Zombie: Wikis


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A person costumed as a zombie for a Halloween zombie walk.

A zombie is a creature that appears in books and popular culture typically as a reanimated dead or a mindless human being. Stories of zombies originated in the Afro-Caribbean spiritual belief system of Voodoo, which told of the people being controlled as laborers by a powerful wizard. Zombies became a popular device in modern horror fiction, largely because of the success of George A. Romero's 1968 film Night of the Living Dead.[1]


Zombies in Voodoo

A zombie in Haiti

According to the tenets of Vodou, a dead person can be revived by a bokor, or sorcerer. Zombies remain under the control of the bokor since they have no will of their own. "Zombi" is also another name of the Vodou snake lwa Damballah Wedo, of Niger-Congo origin; it is akin to the Kikongo word nzambi, which means "god". There also exists within the West African Vodun tradition the zombi astral, which is a part of the human soul that is captured by a bokor and used to enhance the bokor's power. The zombi astral is typically kept inside a bottle which the bokor can sell to clients for luck, healing or business success. It is believed that after a time God will take the soul back and so the zombi is a temporary spiritual entity.[2]

In 1937, while researching folklore in Haiti, Zora Neale Hurston encountered the case of a woman who appeared in a village, and a family claimed she was Felicia Felix-Mentor, a relative who had died and been buried in 1907 at the age of 29. Hurston pursued rumors that the affected persons were given powerful psychoactive drug, but she was unable to locate individuals willing to offer much information. She wrote:

What is more, if science ever gets to the bottom of Voodoo in Haiti and Africa, it will be found that some important medical secrets, still unknown to medical science, give it its power, rather than gestures of ceremony.[3]

Several decades later, Wade Davis, a Harvard ethnobotanist, presented a pharmacological case for zombies in two books, The Serpent and the Rainbow (1985) and Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie (1988). Davis traveled to Haiti in 1982 and, as a result of his investigations, claimed that a living person can be turned into a zombie by two special powders being entered into the blood stream (usually via a wound). The first, coup de poudre (French: 'powder strike'), includes tetrodotoxin (TTX), the poison found in the pufferfish. The second powder consists of dissociative drugs such as datura. Together, these powders were said to induce a death-like state in which the victim's will would be entirely subjected to that of the bokor. Davis also popularized the story of Clairvius Narcisse, who was claimed to have succumbed to this practice.

Davis's claim has been criticized for a number of scientific inaccuracies, including the unlikely suggestion that Haitian witch doctors can keep “zombies” in a state of pharmacologically induced trance for many years.[4] Symptoms of TTX poisoning range from numbness and nausea to paralysis, unconsciousness, and death, but do not include a stiffened gait or a death-like trance. According to neurologist Terence Hines, the scientific community dismisses tetrodotoxin as the cause of this state, and Davis's assessment of the nature of the reports of Haitian zombies is overly credulous.[5]

Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing further highlighted the link between social and cultural expectations and compulsion, in the context of schizophrenia and other mental illness, suggesting that schizogenesis may account for some of the psychological aspects of zombification.[6]

Popular culture


Though zombie folklore can be traced to Haiti within the last few centuries, older myths and folktales have some similarities to zombies.

The earliest reference dating to more than 1,000 BCE can be found in Tablet Six of the Epic of Gilgamesh where Ishtar threatens to raise the dead and have them devour the people unless her father gives her the Bull of Heaven.[7] One Thousand and One Nights is another early piece of literature to reference ghouls. A prime example is the story "The History of Gherib and His Brother Agib" (from Nights, vol. 6), in which Gherib, an outcast prince, fights off a family of ravenous ghouls, enslaves them, and converts them to Islam.[8]

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, while not a zombie novel, prefigures some 20th century ideas about zombies in that the resurrection of the dead is portrayed as a scientific process rather than a mystical one, and that the resurrected dead are degraded and more violent than their living selves. The novel, published in 1818, has its roots in European folklore,[9] whose tales of vengeful dead also informed the evolution of the modern conception of vampires as well as zombies. Later notable 19th century stories about the avenging undead included Ambrose Bierce's "The Death of Halpin Frayser", and various Gothic Romanticism tales by Edgar Allan Poe. Though their works could not be properly considered zombie fiction, the supernatural tales of Bierce and Poe would prove influential on later writers such as H. P. Lovecraft, by Lovecraft's own admission.[10]

