The curious cases of zombies Felicia Felix-Mentor and Clairvius Narcisse.
In the first article, I explained some basic things for better understanding, what is zombie and how one could become zombie. In this article, we will look closer at actual cases of zombies of Haiti.
The first person, who decided to investigate the real zombies of Haiti was American folklorist and anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston. It was in 1937. During a period of the time that Hurston was traveling around Haiti and looking for evidence she came across a woman named Felicia Felix-Mentor. Villagers explained to Hurston, that Felicia had died in 1907 and returned as zombie 20 years later. Felicia exhibited signs, that would consider her a zombie. After Hurston gathered evidence that brought her to conclusion, that the cause was black magic, but it was caused more likely by some poison or drug that was used to induce a death-like state in the victim.
Probably the most well known expedition to look for zombies of Haiti was in 1982. The ethnobotanist, anthropologist and explorer Wade Davis investigated the curious case of claimed zombie, Clairvius Narcisse. It is said, that Narcisse had been turned into a zombie by his own brothers as a form of punishment, because he refused to sell his land. He was forced to work on a sugar plantation by a bokor in 1962. Narcisse worked on this plantation until the bokor died, which released him from the slavery. After this he was wandering around the wilderness for 16 years as a zombie. After long 16 years he gained some “sense” for journey back to village, where the villagers did not believe, that he is “alive” because he has been presumed dead for 18 years. Narcisse said, that he had died, been buried and had risen from the grave after the bokor stole his soul. What makes this case even more interesting is that upon his dead, he was examined by the doctors and they indeed declared him dead.
Davis also agreed, that also for this case, there was most likely pharmacological basis for creating zombies. He also heard, that behind every zombie, there is a bokor and black magic. No potions or drugs. But after very careful observation Davis found out, that bokors were using special powders made from a complex mixture of plants and parts from different animals as part of their routine rituals. Davis assumed, that these “powders creating zombies” contained very powerful neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin. It can be found in fish called puffer. Tetrodotodoxin can be responsible for death-like state, which can be characterized by very low body temperature, extremely reduced breathing rate heart beat that is almost impossible to notice. After this toxin would wore off, the victim would awake and the bokor would continue with providing another drug made from the plant Datura stramonium or you might know it under name Jimsons Weed. This drug could keep them in delirious trance in which their minds were very easily to control.
Davis got himself involved with underworld of Haiti and managed to collect 8 samples of these powders from different regions. The samples indeed contained tetrodotoxin and also other bizarre ingredients like dried toad, pieces of skull and ground lizards or spiders. When they were administered to laboratory monkeys, they were able to fully recover from lethargy and immobility. There would not be any research without skeptics. They started to question the scientific accuracy of his method. They were saying, that the measurements were incredibly inconsistent and that the amounts are not likely to cause the effect of zombification in fully grown adults. It was also said, that the measurements must have been very specific for every single individual. What they failed to realize is that the bokors knew the victims before for quite some time and it was also part of the whole zombification.
[sc:end t=”Zombies – The Real Story of Undead (Part 2) “]