Creativity Magazine

Zombies And The (Unlikely) Apocalypse

Posted on the 18 April 2013 by Rjnielsen039 @RobertJ_Nielsen

They’re coming, and we all know it. How could we not expect them? Hollywood, video games, and various pop-culture references have been predicting their arrival for quite some time now. What are ‘they’, exactly? Why, zombies, of course.

Western culture has been pretty big on the idea of the ‘Zombie Apocalypse’ for decades now, though the concept of zombies themselves has been around for far longer. Where exactly do zombies originate from? What are the real dangers present, and what can we do to prepare ourselves for the inevitable doom that we know is coming? Well today I’m going to cover all of that and more. Let’s break down everything that you will need to know so that you don’t become live steak. First things first, where does the concept of zombies come from?

Haitian Voodoo


For an idea so popular in America and spreading throughout Europe, it may come as a surprise to some to find out that zombies themselves originally come from Haitian folklore. They were thought to be the recently deceased reanimated by bokor (sorcerers or witch-doctors). They were meant to be nothing more than mindless slaves, and weren’t considered to be self-aware or even dangerous unless fed salt, which would restore their senses.

After several stories and cases were documented, researchers still had trouble believing that any of it was anything more than urban legends, mistaken identity, or just flat out fraud. That is until 1980, when a man claiming to be Clairvius Narcisse appeared in a rural Haitian village. Clairvius had come ill and died at Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Deschapelles, Haiti on May 2, 1962, and his illness and death were documented events. He claimed that a bokor had resurrected him into a zombie. Scientists and researchers thought that Narcisse may be potential proof of zombies, and thoroughly interviewed him. He was able to answer questions about his family and childhood that not even a close friend could know. Eventually his family, and many observers agreed that he was in fact a zombie returned from the dead.

Narcisse became the catalyst for the Zombie Project (a study of the origin of zombies conducted in Haiti from 1982 to 1984). This is when ethnobotanist and anthropologist, Dr. Wade Davis traveled through Haiti in hopes of discovering the cause and origin of zombies.

Creating Haitian Zombies

Davis traveled to Haiti behind the theory that some form of anesthetic drug was being used to create the “zombies”. This would have explained the paralysis and loss of consciousness, closely resembling death to family members and local medical professionals. Then the bokor would dig up the body, and when the effects of the drug had worn off, the subject would be convinced that they were a zombie. Davis learned that the Haitians believed that a bokor’s sorcery created the zombies by capturing their ti bon ange, which is a portion of the soul directly tied to the individual. Not surprisingly, he didn’t buy it. He dug deeper, and discovered that the bokor used a variety of powders made of dried and ground plants and animals during their rituals.

He collected eight different samples of these powders from four different regions throughout Haiti. Though they were comprised of different ingredients, he did discover that seven of the powders shared four main ingredients with each other;

  • Puffer fish, which contain a deadly neuro-toxin called tetrodotoxin.
  • A marine toad that produces many toxic substances.
  • A hyla tree frog that secretes an irritating substance.
  • Human remains.

In addition, many of the powders contained other plant and animal compounds (such as ground lizards and spiders), and occasionally even broken glass, all of which would irritate the skin (possibly causing that zombie-like look we’ve all grown so fond of). Applying the powders topically could explain the irritated skin, and the toxins seeping into the bloodstream could have cause the paralysis and loss of consciousness as explained above.

While Davis’ research has been controversial for a variety of reasons, many people believe it to still be the only plausible explanation for zombies. Until more recently, that is. Here are a few other types of zombies that are scientifically possible, even if not very likely to occur.

Parasitic Zombies

Toxoplasma Gondii

A parasite is a living organism that uses a host to survive, such as tape worms inside of humans. How could something like a tape worm create zombies, you ask? Well, it can’t. But lucky for zombies (and unlucky for us), tape worms are far from the only parasites in existence. For example, toxoplasma gondii is a parasitic bacteria that lives and reproduces within the stomach and intestine of cats. When the cats use the bushes to make excrement, the bacteria is transferred to any creature that eats said excrement. Within rats and mice, the bacteria moves it’s way to the brain, and rewires it so that the mice and rats are suddenly attracted to the scent of cats and cat urine. That’s a complete one-eighty from the original, natural way that rats and mice think! Now, instead of avoiding their natural predator, they scramble towards them, are eaten, and the bacteria can then repeat the cycle. Now imagine if something like this were to infect human beings. It could literally reprogram us any way that it wants, reducing our sense of self preservation or rational thought. But that could never happen, right?