One book to expose more recent western culture to the concept of the zombie was The Magic Island by W.B. Seabrook in 1929. Island is the sensationalized account of a narrator in Haiti who encounters voodoo cults and their resurrected thralls. TIME magazine claimed that the book "introduced 'zombi' into U.S. speech".[11]

In the 1920s and early 1930s, the American horror author H. P. Lovecraft wrote several novelettes that explored the undead theme from different angles. "Cool Air," "In the Vault," "The Thing on the Doorstep," "The Outsider," and "Pickman's Model" are all undead related, but the most definitive undead story in Lovecraft's oeuvre was 1921's Herbert West--Reanimator, which "helped define zombies in popular culture".[12] This Frankenstein-inspired series featured Herbert West, a mad scientist who attempts to revive human corpses with mixed results. The resurrected dead are uncontrollable, mostly mute, primitive and extremely violent; though they are not referred to as zombies.

In 1932, Victor Halperin directed White Zombie, a horror film starring Bela Lugosi. This film, capitalizing on the same voodoo zombie themes as Seabrook's book of three years prior, is often regarded as the first legitimate zombie film ever made.[13] Here zombies are depicted as mindless, unthinking henchmen under the spell of an evil magician.

The 1936 film Things to Come, based on the novel by H.G. Wells, anticipates later zombie films with an apocalyptic scenario surrounding "the wandering sickness", a highly contagious viral plague that causes the infected to wander slowly and insensibly, very much like zombies, infecting others on contact.[14] Though this film's direct influence on later films is unknown, Things to Come is still compared favorably by some critics[15] to modern zombies.

Richard Matheson's 1954 post-apocalyptic vampire novel I Am Legend deals with isolation and a worldwide outbreak of a disease causing the population to turn into weak, infected creatures that feed on the blood of the living. Matherson's novel was adapted into the film The Last Man on Earth in 1964, starring Vincent Price. The book would be adapted twice more The Omega Man (1971) and I Am Legend (2007).

Modern zombies, as portrayed in books, films, games and haunted attractions, often differ from both voodoo zombies and those of folklore. Usually, zombies are not depicted as thralls to masters, as in the film White Zombie or the spirit-cult myths. In 1968 director George Romero released the independent black-and-white zombie film Night of the Living Dead. Although not the first zombie film, Night of the Living Dead was the predecessor of many films and together with its sequels spawned countless imitators that borrowed elements instituted by Romero: Tombs of the Blind Dead, Zombie, Hell of the Living Dead, The Evil Dead, Night of the Comet, Return of the Living Dead, Night of the Creeps, Braindead, Children of the Living Dead, and the video game series Resident Evil (later adapted as films in 2002, 2004, and 2007), Dead Rising, and House of the Dead. Night of the Living Dead is parodied in films such as Night of the Living Bread and Shaun of the Dead, and in episodes of The Simpsons ("Treehouse of Horror III", 1992), South Park ("Pink Eye", 1997; "Night of the Living Homeless", 2007) and Invader Zim (Halloween Spectacular of Spooky Doom, 2001;).[16][17][18] and Zombieland.

Modern zombies

Modern zombies are depicted in mobs, flocks or waves, seeking either flesh to eat or people to kill, and are typically rendered to exhibit signs of physical decomposition such as rotting flesh, discolored eyes, and open wounds, and moving with a slow, shambling gait. They are generally incapable of communication and show no signs of personality or rationality, though George Romero's zombies appear capable of learning and very basic levels of speech as seen in the films Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead.[19][19]

However, there are still significant differences among the depictions of zombies by various media; for one comparison see the contrasts between zombies by Night of the Living Dead authors George A. Romero and John A. Russo as they evolved in the two separate film series that followed. In some zombie apocalypse narratives, such as The Return of the Living Dead and Dead Set, zombies are depicted as being as quick and nimble as the living, a further departure from the established genre stereotype. The film 28 Days Later depicts the outbreak of an engineered "rage virus" which transforms its victims into a zombie-like state; however, they maintain higher cerebellar function. They exhibit pack and hunting behavior and move fluidly. The zombies in 28 Days Later also do not appear to exhibit the enhanced resistance to normal injury, like most zombies in popular culture do.[20] Another departure may consist of the image of zombies as lovable creatures, "being tamed, Disneyfied and made suitable for children", as featured in "zom-coms" (derived from the abbreviation of situation comedies, sit-coms) such as Fido, starring comic actor Billy Connolly as a boy's pet zombie [21].

