ZOMBIE BEGINNINGS: The legend of zombies originated through the West African belief system of voodoo and has a storied history in Haiti. According to voodoo beliefs, a sorcerer, or bokor, could bring a person back from the dead and control their actions through supernatural powers. Many people consider this ancient practice a religious myth, but what does science have to say about the matter?
SCIENTIFIC PROOF?: In the 1980s, a Haitian man claimed that he had died in 1962 and was brought back by a bokor. The man was able to recall details from his earlier life that no one else could have known, leading local Haitians to believe his story. This report led ethno-botanist Wade Davis to Haiti in search of a scientific answer.
While there, Davis discovered a substance used by sorcerers that could possibly explain the zombie phenomenon. This powder contained two powerful drugs capable of causing paralysis and inhibiting a person's response to stimuli, which -- when combined — could make him or her appear dead. Davis' theory was that a person who ingested the powder could be buried and then dug up later by the sorcerer to be revived. However, the effects of the drugs might prevent people from ever returning to their normal state, and instead relegate them to a zombielike existence. Although many experts refute Davis' research, it's the only scientific explanation that's been offered to date.
POP CULTURE INVASION: Zombies have been popular subjects on the big screen, ever since the release of the 1968 movie Night of the Living Dead. More recently, zombies have enjoyed a resurgence in pop culture thanks to best-selling books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and hit movies like Zombieland. With a litany of horror films, literature and videogames dedicated to these creatures, it might be easy to think zombies are just a figment of imaginative artists' minds. However, if zombies really do wander among us, don't forget the first rule of zombie survival...RUN!