Zora and the Zombies

Zora Neale Hurston traveled to Haiti in 1937 to explore the mysteries of zombies and voodoo. Her investigations paved the way for further research. In 1976, scientists began to unravel the ancient mysteries of zombies. They now believe that zombies are victims of a poison made from the puffer fish. Secret voodoo sects give the poison as punishment for unacceptable behavior, such as lying or revealing voodoo secrets.

The zombie powder is inhaled or enters the body through a break in the skin. It causes complete paralysis. Although the victim remains conscious, he or she cannot move in any way and looks dead. Mourned and buried by the family, the secret sect unearths the victim on the third night after burial and force-feeds him a paste made from a plant called the "zombie cucumber." (Not all potential zombies survive the poison or the three-day burial.) The paste acts an antidote. It allows the zombie to "rise from the dead" and move about. But the antidote itself contains a powerful ingredient that causes confusion and amnesia. Already half-mad from the burial, the zombie is now psychotic. The zombification process is complete when he or she is beaten, given a new name, and forced into slavery--a poor soul doomed to a life of captivity or aimless wandering about the Haitian countryside. The zombie has joined the "living dead."

(From Sorrow's Kitchen, p. 89-90. For a picture of a zombie, see p. 88.)

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