Zombies: do They Exist?
By Bernard Diederich;Claudia Wallis Monday, Oct. 17, 1983
Yes, says a Harvard scientist, who offers an explanation.On a brilliant day in the spring of 1980, a stranger arrived at L'Estère marketplace in
The man had given the boyhood nickname of her deceased brother Clairvius Narcisse, a name that was known only to family members and had not been used since his funeral in 1962.This incident and four others in recent years have sparked the most systematic inquiry ever made into the legendary voodoo phenomenon of zombiism. According to Haitian belief, a zombie is an individual who has been "killed" and then raised from the dead by malevolent voodoo priests known as "bocors."
Though most educated Haitians deny the existence of zombies, Dr. Lamarque Douyon, Canadian-trained head of the
The case of Clairvius Narcisse, however, gave Douyon good evidence. Medical records showed he was declared dead in 1962 at
Douyon sent a quantity of the zombie potion to the
Indeed, nearly every symptom reported by Narcisse and his doctors is described, from the initial difficulty breathing to the final paralysis, glassy-eyed stare and yet the retention of mental faculties. In at least two cases, Japanese victims were declared dead but recovered before they could be buried. Japanese reports confirmed what
Such research in the past led to the discovery of curare, an arrow poison from the Amazon now used to paralyze muscles during surgery. Tetrodotoxin may also one day find its place in the medical armamentarium. "People who have lived in the tropics for centuries have learned things about plants and animals that we have not fathomed," says Richard Evan Schultes, head of Harvard's renowned
— By Claudia Wallis. Reported by Bernard Diederich/Port-au-Prince