Real life zombies?

Zombies. We’ve all heard about them. They are the walking dead, come back to feast on the flesh of the living, usually created by evil sorcerers called bokors. But is there some truth behind the stories? Although not quite Shaun of the Dead-like, there exists a kind of zombie, created using a complex concoction of chemicals are used to cause brain damage and aid in the mind control of the the live individual.

According to local lore, a bokor captures a victim’s ti bon ange, or the part of the soul directly connected to an individual, to create a zombie. During his research, Davis discovered that the bokor used complex powders, made from dried and ground plants and animals, in their rituals.

Among these chemicals, that can give a semblance of zombie-ism, is a chemical called tetrodoxin. Coupe poudre is the powder used by a bokur to induce zombification. The active ingredient of coupe poudre is tetradotoxin (TTX), produced in the liver and ovaries of some species of puffer fish. It is a neurotoxin 500 times more potent than cyanide, acting by blocking the sodium ion channels which enable nerve and heart cells to produce electrical impulses. In miniscule doses it causes a near-death state in which metabolic functions slow, so that breathing and pulse rate are undetectable and eventually, total paralysis.  The brain and senses remain intact and the victim is thought to be dead and is buried alive.

In some stories, the night after the funeral, the body is then dug up by the bokor. The person is not dead after all but breathing very slow. The bokor would administer another powder containing atropine and scopolamine. Both are toxic and hallucinogenic compounds from the plants Datura metel and Datura stramonium (known as the zombie cucumber). When administered, the powder placed the victim into a state of delirium and disorientation in which they experience delusions and hallucinations. The victim usually was then sent off to a plantation for some manual labour. However, it is said that it was important to administer this antidote to keep him/her compliant daily or else he/she would wake up fully aware and escape, which apparently happened to a Mr. Narcisse and Ms. Felix-Mentor who returned to their hometowns after a few years.

Is there truth behind these chemicals? Either way, the possibilities are a dream-web for writers.

Paramedic #1 : You have no pulse, your blood pressure’s zero-over-zero, you have no pupillary response, no reflexes and your temperature is 70 degrees.
Freddy : Well, what does that mean?
Paramedic #1 : Well, it’s a puzzle because, technically, you’re not alive. Except you’re conscious, so we don’t know what it means.
Freddy : Are you saying we’re dead?
Paramedic #2 : Well, let’s not jump to conclusions.
Freddy : Are you saying we’re dead?
Paramedic #2 : No conclusions.
Paramedic #1 : Obviously I didn’t mean you were really dead. Dead people don’t move around and talk.
–Return of the Living Dead


Posted on November 24, 2008, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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