Zombies are among the most feared beings on or below earth. The living dead. Dead bodies rising to life again, and usually they come with rather sinister purposes. Of course, those are the zombies we see in horror movies and around Halloween, but are those nasty creatures real zombies?
What is a Zombie?
Zombies are beings (usually human) who have died, but for whatever reason won’t stay dead and buried. They claw their way out of the grave and appear living when they should be dead. They died, were buried….and then came back to life somehow. Usually, in movies they seem to come back somewhat decomposed and ready for mindless slaughter, but I digress.
Are Zombies Real?
Actually, yes. Zombies are real – in a sense. The zombies we see in movies feasting on human flesh or terrorizing villages are not real – I hope. They are based on what many believe are real zombies from years ago.
Voodoo, a system of beliefs based of Afro-Caribbean individuals, was the foundation of the term Zombie, although the concept has been around much longer. In very simple terms, voodoo uses a set of ceremonies and potions or medicines to demonstrate beliefs. Zombies, as claimed by those that practice voodoo, are living beings that have had their soul stolen. Therefore the person is alive, but has no free will. Usually these mindless slaves were set to work on plantations for “Zombie Masters.”
Many scientists outside of voodoo have tried to figure out exactly what made these zombies tick. It is now widely believed that voodoo zombies were actually heavily drugged. Specific voodoo potions could put a person in a near death-like state, and then when the person was revived, other drugs were used to keep them in a stupor. Thus, you had a walking, grunting human who was not quite dead, but not quite alive. These real zombies are the proverbial grandparents of the ones we see today.
Middle Age Zombies
If those voodoo zombies had grandparents though, it would be the living dead from the Middle Ages. Back before any form of modern medicine, individuals would die, be buried, and then somehow come back to life. Of course, we now know of countless ways people can appear dead to the untrained eye. Something like a coma, for example, can slow the heart rate to the point that one might not hear it without medical equipment.
Villagers in the Middle Ages feared the spirits of the dead so much they would even dig up remains every now and again to check to be sure the corpse was still in the box. Grave robbers, who were also plentiful back then, dug up even more corpses. What the diggers found often terrified them.
The bodies they had laid so neatly inside the casket had moved on their own. The corpse was still dead, but they were definitely not in the same spot. To top it off, a lot of time there were fingernail scratches in the lid of the coffins as if the dead body had been trying to escape. Of course, we know now they were simply buried alive – a horrifying thought.
After awhile, many bodies were buried with a string around their toes or fingers so that if they woke up and moved down in the coffin, the sting would ring a bell outside on the ground. This offered a little bit of protection against burying your loved ones alive or gave you warning that the dead were coming back to life.
Of course with modern science, no bodies are buried alive today. Unfortunately, some people still use drugs to put themselves into such a stupor they appear to be a walking corpse. Zombies as they originally existed have disappeared, but they still live on in our books, movies, and of course, nightmares.