In modern films, zombies are often depicted as being created by an infectious virus, which is passed on via bites and contact with fluids. Harvard psychiatrist Steven Schlozman has written a fictional medical paper on the zombies presented in Night of the Living Dead and refers the condition as Ataxic Neurodegenerative Satiety Deficiency Syndrome caused by an infectious agent.[22] The Zombie Survival Guide identifies the cause of zombies as a fictional virus called solanum. [23] Other origins shown in films include the radiation from a destroyed NASA Venus probe (as in Night of the Living Dead), as well as mutations of existing conditions such as prions, mad-cow disease, measles and rabies.

Zombies have appeared in video games, particularly of the first-person shooter and role-playing genre. Some titles in this area include the Resident Evil series, Dead Rising, House of the Dead and Left 4 Dead.[24] Some games allow the gamer to play as a zombie such as Stubbs the Zombie in "Rebel Without a Pulse".

The zombie theme has also emerged in the erotica and romance genres, as evidenced by books such as Hungry For Your Love: A Zombie Romance Anthology.[25][26] The love in zombie romance tales may exist between a human and one of the living dead (such as the characters Phoebe and Tommy in Daniel Waters’ novel Generation Dead[27]), or even between two zombies (like the undead couple in Vanessa Vaughn’s short story "Some New Blood"[28]).

Zombies have also appeared in advertising to suggest one who mindlessly follows the crowd; see, for example, the college zombies website collegezombies.com, which depicts U.S. students as "college zombies" who enter university directly from high school, and do not consider the option of attending a cheaper community college and then transferring. Ads for a zombie walk (a gathering of people in costume) in Seattle featured a giant female zombie [29] hanging off the Space Needle like a huge, mindless pole-dancer. Some advertisers have used zombies to parody the consumers of other products; for example, when Evony's ads for online gaming became sexually suggestive, a new game recreated the ads using a drooling female zombie in place of the buxom Renaissance maiden, changing the tag line "Free Forever" to "Undead Forever." [30]

Zombie apocalypse

The zombie apocalypse is a particular scenario of apocalyptic fiction that customarily has a science fiction/horror rationale. In a zombie apocalypse, a widespread (usually global) rise of zombies hostile to human life engages in a general assault on civilization. Victims of zombies may become zombies themselves. This causes the outbreak to become an exponentially growing crisis: the spreading "zombie plague" swamps normal military and law enforcement organizations, leading to the panicked collapse of civilian society until only isolated pockets of survivors remain, scavenging for food and supplies in a world reduced to a pre-industrial hostile wilderness.

The literary subtext of a zombie apocalypse is usually that civilization is inherently fragile in the face of truly unprecedented threats and that most individuals cannot be relied upon to support the greater good if the personal cost becomes too high.[24] The narrative of a zombie apocalypse carries strong connections to the turbulent social landscape of the United States in the 1960s when the originator of this genre, the film Night of the Living Dead, was first created.[31][32] Many also feel that zombies allow people to deal with their own anxiety about the end of the world.[33] In fact the breakdown of society as a result of zombie infestation has been portrayed in countless zombie-related media since Night of the Living Dead.[34] Kim Paffrenroth notes that "more than any other monster, zombies are fully and literally apocalyptic ... they signal the end of the world as we have known it."[34]

Thanks to large number of films and video games, the idea of a zombie apocalypse has entered the mainstream and there have been efforts by many fans to prepare for the hypothetical future zombie apocalypse. Efforts include creating weapons [35] and selling posters to inform people on how to survive a zombie outbreak.[36]

