The science of making Real Zombies - a Halloween special.
Real Zombies by Ian Woolf
Zombies, the walking dead, are empty shells of men, automatons with no inner life at all....corpses raised from the dead to be slaves to their Voodon master. In Hollywood movies, they are creatures to be afraid of, who come seeking brains to eat, undead monsters that cannot be reasoned with or fought. In pubs a zombie is a drink made from Light Rum ,Jamaica Rum , Apricot-flavored Brandy , Pineapple Juice , lime Juice , Orange juice, passion fruit juice and powdered sugar over crushed ice.
In Haiti they know that zombies are not be taken lightly, although they do not fear the zombies themselves, they fear BECOMING zombies!
The word "zombie is derived from the Congo word, "nzambi", which means, "spirit of a dead person". The first references to zombies were discovered in Haiti, a tiny Caribbean island that won its independence from French slavers in 1804 and began creating its own unique culture and way of life - heavily influenced by the African Dahomeny religion of many gods, and the pretence of Catholicism that it hid under when waves of missionaries tried to crush their religion.
Haitians believe that relatives or friends who have sufficiently annoyed others, are in danger of being turned into zombies. A Bokor voudon sorcerer is believed to reanimate a freshly buried corpse of such a person. To make sure this doesn't happen, relatives attend the funeral and stab the body in the heart or remove the head, this second death ensures that the soul is truly gone and the body can never rise again.
Zombie slaves can be spotted by their curious lurching walk, swaying side to side, their eyes are glazed, and they have nasal voices. The nasal voice is attributed to the voodoo god Baron Samedi, Lord of the burial grounds. A zombie who tastes salt or meat becomes conscious again and is released from the bokor's control to return to his grave.
In 1912 Stephen Bonsal wrote an account of a man he saw buried being found, in his grave clothes several days later, moaning inarticulate words and recognizing none of those who could identify him, such his wife and the doctor who had pronounced him dead. In 1959 Francis Huxley reported on a zombie discovered wandering a Haitian village street and recognized by a woman as her nephew who had been buried four years earlier. Clairvius Narcisse, In spring, 1962 Narcisse "died" at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Deschapelles, Haiti. His death was verified by the hospital staff. 18 years later Narcisse turned up alive and well, and claimed to be an escaped zombie. As recently as 1993, Andre Ville Jean-Paul gathered crowds to tell of how he was buried alive and resurrected as one of the living dead. This was a serious matter for the authorities because zombification was outlawed oficially in 1989 with a life sentence, and also because of the political aspects - Voudon was behind the successful revolt against the French slavers. He says he was in a coffin for two weeks, and then put to work in the rice fields with 18 other zombies.
Anthropologist Wade Davies went to Haiti and uncovered that zombies are the result of interplay between social rules imposed by a secret voodoun government of Bizango sorcerer societies and the use of powerful drugs. The drugs that can make a man seem to be dead, and then revive him, are naturally worth a great deal to the science of anaesthesia and to drug companies.
The powder is able to be absorbed straight through the skin, so the Bokor needs to only sprinkle it on the floor or blow it in the face.
Davies bought the zombie-making powder from a Bokor and obtained the full ingredient list and magical process. To make zombie powder you need:
Human flesh and bone, a toad made more poisonous by scaring it with a stinging worm, a poisonous centipede, a particular species of spider, several psychoactive herbs such as damiana and datura, and a puffer fish.
All of the ingreients are psychoactive and toxic, with the exception of the human meat, but the interesting one is the puffer fish which makes a poison called tetradotoxin, which is a sodium channel blocker that disrupts communication in brain cells.
The puffer fish is the source of the Japanese delicacy Fugu, where the deadly poison sacs are removed before eating. Trace remains of the drug give Japanese diners a euphoric buzz, more than that kills.
The symptoms of tetradotoxin poisoning appear quickly: slight numbness of the lips and tongue, feelings of floating, headache, rapid pulse, nausea, trouble walking, trouble speaking, trouble breathing, paralysis, then coma or death. The coma gives the full appearance of death, good enough to fool many doctors.
Of course this raises the question of whether those people who "died" of puffer fish poisoning should really have been buried, but I'll leave that one to your imagination.
Tetradotoxin is 10 000 times deadlier than cyanide. Its made by bacteria which not only live in the puffer fish, but are also made use of the Australian blue ringed octopus, Australian Xantides crab, the Taricha salamander from California, and marine bacteria in the North Sea.
The victim in a coma may in fact still be conscious and awake because of the parts of the brain that are left untouched by the drug, so the victim will hear his own funeral and be aware of his own burial. Naturally, when he is dug up (if he is lucky) by the Bokor, he is awake and traumatised and willing to believe he has been reanimated. He is then drugged again with datura (known as "zombie cucumber") and kept a suggestible and biddable slave. Timothy Leary showed that psychoactive drugs effects are determined by the expectations both of the subject taking the drugs, the people around them, and the society they live in. In a religion that grew out of a rebellion against slavery, its no wonder that this means of social control is so effective.
So are you safe from becoming a zombie, if you stay out of Haiti and avoid the poisonous animals? When you clicked on this page, you probably thought You Yourself did it -- that is, the conscious being that is the sum of your experiences, thoughts and dreams, the self that perceives the tone and timbre of my voice; the self that thinks, therefore it is, the self that you know lives in your head, just behind your eyes. But You Yourself didn't click on this page or reach out to pick up your teacup a few moments ago. The Zombie did.
The Zombie is a metaphor being used by psychologists and neuroscientists to capture a strange division in our minds.
By the time you notice a spider in the bath, it should be obvious that your unconscious brain and body--alias the Zombie--have already "seen" it and begun to flinch. And by the time your conscious self realises that you are blushing, sneering or giggling inappropriately at a cocktail party, it's too late to preserve your dignity--the Zombie within let loose the emotion without consulting You Yourself.
Yet reflex reactions and hair trigger emotions are merely the flashier of its talents. As psychologists and neuroscientists probe the mind more deeply, they are uncovering evidence of subtler unconscious perceptions and abilities of which science has been only dimly aware until now. Even now unconscious circuits of the brain are processing sensory information You Yourself knows nothing about, and initiating little movements on the sly.
Ever notice how sometimes you just find yourself doing the right thing? Researchers measuring brainwaves have found that the signals to move muscles are often initiated BEFORE the signals have time to be processed by the conscious mind. Yet we rationalise our automatic behaviour and remember having made a conscious decision to act.
While the Voodoun sorcerers in haiti control society through people's fear of becoming a zombie, neuroscientists may discover that its ALL.... TOO... LATE!!