philosophy, the whole thing become amazingly complicated and rather tedious, but the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains all any sane person (or zombie) wants to know but is afraid to ask, and we direct those with sufficient courage and curiosity to the university’s online reference work (just click the volume’s title; it links to the article), which discusses the “idea of zombies, zombies and physicalism, the conceivability argument,” whether conceivability must involve possibility, and related issues and concerns.
Films which feature zombies, such as Night of the Living Dead (1963), Zombie (1979), Day of the Dead (1985), Re-Animator (1985), Dead Alive (1992), Army of Darkness (1993), Cemetery Man (1994), Bio Zombie (1998), 28 Days Later (2002), and Dawn of the Dead (2004), therefore, are not quite as inane as they might seem otherwise. In fact, you should be careful if you plan to vacation in Haiti any time soon. We hear there’s a labor shortage there, and employers are looking into innovative ways to fill vacancies in the workforce.
Note: A number of zombie movies are in the public domain and may be downloaded free or watched free online. For further information, visit these links: