ZOMBIES: They're one of the most enduring creatures in human folklore, enjoying quite a pop culture resurgence in the last few decades. We know them well from classic horror flicks like Night Of The Living Dead and Dawn Of The Dead, as well as more recent rompers like 28 Days Later and AMC's series The Walking Dead. They're decomposing, hungry for brains, and coming to get you. That much we know. Oh, and they must be killed by a blow to the head... But what is the truth about zombies? Where did their myth originate and why are we so fascinated with them?
Zombiism has roots in Haitian Voodoo culture. Voodoo priests called Bokors were believed to have the ability to reanimate dead bodies. This in itself, however, was more like a sleight of hand. Bokors were not able to resurrect the dead. What they were actually doing was placing an individual in a coma-like state using a powdery substance called coup padre. Their vital signs would become undetectable, leading family members to bury their "dead", only to have them exhumed later by the Bokors very much alive. However, the coup padre also left these individuals in a primitive, mindless state, leaving them to do little more than grunt and roam through the village. Haitian myth maintains that these zombies would then remain under the control of the Bokor until they themselves died.
In American culture, the concept of the zombiism owes much to the medium of film, becoming a popular cinematic theme following 1932's zombie flick prototype, White Zombie. From there, George A. Romero was largely responsible for laying the groundwork for the zombie culture we know today. His seminal zombie trilogy -- Night Of The Living Dead, Dawn Of The Dead, and Day Of The Dead -- spanned three decades, providing endless inspiration for zombie movies, and the horror genre in general.
Today, we tune in to zombies weekly on television. We dress up as them in large zombified assemblies. Sometimes we even encounter them while driving. With Halloween approaching, and no end to the zombie mania in sight, at least now you'll have a little background on zombiism in your brain should you ever need it. Just keep on an eye on that thing. You never know who may try to eat it.
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