Zombies: What You Need To Know

(Where they come from, and more importantly where they might be going!)

The Zombie could arguably be the number one candidate for the "Monster du Jour" position when it comes to Halloween freaks, geeks and all things that potentially go bump in the night. At this very moment in a theatre near you, there may even be some kind of zombie-related thriller as there has definitely been a marked resurgence of zombie love in Hollywood. Of course this also means that your television line up is also filled with these relentless ever marching on, hungry-for-flesh beings. Heck, these days it's not so unusual to see zombies mentioned on the nightly news; these claims probably being laid by someone whose elevator doesn't hit the top deck, but who can really say for sure, we try not to judge. At any rate, zombies are seemingly everywhere and with continually mounting popularity, you are likely to see any number of zombie characterizations at your next Halloween party. You may even have someone that closely resembles one working in the cubicle next to you where you work, but that's an entirely different matter. Why are we so fascinated with zombies? What is so compelling about these unyielding, mindless, vacant-eyed freaks? Because we at Halloween Express always want you to have the straight facts, we've put everything you need to know about zombies right here for you; from the basic history of zombies, to how to survive if you find yourself in the unfortunate midst of a zombie hoard or even, heaven forbid, what to do if you find yourself in the middle of a bona fide zombie apocalypse. Of course if you're looking for some outrageous Zombie Costumes, you've come to the right place too! 

Ever since George Romero's classic horror film, "The Night of The Living Dead" hit theatres back in 1968, zombies have been portrayed as shuffling, brain dead beings that are on a mission for one thing and one thing only. They want to eat you, of course, but they also want to infect you, because as your mother always told you, "misery loves company!" Zombies have only one thing on their mind. Food. And there is only one thing on the zombie menu, and that is YOU! Always hungry, never satiated, zombies pace (and growl) ever on in their relentless pursuit of human flesh, which seems to serve a couple of purposes for the zombie. First, eating people keeps their zombie life going. Secondarily, zombies, once human, but now monsters, have a simple "seek and destroy" mission, a mission designed to take away life. It's a terrifying agenda but indeed, a somewhat fascinating one.

History of the Zombie

In order to get to the root of the whole zombie thing, you need to go all the way to Haiti. Haiti, along with a few other African cultures, is steeped in significant superstition, fear and some pretty fervent beliefs regarding zombies. Zombies are an important part of the Voodoo religion. A zombie is a person who has died but whose corpse has been brought back to life through a spell or bit of black magic being cast upon him by someone who has unique powers. Someone who invariably has a very malevolent agenda then controls these zombies. A witch doctor, also known as a Boker, traditionally has been the one who used the threat of casting the spell of zombie-ism onto a person, sadly usually as a methodology of extorting political or social compliance out of them. (Essentially this means, do what I say or I will make you into a zombie!) Superstitious, as well as fear-laden people would do just about anything to avoid being changed into one of these pathetic as well as grotesque beings, so they would obey the orders of whatever it was the Boker wanted from them. Typically, the person was forced into a life of hard labor, but obviously this awful existence still was vastly preferred to becoming a zombie. The Voodoo religion created a huge amount of fear of zombies in general while these "Bokers" rapidly became people of upmost authority that were utterly respected, to the point of complete and total obedience. The people of Haiti took the notion of zombification or potentially becoming one of these living dead, very very seriously. Unlike today's movie zombies, who are portrayed as evil monsters, the Haitian version of a zombie is largely viewed as being complete victims.

Zombies: Real or Myth?

There are a few undocumented cases of zombies out there, but there is really no hard evidence to substantiate any of them. There was one case of a mentally ill man who claimed to have died in 1962 and then he also claimed he had been reanimated and made into a zombie, being forced to work as a slave on a Haitian sugarcane plantation. No evidence linking him to this forced slavery could ever be found, nor could he ever demonstrate where he had been working for those twenty years.

In the 1980's, a Harvard ethnobotanist named Wade Davis discovered what might have been a potentially secret zombie-inducing powder. While working in Haiti, Mr. Davis made the discovery of this bizarre substance, which itself contained a strong neurotoxin, opening up one possible explanation for what may have actually put people into a zombie state. This poisonous powder was said to induce a deathlike state, which would then subject the person to the will and to the complete obedience to any Boker.

Although Wade Davis' ideas are very interesting, science has debunked a lot of his theories as to what may have been the source of what really creates a zombie. First of all, in Haiti (a very poor country) there has always been a readily available source of cheap labor. There really would be no real need to create or enlist the help of zombies to get more workers there. Secondly, if zombies were created in order to be laborers, how effective would they really be? After being drugged up on various toxic substances, zombies would be sluggish, uncoordinated, slow and very doped up--all things that are not exactly desirable in a work force. Finally, getting the dosage of these toxins just right to create a zombie could be a very tricky biz. One would have to give enough of the poison to induce a zombie-like state, but too much of the toxin could actually be very deadly. With all these factors in mind, it seems very unlikely that zombies were actually created or used in this fashion. The good news for big time monster lovers is that all this talk about toxic zombie powders and poisonous substances has been great fodder that is fully embraced and used by Hollywood for many a fantastic horror flick!

How to Destroy a Zombie

If you ask Hollywood, the complete destruction of a zombie requires the zombie to come to a very violent and gruesome end. A Hollywood-style zombie must have its spinal cord or very rudimentary brain function totally destroyed in order to cease its zombie life, which thus means a violent head wound (as in a gun-shut or blunt force trauma to the head) or a complete decapitation. Any wounds less than this will leave a zombie completely unfazed, as any good horror flick fan knows. Zombies can find ways to continue to ambulate without limbs at all and will keep on going quite relentlessly!

