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Do Haitian Zombies Exist As Slaves of Voodoo Sorcerers ?

A Strange Powder Used For Zombification


A zombie is a mystical creature whose state of consciousness lies between life and death. Haitian voodoo priests, houngans, would seek to create beings devoid of personal will, zombies or golems, in order to use them as slaves. At least that is the myth of the zombie, very popular at Port-au-Prince in the Caribbean where bokors (magicians) are responsible for curses at the origin of the process of zombification.

Zombies also inspires horror movies which greatly contributed to the legend with great blockbusters as White Zombie (1932) followed by Night of the Living Dead (1968). The term zombie comes from an African belief which associates it with the spirit of the dead Zumbi.

Voodoo worship

Zombie voodoo

Voodoo is a kind of ritual magic practiced in the regions of Africa and Haiti. Legend has it that zombification would happen by means of a special powder containing a very active venomous ingredient which would put the victim in a coma-like state. Under the effect of a spell casted by a voodoo priest (houngan, bokor, mambo), the future zombie would fall into a form of clinical death for several days before being brought back from the dead by a specific rite. At that moment, the person would be under the complete control of the bokor, free to use his zombie as he sees fit.

Voodoo in Haiti

Voodoo worship and Christian beliefs are intimately connected; God Almighty would have created loas, spirits subordinate to men. Before being able to practice voodoo, an adept must first be baptized and attend an initiation ceremony where he makes contact with a guiding spirit, the master loa, through animal sacrifices. Mass is usually presided over by a Uga (priest) accompanied by a Bokor and a Werewolf.

Haitian zombie powder

In order to initiate the transformation into a zombie, voodoo priests would exploit a singular powder which must be poured on the back or in the shoes of the side kick. The exact recipe is only known to voodoo grandmasters but according to some researchers the powder is a mixture of crushed bone (obligatorily detached from a corpse), freshly dead reptiles and poisonous toads (Cane toad) to which would be added various plants and fishes, especially Fugu (pufferfish) whose poisonous body contains large amounts of tetrodotoxin, a paralyzing venom. Carcasses would be cremated and everything would be compressed and mixed with a mortar before sieving.


Golem or zombie?

Like the zombie, the golem is artificially created by a magician seeking to control it. The golem generally has a human appearance but rather than being made of bone and pulpit it is made of wood or clay. Once brought to life through magical imprecation, the wizard has full power over the golem's will.

Ti-Joseph du Colombier

The first known case of zombies is that of Ti-Joseph du Colombier and dates back to 1918; Colombier allegedly used several men as slaves, making them work grueling hours under inhuman conditions on his sugar cane plantations. People living in the area thought they recognized some of his workers as recently deceased close relatives or friends. The story is however difficult to validate.

The strange case of Clairvius Narcisse

Clairvius Narcisse

The case of Clairvius Narcisse, a simple Haitian peasant who would have been transformed into a zombie by his own brother after a succession war, is one of the most famous cases of zombification in history. Dead and buried year 1962 following very severe fevers, Clairvius Narcisse would've returned from the dead nearly 20 years later (1980) and would've contacted his sister Angeline claiming to have been transformed into a zombie before being used as a slave on an agricultural plantation. The culprit, according to him, his own brother who would've paid a bokor to make him a zombie.

Narcisse relates the zombie experience as being similar to a conscious dream where it is impossible to react. Everything is lived in slow motion and the ability to act is only recovered at the master's death. The strange story of Clairvius provokes the curiosity of the BBC television channel which calls in a prominent psychiatrist from Port-au-Prince in order to confirm the alleged zombie's claims. Surprisingly, the doctor does not detect any mental disorder in Clairvius Narcisse and concludes that the anecdote is true.