Exploitation and control: The darker side of zombies (Pt. 1)

Monday, October 15th, 2012 By

A participant of a Zombie walk, Asbury Park NJ, USA.

Some zombies aren’t the walking dead, but victims of kidnapping and financial exploitation. (Photo Credit: CC BY/Bob Jagendorf/Wikipedia)

There’s big money in zombies and the zombie apocalypse. Credit George Romero, “Resident Evil,” “The Walking Dead” and a host of other pop culture sources for that phenomenon. But the business of zombies and zombie folklore isn’t all fun and games. There’s a darker side to “zombies” involving mind control drugs, kidnapping, extortion and mind-numbing weapons technology that’s sure to give even the most skeptical individuals a fright.

Zombies as free slave labor

Very few people believe that the zombies from the “Resident Evil” survival horror video game and film series are real. However, a notable segment of the world population near Haiti that practices the religion known as Vodun (aka Voodoo) sees zombies as the slaves of a malevolent caplata (evil sorcerer, aka bokors) practicing black magic, or “left-handed Vodun.” Popular belief within Voodoo is that when summoned by dark ritual, the dead are not allowed to reset. Resurrected by black magic, such zombies possess no will of their own, and are conscripted as slaves of the devious caplata.

Whether or not this is achieved via sorcery, mind-altering drugs that place the victim in a near-coma or pre-arranged role playing in order to frighten the faithful, this manipulation can be used by the perpetrator to generate profit (and profitable slave service).

Political and social control has its benefits. An interesting historical side note to bokor zombie control folklore is that during Haiti’s Duvalier political regime (1957-1984), bokors were believed to be in service to the brutal Tonton Macoute secret police. All those who opposed Duvalier were literally threatened with being made into the living dead.

Then there are those people who claim to have walked as a zombie, only to return to the land of the living. Reports indicate that a mentally ill Haitian man by the name of Clairvius Narcisse claimed in 1980 to have “died” in 1962. During his time among the zombies, he allegedly was a slave laborer on a sugarcane plantation for nearly two decades. He couldn’t back up his claims to criminal investigators, but the Haitian sugarcane business isn’t exactly known for worker safety or equitable worker compensation, so who knows?

Is there scientific evidence for zombies?

Speaking of the year 1980, Harvard ethnobotanist Wade Davis claimed to have discovered a secret “zombie powder” while doing field work in Haiti. The active ingredient was said to be a neurotoxin that could place victims in a near-catatonic state. Davis went on to write the book “The Serpent and the Rainbow,” which would later be made into a horror film by noted director Wes Craven. Most scientists believe that Davis’ claims were exaggerated, however, in that the amount of neurotoxin found in his samples would not have been enough to produce a zombifying effect, and the appropriate mixture would be very difficult to create without controlled laboratory conditions. Too little of the toxin would produce very temporary results, and too much would kill the victim. Even if it did work, the zombie laborer would likely be brain-damaged, leaving them too slow and uncoordinated to do farm work. Considering that the average annual income in Haiti is under $2,000, there are plenty of people willing to work for almost nothing. Zombie drugs are perhaps unnecessary, considering the time and effort required.

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A voodoo wedding – Zombies for fun and profit

Sources

The Atlantic: http://bit.ly/RDapvK

Christian Science Monitor: http://bit.ly/XfCo8d

Discovery

Russia Today

Wikipedia entry for scopolamine

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