As my son has been watching The Walking Dead on Disney Plus, I thought that perhaps this weeks blog post could cover Zombies as a Supernatural Creature. It would not be the first time that one of my children has influenced my selection of blog topic and given recent discussions with my daughter, I know it will not be the last.
Zombies are actually a bit of a weird one for me to be honest. The whole concept of dead corpses rising up, wandering around as their flesh rots and trying to eat human flesh; just felt a little far fetched to be considered. Of course these days the whole idea around Zombies comes hand in hand with some kind of virus which has infected humanity, as this appears to be a more likely candidate. They are also associated with an event that completely changes the world, leaving a small group of survivors to battle for their lives against an ever growing population of undead.
I believe my first true introduction to Zombies came through the Resident Evil games, but I am sure that there must have been a film or something I had seen prior to that. Odd how our memories are not always that good; or perhaps I am just getting a little old now.
Films wise; the Resident Evil zombie films and the more comical Shaun of the Dead spring to mind for me prior to some of the classics like Night of the Living Dead. However, the subject of zombies has always been there and even been one of those odd questions that I have been asked; “what would you do if there was a zombie apocalypse?” In fact, I recall being a part of a Whatsapp group chat once that discussed exactly that, which provided some interesting answers like making Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker a base and driving sports cars around the M25 like its was some kind of huge race track. One thing was certain, discussing the ‘what ifs’ provided much enjoyment and debate. Although not a lot was about actual survival and how we would manage it.
The Britannica online defines zombies as; “Undead creature frequently featured in works of horror fiction and film. While its roots may possibly be traced back to the Zombi of the Haitian Vodou religion, the modern fictional zombie was largely developed by the works of American filmmaker George A. Romero.”
Other than being the corpse of someone that has died reanimated wandering around seeking some human flesh, I am not sure exactly what is supposed to be so scary about the creatures. They are often slow, but not all the time; and are certainly not that bright. They lack free will and are completely subordinate, either to a sorcerer, desire for human flesh, revenge or simply violence. Whilst they are more often the corpse of humans, we have seen zombie dogs and other animals too.
Oddly where magic is involved; like in the Vodou ritual process, the body can appear completely preserved rather than the well known rotting equivalent we see more often today. In fact, it is this Haitian Vodou version of the Zombie where the creatures history originates. The British writer Robert Southey is believed to be responsible for the entry of the word ‘zombie’ into the English lexicon.
It is likely that William Seabrook’s travelogue of Haiti ‘The Magic Island’ published in 1929 was the original inspiration for the fictional work we see today. Especially as it was only a few years later that the film ‘The White Zombie’ was released. This moved along with classics like the original ‘I am Legend‘ in 1954 and ‘Night of the Living Dead’ hitting the screens in 1968. Obviously ‘The Walking Dead’ began life as comic book series before it arrived in our livingrooms as the cult television show that it is today.
The strange thing about zombies is that they began life very much as magical creatures, or at least creatures that were created by magic that allowed them to revive from their slumber. I equally find it fascinating how Seabrook’s travelogue of Haiti documented these strange beliefs from the Vodou religion and then became the inspiration for some of most well known horror stories. Something I am sure could not have been further from his mind at the time. Although I have to admit the original concept of a sorcerer or priest conducting a ritual ceremony to first create a zombi astral from a part of someones soul, to then raise their rotting corpse from its grave; is without doubt a story that would equally grab my attention.
As paranormal investigators, ghost hunters, psychical researchers or even parapsychologists we often look into reports of ghosts; which are often non-physical. Sometimes we may be fortunate to look into a case that includes physical phenomena too. Looking to discover glimpses of the afterlife and perhaps understanding more of the survival hypothesis. The zombie would provide this as its a physical representation of someone existing after death. There is of course that small issue that all that was them appears to have gone leaving behind a rotting walker with a desire to dine on our flesh.
Whilst I know that Zombies have a firm root in horror fiction and much of what we have discussed here derives from that fiction, the original concept from Haitian Vodou is still interesting. I wonder if anyone’s corpse was actually risen from the dead or like many of these old concepts, perhaps it is misinterpretation of information. Maybe the reanimation of the corpse is a simple metaphor that has been taken as fact, which in turn has snowballed into the subject we know today. Creating the TV series which my son appears to be glued to.
What would you do in a zombie apocalypse?