Well, it’s estimated that between one third, and one half of the entire human populization carries this Toxoplasma bacteria within us. Also consider that human beings and rats aren’t so far from each other genetically (hence the reason rats and mice are often used in scientific testing), and all it would really take is an evolved form of this parasite to turn us into mindless hosts. How’s that for positive?

Viral Zombies


A virus is a microscopic organism that cannot carry out the basic chemical reactions necessary for sustaining it’s own life. Because of this they infect host cells of other organisms (similar to parasites) in order to survive and reproduce. Also like parasites, viruses need to find a way to spread in order to continue living and reproducing, and they have been known to be fairly creative in the process. Some spread through the transfer of bodily fluids (blood, saliva, semen, excrement, etc), while some, like the flu, are able to transmit through the air, via coughing and sneezing. Many viruses have the ability to change the host organism’s DNA, and some can even change the behavior of the hosts.

This is why viral infections have been the preferred method of zombie pandemics throughout pop-culture. We’ve seen it in movies such as 28 Days Later, and The Crazies. In the former, it was a disease called the Rage Virus that infected the brain, in the latter, it was a form of Rabies on steroids. Considering that the Rage virus is a fictitious disease, let’s just focus on the Rabies case right now.

Rabies is most commonly associated with dogs. When a dog is infected with the Rabies virus, the infected area (usually a bite wound) will become irritated and inflamed, and the virus will travel through the creature’s cells, quickly settling in the brain and spinal cord. As the disease progresses dogs may show increased irritability, viciousness, and excitability. These dogs may hide in dark or quiet places, and will bite when provoked. Central nervous system signs like seizures will exhibit, and there may be paralysis prior to death. A phase of the disease may also cause paralysis of the muscles in the throat. This leads to excessive drooling and choking sounds due to an inability to swallow.

Now take into effect that ALL warm-blooded creatures are susceptible to the Rabies virus, and it makes the threat seem slightly more real. The flu evolves and grows stronger each season. It’s the deadliest known disease in human history because of this. Now imagine if the Rabies virus were able to mutate just enough that it didn’t kill humans so quickly when infecting them. Zombies.

Limitless Possibilities

It seems that if you perform a quick Google search you can find several other viable options for zombies, from nano-technology, to mad cow disease. So what are we supposed to do? Be prepared! Here’s how, in a few easy steps;

  • Be prepared with the proper equipment.
  • Know your surroundings, exits, and escape routes.
  • Stay physically, and mentally fit.

Beyond that, everything is circumstantial, and pure luck. So let’s dig a little deeper into each of those key points.

Equipment Matters

There are essentially three types of gear to keep in mind when packing your bug-out bag(s). First and foremost, you need basic necessities; food, plenty of water, spare clothing, etc. Without these things, you will not survive. Next would be your “Soldier Kit”, containing your weapon(s) and any necessary ammunition, rope, fire starter, etc. Basic tools and items to defend yourself, and improvise your way through just about any situation. Lastly would be your first aid bag, to patch yourself up and keep yourself healthy. All of these kits can be pieced together on your own, or purchased ready-made from various outfitters and retailers.

Proceed With Caution

If you want to live, you will need to be constantly aware of your surroundings. It doesn’t matter what type of zombies you will be facing, you can be caught off guard at any time, and no matter how vigilant you are, it will happen. You need to have a plan. Where are you going to go when the plague first strikes? How accessible will your bug-out bag be? You could be at work, home, the park, or the restroom of a Denny’s. You should know where you will go, how long it will take, and as many alternate routes as possible. Plan ahead, and then plan ahead again. Stay aware, and keep focused.

Mind And Body

Finally, you need to stay healthy, and fit. Work out now. Run, a LOT. Build strength, specially in your core, and your back. There’s an old saying, “The more you sweat in peace time, the less you bleed in war.” Make that your motto when building your physique. When the zombies strike, you’re going to need to be able to run, jump, and climb to get over and/or past any obstacle in your way, and all while carrying your gear and equipment. Also, you will want your brain just as sharp as your body. How useful will all of that cardio be if you don’t know where to run, or how to think on the fly? You will need to be able to improvise, to make something out of nothing. If you can’t problem solve, and fast, your problem of how to survive will be a moot point.

Shoot To Kill

Practice with your weapon, now. Preferably something longer range. Keep these simple rules in mind, and stay vigilant. It may not be likely, but the zombie apocalypse could potentially happen at any time. As long as you stay at the ready, you have a better chance of survival than most, though honestly, even after reading this, you’re still likely to wind up another member of the zombie army by way of a painful induction. Happy hunting!

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