Philosophical zombie

A philosophical zombie is a concept used in the philosophy of mind, a field of research which examines the association between conscious thought and the physical world. A philosophical zombie is a hypothetical person who lacks full consciousness but has the biology or behavior of a normal human being; it is used as a null hypothesis in debates regarding the identity of the mind and the brain. The term was coined by philosopher David Chalmers.[37]

Social activism

A zombie walk in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Some zombie fans continue the George A. Romero tradition of using zombies as a social commentary. Organized zombie walks, which are primarily promoted through word of mouth, are regularly staged in some countries. Usually they are arranged as a sort of surrealist performance art but they are occasionally put on as part of a unique political protest.[38][39][40][41][42]

See also


  1. ^ Smith, Neil. "Zombie maestro lays down the lore". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/7280793.stm. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  2. ^ *McAlister, Elizabeth. 1995.“A Sorcerer's Bottle: The Visual Art of Magic in Haiti.” In Donald J. Cosentino, ed., Sacred Arts of Haitian Vodou. UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 1995: 304-321.
  3. ^ Hurston, Zora Neale. Dust Tracks on a Road. 2nd Ed. (1942: Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984, p. 205). 
  4. ^ Booth, W. (1988), “Voodoo Science”, Science, 240: 274-277.
  5. ^ Hines, Terence; "Zombies and Tetrodotoxin"; Skeptical Inquirer; May/June 2008; Volume 32, Issue 3; Pages 60-62.
  6. ^ Oswald, Hans Peter (2009 (84 pages)). Vodoo. BoD – Books on Demand. pp. 39. ISBN 3837059049. 
  7. ^ "Ishtar and the Zombies". http://jimgetz.org/2009/09/16/ishtar-and-zombies/. 
  8. ^ Al-Hakawati. ""The Story of Gherib and his Brother Agib"". Thousand Nights and One Night. http://www.al-hakawati.net/english/Stories_Tales/laila170.asp. Retrieved October 2, 2008. 
  9. ^ Marina Warner, A forgotten gem: Das Gespensterbuch ('The Book of Ghosts'), An Introduction (book review) http://www.new-books-in-german.com/aut2006/book15a.htm#top
  10. ^ H. P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature (1927, 1933 - 1935) http://gaslight.mtroyal.ca/superhor.htm
  11. ^ Time Magazine, Sep. 1940 http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,764649,00.html
  12. ^ Underground Online, Our Favorite Zombies http://www.ugo.com/a/zombies-attack/?cur=favorite-zombies&content=reanimator
  13. ^ Lee Roberts, White Zombie is regarded as the first zombie film Nov. 2006 (film review) http://www.best-horror-movies.com/white-zombie.html
  14. ^ Things to Come (film review)
  15. ^ Philip French, 28 Days Later, The Observer 3 Nov. 2002 (film review) http://film.guardian.co.uk/News_Story/Critic_Review/Observer_review/0,,824813,00.html
  16. ^ Rockoff, Going to Pieces, p. 36.
  17. ^ "Treehouse of Horror III", episode 64, The Simpsons, October 29, 1992, at the Internet Movie Database; last accessed June 24, 2006.
  18. ^ "Pink Eye", episode 107, South Park, October 29, 1997, on South Park: The Complete First Season (DVD, Warner Bros., 2002)
  19. ^ a b "Character Profile: Suzaku". absoluteanime.com. http://www.absoluteanime.com/yu_yu_hakusho/suzaku.htm. Retrieved 2009-10-06. 
  20. ^ Schlozman, Steven. "A Head-Shrinker Studies The Zombie Brain". NPR.org. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=114319726. Retrieved 2009-10-31. 
  21. ^ The Guardian Weekly of 10 July 2009, p.35
  22. ^ Shea, Christopher (April 9, 2009). "The neuropsychology of zombies". The Boston Globe. http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/brainiac/2009/04/the_neuropsycho.html. Retrieved 2009-11-03. 
  23. ^ "The Zombie Survival Guide". Random House. http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9781400049622. Retrieved 2009-02-15. 
  24. ^ a b Christopher T. Fong (December 2, 2008). "Playing Games: Left 4 Dead". Video game review. San Francisco Chronicle. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/12/01/DD4R14F77J.DTL. Retrieved 6 October 2009. 
  25. ^ Perkins, Lori, “Hungry For Your Love: A Zombie Romance Anthology”, October 2009, Ravenous Romance
  26. ^ Flood, Alison, The Guardian, "The New Thing In Romantic Fiction: Zombie Love" October 30, 2009[1]
  27. ^ Waters, Daniel “Generation Dead”, Hyperion Books
  28. ^ Perkins, L. “Hungry For Your Love: A Zombie Romance Anthology”, October 2009, Ravenous Romance
  29. ^ http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=105896887&blogId=512140794
