According to the West African tenets of Vodou, a dead person can be revived by a bokor, or sorcerer. Zombies remain under the control of the bokor since they have no will of their own. "Zombi" is also another name of the Vodou snake lwa Damballah Wedo, of Niger–Congo origin; it is akin to the Kikongo word nzambi, which means "god". There also exists within the West African Vodun tradition the zombi astral, which is a part of the human soul that is captured by a bokor and used to enhance the bokor's power. The zombi astral is typically kept inside a bottle which the bokor can sell to clients for luck, healing or business success. It is believed that after a time God will take the soul back and so the zombi is a temporary spiritual entity. It is also said in vodou legend, that feeding a zombie salt will make it return to the grave.
The idea of zombies is present in some South African cultures. In some communities it is believed that a dead person can be turned into a zombie by a small child. It is said that the spell can be broken by a powerful enoughsangoma.
It is also believed in some areas of South Africa that witches can turn a person into a zombie by killing and possessing the victim's body in order to force it into slave labor. After rail lines were built to transport migrant workers, stories emerged about "witch trains". These trains appeared ordinary, but were staffed by zombie workers controlled by a witch. The trains would abduct a person boarding at night, and the person would then either be turned into a zombie worker, or beaten and thrown from the train a distance away from the original location.
In 1937, while researching folklore in Haiti, Zora Neale Hurston encountered the case of a woman who appeared in a village, and a family claimed she was Felicia Felix-Mentor, a relative who had died and been buried in 1907 at the age of 29. However, the woman had been examined by a doctor, who found on X-ray that she did not have the leg fracture that Felix-Mentor was known to have had.Hurston pursued rumors that the affected persons were given a powerful psychoactive drug, but she was unable to locate individuals willing to offer much information. She wrote: "What is more, if science ever gets to the bottom of Voodoo in Haiti and Africa, it will be found that some important medical secrets, still unknown to medical science, give it its power, rather than gestures of ceremony."
Several decades later, Wade Davis, a Harvard ethnobotanist, presented a pharmacological case for zombies in two books, The Serpent and the Rainbow (1985) and Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie (1988). Davis traveled to Haiti in 1982 and, as a result of his investigations, claimed that a living person can be turned into a zombie by two special powders being introduced into the blood stream (usually via a wound). The first, coup de poudre (French: "powder strike"), includes tetrodotoxin (TTX), a powerful and frequently fatal neurotoxin found in the flesh of the pufferfish (order Tetraodontidae). The second powder consists of dissociative drugssuch as datura. Together, these powders were said to induce a deathlike state in which the will of the victim would be entirely subjected to that of the bokor. Davis also popularized the story of Clairvius Narcisse, who was claimed to have succumbed to this practice. The most ethically questioned and least scientifically explored ingredient of the powders, is part of a recently buried child's brain.
The process described by Davis was an initial state of deathlike suspended animation, followed by re-awakening — typically after being buried — into a psychotic state. The psychosis induced by the drug and psychological trauma was hypothesised by Davis to reinforce culturally learned beliefs and to cause the individual to reconstruct their identity as that of a zombie, since they "knew" they were dead, and had no other role to play in the Haitian society. Societal reinforcement of the belief was hypothesized by Davis to confirm for the zombie individual the zombie state, and such individuals were known to hang around in graveyards, exhibiting attitudes of low affect.
Davis's claim has been criticized, particularly the suggestion that Haitian witch doctors can keep "zombies" in a state of pharmacologically induced trance for many years. Symptoms of TTX poisoning range from numbness and nausea to paralysis — particularly of the muscles of the diaphragm — unconsciousness, and death, but do not include a stiffened gait or a deathlike trance. According to psychologist Terence Hines, the scientific community dismisses tetrodotoxin as the cause of this state, and Davis' assessment of the nature of the reports of Haitian zombies is viewed as overly credulous.
Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing highlighted the link between social and cultural expectations and compulsion, in the context ofschizophrenia and other mental illness, suggesting that schizogenesis may account for some of the psychological aspects of zombification.
Slaves brought to Haiti in the 17th and 18th centuries, believed that when they died, Baron Samedi would gather them from their grave to bring them to heaven, unless they had offended him in some way, such as committing suicide, in which case they would be forever a slave after death, as a zombie.

Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Actually Happen

We found out recently that if you try to leave a little kid in a graveyard late at night, he'll freak out. Even if you offer to leave him a gun to protect himself. Why? It's because on some instinctual level, all humans know it's just a matter of time until the zombies show up.

Our culture is full of tales of the undead walking the Earth, from our religions to our comic books. But, some sort of zombie apocalypse isn't actually possible, right?



Actually, yes. It's quite possible. Here's five ways it could happen, according to science.
Brain Parasites

As seen in ...
Resident Evil IV

What are they?
Parasites that turn victims into mindless, zombie-like slaves are fairly common in nature. There's one called toxoplasmosa gondii that seems to devote its entire existence to being terrifying.

This bug infects rats, but can only breed inside the intestines of a cat. The parasite knows it needs to get the rat inside the cat (yes, we realize this sounds like the beginning of the most fucked-up Dr. Seuss poem ever) so the parasite takes over the rat's freaking brain, and intentionally makes it scurry toward where the cats hang out. The rat is being programmed to get itself eaten, and it doesn't even know.

Of course, those are just rats, right?

How it can result in zombies:
Hey, did we mention that half the human population on Earth is infected with toxoplasmosa, and don't know it? Hey, maybe you're one of them. Flip a coin.

Oh, also, they've done studies and shown that the infected see a change in their personality and have a higher chance of going batshit insane.

Chances this could cause a zombie apocalypse:
Humans and rats aren't all that different; thats why they use them to test our drugs. All it takes is a more evolved version of toxoplasmosa, one that could to do us what it does to the rats. So, imagine if half the world suddenly had no instinct for self-preservation or rational thought. Even less than they do now, we mean.

If you're comforting yourself with the thought that it may take forever for such a parasite to evolve, you're forgetting about all the biological weapons programs around the world, intentionally weaponizing such bugs. You've got to wonder if the lab workers don't carry out their work under the unwitting command of the toxoplasmosa gondii already in their brains. If you don't want to sleep at night, that is.

You may be protesting that technically these people have never been dead and thus don't fit the dictionary definition of "zombies," but we can assure you that the distinction won't matter a whole lot once these groaning hordes are clawing their way through your windows.

As seen in ...
The movie The Serpent and the Rainbow, the upcoming Resident Evil 5 video game.

What are they?

There are certain kinds of poisons that slow your bodily functions to the point that you'll be considered dead, even to a doctor (okay, maybe not to a good doctor). The poison from fugu (Japanese blowfish) can do this.

The victims can then be brought back under the effects of a drug like datura stramonium (or other chemicals called alkaloids) that leave them in a trance-like state with no memory, but still able to perform simple tasks like eating, sleeping, moaning and shambling around with their arms outstretched.

How it can result in zombies:
"Can?" How about "does."

This stuff has happened in Haiti; that's where the word "zombie" comes from. There are books about it, the most famous ones by Dr. Wade Davis (Passage of Darknessand The Serpent and the Rainbow). Yes, the movie The Serpent and the Rainbow was based on this guy's actual science stuff. How much of it was fact? Well, there was that one scene where they strapped the guy naked to a chair and drove a huge spike through his balls. We're hoping that part wasn't true.

What is definitely true is the story of Clairvius Narcisse. He was a Haitian guy who was declared dead by two doctors and buried in 1962. They found him wandering around the village 18 years later. It turned out the local voodoo priests had been using naturally occurring chemicals to basically zombify people and putting them to work on the sugar plantations (no, really).

So, the next time you're pouring a little packet of sugar into your coffee, remember that it may have been handled by a zombie at some point.