In the Haitian culture, however, a far kinder and gentler approach was taken in order to bring back a person that had been put into the dark, senseless world of the zombies. Haitians didn't want to actually kill the zombie, but only wanted to release them from the zombie trance so they could rest in legitimate peace following their death. The Haitians thought that feeding salt to a zombie was one potential remedy for zombie-ism. Another Haitian theory says that once a zombie was shown the ocean it would snap out of it's zombie trance, suddenly become self-aware and then they would quite peacefully return to the grave.

 Zombie Apocalypse: Could It Happen?

A zombie apocalypse as it is illustrated in today's television and movie thrillers may seem a bit far-fetched to the average person. Apparently the CDC doesn't seem to think that a real zombie takeover is completely out of the realm of possibilities, because if you read their blog you can find a complete emergency preparedness listing of what you should have on hand in case such an event ever occurred. If you feel so inclined you can check out this very handy list of zombie apocalypse suggestions that the CDC has put together for you.

In movies, books and on television, zombies often have been created by means of some type of infectious virus. Bites as well as contact with bodily fluids from these infected individuals are what then spread the virus to other people. Is this idea so very different from some of the pandemics that have wiped out millions of people throughout our modern world? What about the Spanish influenza of 1918 that literally killed millions and millions of people worldwide? In today's day and age, we have had many other viruses, pathogens and illnesses that also have created big news around the globe. Things like H1N1, Mad Cow disease, the West Nile virus and SARS have both alarmed and created panic amongst many worldwide. Of course, millions of folks will also remember the Anthrax poisonings that happened immediately following 9-11. Is a zombie apocalypse that much of a stretch from these events which at times have been very much part of our everyday reality?

How To Survive A Zombie Apocalypse

Whether you believe in the possibility of a legitimate zombie apocalypse or not, a little preparedness can go a very long way in any emergency. When you are dealing with zombies, however, a few extra essentials can mean the difference between life and death. Might we suggest you check out the above list of essentials to have on hand as listed by the CDC, or you can check out our list below that might also have a few more practical items you will want to have on hand for a zombie-related emergency.

  1. Running Shoes: Anyone who's seen a good zombie flick knows that zombies march, amble, shuffle, mosey, trudge or lumber--but one thing is for sure, they never, ever run. If you want to make a quick exit out of a zombie's reach, it's highly possible that simply running away might be one mighty viable solution. In the event of a legitimate zombie invasion, fitness is going to be of utmost importance anyway. Go for a run!

  2. Energy Bars: During any zombie apocalypse, most survivors who haven't stored emergency supplies at home will be forced to head to their local market in order to find food. You may want to consider stockpiling some granola or energy bars to have on hand as a food source in case of an emergency.

  3. Silent Weapon: A gun is really only useful in the most dire of situations if you find yourself under attack from a group of zombies, as the sound of the gun going off is likely to bring even more zombies in your direction. It's important to have a good defensive weapon that is silent and doesn't require reloading. A baseball bat, a machete, a hammer, a crowbar or a hefty plank are all good choices. A bow and arrow has been very effective on episodes of "The Walking Dead". 

  4. H20: Water is one of the most essential items needed for your ultimate survival. You are going to need a lot, especially if you expend a lot of energy fighting off or running from zombies.

  5. Surgical Mask: This is not necessary, but this item can make your existence during a zombie apocalypse much more tolerable. The reality of the situation is, there is going to be bodies in various stages of decomposition virtually everywhere. Zombies themselves are likely to smell absolutely horrible, too. Anything you can do to filter the air that you breathe and disseminate some of that wretched smell is a very, very good thing.

  6. Handi-Wipes: Once again, you may be faced with contact of all sorts of unspeakable things during a zombie attack including body fluids, blood splatters, guts--arm yourself with a hygienic way to clean up and you will be much happier.

  7. Heavy-Duty Clothing: A leather jacket, heavy denim jeans, boots, etc. will offer you a minimal degree of protection should you find yourself in hand-to-hand combat with a zombie and these also may actually protect you from being bitten in some instances.

  8. Stay In a Safe Place: You are far safer in a defensible building than out in the open, so keep this in mind when planning your next move. Brick buildings with as few windows as possible are ideal. Fortress your abode as much as you possibly can to prevent surprise invaders.

When it comes to monsters, beasts, freaks, ogres and savages, zombies are likely to trump them all when it comes to being the most utterly and hideously scary. Zombies force us to face our most ultimate fear--death itself--and then zombies take this fear of death one step further, by then coming back to life after dying, a notion that is simply terrifying to the mere mortal mind. Taking the act of reanimation even one horrific step further, the zombie then does what most humans consider one of the most heinous acts imaginable, and that is to commit what may be the ultimate taboo, consuming human flesh.

Zombies are an extremely popular character to choose for a Halloween costume look because like many other scary characters we love to embrace during this time of the year they help us to make fun of and create a little levity around those things that we fear the most. Popular for a reason, zombies combine ancient mystery and lore with modern world realities, along with the potential for real disaster and mayhem. You can find a whole hoard full of hideous zombie looks (along with lots of makeup and accessories to add all those fantastically gory little details) right here at Halloween Express! Happy Halloween from Halloween Express!