If I were to pick a Halloween
monster to be afraid of, I’d have to pick the living dead. Sure vampires and werewolves are freaky, but the living dead, or zombies, are a class unto themselves. After all, they are the only “monster” that can really exist!
In the movies
and in books, zombies are the living dead animated in gruesome ways after death. The zombies can take on the world and feel no pain as they get hacked to bits in rather disgusting hacker movies. Skin falling off, hair falling out and missing limbs is all part of the game with zombies. They even show up in children’s books, although in Harry Potter, the living dead were called inferi.
True Living Dead
I read a news story recently where a woman was admitted to the hospital with what she thought was terrible indigestion. She later died in the hospital and was declared dead after paddles and CPR failed to bring her back to life. Later, when her body was placed in the hospital morgue, it was noticed that she was breathing!
She has brain damage and other health problems as a result of dying (she had a heart attack apparently) and then coming back to life on her own, and is planning to sue the hospital. But her experiences show us that even in our advanced medical times, there is such a thing the living dead. (I’d be terrified to work in a morgue, by the way. I’m not afraid of the corpses, but I’d probably have a heart attack of my own if one suddenly came back to life.)
Legends of Living Dead
There are many stories of the living dead dating back thousands of years. In the middle ages, when an individual died, the body was buried with a string tied around a finger or toe. The other end of the string was tied to a bell above ground. If the bell were to start ringing suddenly, those living nearby would know that the body below the ground was suddenly moving again. If this were the case, the coffin would be dug back up and the now living person removed. This practice, or versions of it, is still used in certain parts of the world.
While I’m sure most bells stayed very quiet, there might have been a few that range over time. After all, there have been many coffins discovered from the more turbulent times in our collective history that bear scratch marks on the inside of the lid. Those scratch marks were caused by fingernails as the coffin’s occupant tried desperately to escape his grave.
From the stories of Shakespeare to the Voodoo legends, sleeping powders and potions have existed for hundreds of years that can reduce an individual to a state of death, or near death, without truly killing her. Juliet is just one of many characters who appeared to be dead and was buried. Other tales involves girls who fall victim to bewitching powders and fall “dead” and are buried without ever actually dying. Well they do die eventually, I suppose – alone inside a buried coffin.