Chances this could cause a zombie apocalypse:
On the one hand, it's already fucking happened! So that earns it some street cred right off the bat. But, even if some evil genius intentionally distributed alkaloid toxins to a population to turn them into a shambling, mindless horde, there is no way to make these zombies aggressive or cannabalistic.

The Real Rage Virus

As seen in ...
28 Days Later

What is it?
In the movie, it was a virus that turned human beings into mindless killing machines. In real life, we have a series of brain disorders that do the same thing. They were never contagious, of course. Then, Mad Cow Disease came along. It attacks the cow's spinal cord and brain, turning it into a stumbling, mindless attack cow.

And, when humans eat the meat ...

How it can result in zombies:
When Mad Cow gets in humans, they call it Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Check out the symptoms:
Changes in gait (walking)
Lack of coordination (for example, stumbling and falling)
Muscle twitching
Myoclonic jerks or seizures
Rapidly developing delirium or dementia

Sure, the disease is rare (though maybe not as rare as we think) and the afflicted aren't known to chase after people in murderous mobs. Yet.

But, it proves widespread brain infections of the Rage variety are just a matter of waiting for the right disease to come along.

Chances this could cause a zombie apocalypse:
If the whole sudden, mindless violence idea seems far-fetched, remember that you are just one brain chemical (serotonin) away from turning into a mindless killing machine (they've tested it by putting rats in Deathmatch-style cages and watching them turn on each other). All it would take is a disease that destroys the brain's ability to absorb that one chemical and suddenly it's a real-world 28 Days Later.

So, imagine such an evolved disease, which we'll call Super Mad Cow (or, Madder Cow) getting a foothold through the food supply. Say this disease spreads through blood-on-blood contact, or saliva-on-blood contact. Now you have a Rage-type virus that can be transmitted with a bite.

Just like the movie. With one bite, you're suddenly the worst kind of zombie:

A fast zombie.

As seen in ...
Laboratories around the world.

What is it?
You know all that conversy out there about stem cell research? Well, the whole thing with stem cells is that they can basically be used to re-generate dead cells. Particularly of interest to zombologists like ourselves is neurogenesis, the method by which they can re-grow dead brain tissue.

You can see where this is going.

How it can result in zombies:
You wanted the undead to make an appearance in this article? Well, here you go, you creepy bastards.

Science can pretty much save you from anything but brain death; they can swap out organs but when the brain turns to mush, you're gone. Right?

Well, not for long. They're already able to re-grow the brains of comatose head trauma patients until they wake up and walk around again.

Couple that with the new ability to keep a dead body in a state of suspended animation so that it can be brought back to life later, and soon we'll be able to bring back the dead, as long as we get to them quickly enough.

That sounds great, right? Well, this lab dedicated to "reanimation research" (yes, that's what they call it) explains how the process of "reanimating" a person creates a problem. It causes the brain to die off from the outside in. The outside being the cortex, the nice part of you that makes humans human. That just leaves the part that controls basic motor function and primitive instincts behind.

Reanimation research (artist's rendering)

You don't need the cortex to survive; all you need is the stem and you'll still be able to mindlessly walk and eat and enjoy Grey's Anatomy. This is how chickens can keep walking around after they've been beheaded (including one case where the chicken lived for 18 months without a head).

So, you take a brain dead patient, use these techniques to re-grow the brain stem, and you now have a mindless body shambling around, no thoughts and no personality, nothing but a cloud of base instincts and impulses.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what we like to call a real, live, undead fucking zombie. So there.

Chances this could cause a zombie apocalypse:
Think about it. Under every legal system in the world, all rights and responsibilities are terminated at death. All it takes is someone with resources and a need for a mindless workforce of totally obedient slave labor.

How long until somebody tries this? We're betting somebody in the world, maybe North Korea, will have a working zombie by Christmas.http://www.cracked.com/article_15643_5-scientific-reasons-zombie-apocalypse-could-actually-happen_p4.html


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