Zombie

Date of Discovery

1810 is the first recorded date that Zombies were introduced to text, but not in regards to the Haitian Zombies, instead to refer to a West African deity. There is an argument that the first time zombi was used to identify the living dead, was in 1819, within the context of an English poem written by Robert Southey.

The oldest evidence of their origin dates back to the Ancient Greeks, but they are certainly not referred to in the context of zombie, but instead within the fear of the dead being reanimated.

Name

The word zombie itself was actually only introduced into linguistic history as of 1871, and originated in West Africa; in Kikongo, it is zumbi, which translates to, “fetish,” wherein Kimbundu, it is nzambi, which translates to, “god.” In West Africa, zombie was the name of a snake god and only later took on the meaning of, “reanimated corpse,” with use within the voodoo religion.

The zombie goes by many different names and is seen throughout the world’s cultures. Some popular names for the zombie within the English speaking cultures are undead, the living dead, ghouls, revenants, as well as an endless supply of slang terms used within novels, television series, and movies.

In Germany they’re referred to as nachzehrer, the Romanian culture refers to them as strigoi, and the Scandinavian regions refer to them as gjenganger, or draugr.

Physical Description

Depending on the origin of the zombie, they may have slight differences in their physical appearances; as an example, the Bandage Man is considered both a ghost and a zombie, but he appears badly injured and covered in bandages from head to toe.

Within Haitian Voodoo culture the zombie is less of an undead monster and more of an automaton, or a human slave that lacks free-will, so they maintain the physical appearance that they had before becoming a zombie, save for a few details. Their physical appearance changes due to their lack of a personality, they have a blank expression and don’t respond to in any significant way, other than doing what they’re told.

Popular Horror Culture differs in great distinction, where the average zombie is a decomposed, but a reanimated human corpse, they can have dislocated, or broken limbs, as well as parts of their bodies, missing entirely. Other, more extreme versions such as the ones in movies like the Resident Evil series are mutated humans and other creatures who look in some cases look like Lovecraftian creatures.

Origin

It seems that the Ancient Greeks may have been the first to have a fear of the dead coming back to life, as archaeologists have uncovered many graves dating back to the period that contained skeletons that had been pinned into place by heavy objects, such as rocks, with the assumption that it would prevent these people from coming back from the dead.

There are two types of zombies that exist within modern lore, those who have been the victim of a voodoo curse and those who have fallen victim to a zombie virus. One predates the other, but in modern terms, the most likely scenario for a hoard of zombies and the most terrifying remains the zombie virus.

Haitian Zombies

The Haitian Zombie is derived from a West African tribal religion, which morphed into Voodoo when the religious beliefs were brought to the Americas by African slaves. The Haitian Zombie lore is derived from actual ritualistic practices within the Voodoo religion that are still practiced today, albeit not publicly and not for a cheap price. Bokors who are gifted enough to know the recipe for Zombie Powder, the powder used to drug the victim destined to be turned into a Zombie, are considered dangerous men and protect their secrets quite skillfully with their threatening demeanor and oftentimes guns.

Zombie Virus

According to popular culture, the modern zombie is either a reanimated corpse with an unmatched appetite for flesh or a person who has been bitten and consequently becomes a zombie–this is due to some type of zombie virus. This particular brand of zombie is usually portrayed as being strong, but otherwise, a mindless rotting creature who may occasionally grunt and moan, but ultimately only has one motivation–to feed. These zombies evolved from the Haitian zombie, but they were given a life of their own by the ever-changing imagination of writers who continuously try to reinvent and spark new interest in these flesh-crazed revenants.

Mythology and Lore

In Passo Marinaro, Sicily archaeologist Carrie Sulosky Weaver from the University of Pittsburgh brought to our attention that zombies are in no way a new cultural phenomenon. The evidence that they discovered goes back more than 2,000 years, but the discovery of two peculiar burials happened in the 1980s. Weaver studied two burials in particular from a necropolis in a Greek settlement on Sicily which she believes were evidence of the Greek’s belief in the dead rising from the grave. What they found was that only certain bodies had heavy stones or other objects pinning their bodies down within the grave, but her article discussed how these, “revenants could [also] be trapped within their graves by being tied, staked, flipped onto their stomachs, [or] buried exceptionally deep.”

As discussed earlier in this entry, mythology of the Haitian zombie reaches back to the West African origins of Voodoo, as do the more modern virus-spreading counterparts.

Zombies have been and will continue to be a huge part of horror culture, so much so, that the CDC came up with their own Zombie Preparedness Guide for people who might have been concerned about being overrun by the undead.

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Zombie Road: A Trail of Terror

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Horror Mystery and Lore

The “Zombie Road” trail, located in Glencoe, Missouri, has over a century’s history of death and paranormal activity. Though it’s only two miles in length, traveling it at night it can seem like an endless road of terror. With tales of shadowy figures, blood-curdling screams, and non-human entities, Zombie Road is chock-full of unexplained phenomenon. Even in its heyday, the winding road and dense woods held an eerie vibe of constantly being watched by something.

Eerie bridge along the Zombie Road

Stories of Zombie Road continued to grow through the years, one being the “Zombie Killer”, a deranged man living in a shack just off the road who hunted and killed young lovers. Other chilling stories continued to surface and spread, including ghosts, vanishings, and strange noises. One of the most spine-tingling stories is about the ghost of a man hit by a train who is said to now haunt Zombie Road. This legend becomes all the more terrifying with the real story of Della Hamilton McCullough. It is said that in 1876, Della was hit and killed by a passing train car on the tracks in Glencoe, Missouri. There are no other records of anyone else hit by a train and dying near Glencoe. Is this then Della Hamilton McCulloughs’ spirit that haunts the Zombie Road tracks? If you go, perhaps you can call out to Della.

Many visitors also claim strange experiences near the old homes towards the end of the trail. One legend mentions the ghost of an elderly woman who screams at people from the doorway of one of the old houses. But the closer you get, the old woman disappears. The houses here date back to circa 1900 when the area around Glencoe served as a resort community. Could these be the screams of a past resident? Many believe so.

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Photo taken on Zombie Road of supposed Shadow Figures

Legends abound of American Indian and Confederate rebel spirits, packs of child ghosts, and the tortured souls of working men killed in industrial accidents on the nearby railroad. While the sensation of being watched may be dismissed by the spooky surroundings alone, the weird sounds, and inexplicable footsteps heard here, cannot completely be ignored. Though Zombie Road is now paved and has been remade into a bike trail and jogging path, the eerie lore and legends still loom heavily on the land. If you visit, be vigilant. Spirits cannot be paved over.