  30. ^ http://osxreality.com/2009/10/16/plants-vs-zombies-vs-evony-parody-ads/
  31. ^ Adam Rockoff, Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film, 1978–1986 (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2002), p.35, ISBN 0-7864-1227-5.
  32. ^ "Zombie Movies" in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, ed. John Clute and John Grant (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999), p.1048, ISBN 0-312-19869-8
  33. ^ Cripps, Charlotte (November 1, 2006). "Preview: Max Brooks' Festival of the (Living) Dead! Barbican, London". The Independent. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/film-and-tv/features/preview-max-brooks-festival-of-the-living-dead-barbican-london-422481.html. Retrieved September 19, 2008. 
  34. ^ a b Kim Paffenroth, Gospel of the Living Dead: George Romero's Visions of Hell on Earth. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2006.
  35. ^ Andy Fliege (December 5, 2008). "Daily Distraction: UItimate Zombie Weapon". Windy Citizen. http://techloop.windycitizen.com/2008/12/05/daily-distraction-uitimate-zombie-weapon. Retrieved 6 December 2008. 
  36. ^ Michael Harrison (December 5, 2008). "10 Geeky Gifts for Under $10". Wired. http://blog.wired.com/geekdad/2008/12/10-geeky-gifts.html. Retrieved 6 December 2008. 
  37. ^ Chalmers, David. 1995. "Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness", Journal of Consciousness Studies, vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 200-219
  38. ^ Colley, Jenna. "Zombies haunt San Diego streets". signonsandiego.com. http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20070726-9999-1n26zombies.html. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  39. ^ Kemble, Gary. "They came, they saw, they lurched". abc.net. http://www.abc.net.au/news/arts/articulate/200604/s1627099.htm. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  40. ^ Dalgetty, Greg. "The Dead Walk". Penny Blood magazine. http://www.pennyblood.com/zombiewalk1.html. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  41. ^ Horgen, Tom. "Nightlife: 'Dead' ahead". StarTribune.com. http://www.startribune.com/entertainment/dining/31116719.html?elr=KArksD:aDyaEP:kD:aUt:aDyaEP:kD:aUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aULPQL7PQLanchO7DiU. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  42. ^ Dudiak, Zandy. "Guinness certifies record for second annual Zombie Walk". yourpenntrafford.com. http://www.yourpenntrafford.com/penntraffordstar/article/guinness-certifies-record-second-annual-zombie-walk. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also zombie


German Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia de


Zombie m. (genitive Zombies, plural Zombies)

  1. zombie

Simple English

Simple English Wiktionary has the word meaning for:
The Zombies were a British psychedelic rock band in the 1960s.

[[File:|200px|thumb|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 brain of living people.


The Living Dead

A walking corpse, usually called "zombie", is the name to referred a person that has been long gone, but in a certain way, can walk, think (in some cases) and attack living persons, referring such as canibalism. A small part of the brain is still im function, the heart, lungs and all vital organs is remaining in order and the skeleton and muscles can do movement functions, as the skin is rotten, hair and nails falling apart, eyes drizzled, in a red/yellow living colors, blood and scars wide open,clothes ripped and with the five senses as feel, see, smell, tast and hear still capting small and tiny vibrations of the outside.

Voodoo Zombies

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


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 'death-like' 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

Ancient civilizations

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

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

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

Zombies appear a lot in horror and fantasy films. The zombie that is normally seen 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 and have since appeared in lots of films and books.


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
  • Uneffected by injuries, even normally fatal ones, as long as they do not hurt the to the brain too much
  • Contagious, a germ from a bite causes zombies
  • Does not attack other zombies, leading to swarms of zombies

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