According to the Voodoo religion, zombies are said to be an animated corpse raised by magical means such as witchcraft or sorcery. This is often depicted in the media and is a common perception throughout pop culture and human consciousness. The heart of the Zombie phenomenon lies in the island of Hispaniola where peasant workers on the island suggest that evil sorcerers called bokors possess the power to bring dead loved-ones back to life as mindless drones.

Bokors and Zombies

Bokors are then known to use these unthinking pawns as their slaves. It is accurate that the Caribbean notion of zombies does indeed hold true, as zombies can be regularly found stumbling through the streets of the islands. Stories of people who have known their families to have been turned into zombies are quite prevalent, which is why many poor peasants place heavy stones on top of their loved-ones coffins to deter bokors from grabbing the bodies.

The truth is truly disturbing, but it is said that supernatural powers are not in play in this phenomenon. Mental health experts acknowledge that those identified as zombies by the Haitian people do suffer from a variety of severe mental illnesses. Some critics have implied that the concept of zombies has been a way to describe the mentally ill, at least in the Haitian culture. Other enthusiasts believe something much more sinister is at work. A common belief is that Haitian bokors can induce mental illnesses using natural, homemade resources.

Bokors can keep the zombies in a pharmacologically induced trance for many years by using a series of chemicals and dissociative drugs. A nerve agent found in the puffer fish called tetrodotoxin, which is what the bokor uses to plague the victim into a deep paralysis. The family of the victim assumes the victim is dead, so they are buried. Brain damage is then caused due to a lack of oxygen within the coffin while the bokor then steals the body, and revives the victim by using datura stramonium. or ‘zombie cucumber’, which is a form of mind control drug.

There are other poisons, like those extracted from frogs and toads, which can be used as hallucinogens and anesthetics on the unlucky victims. These toxins keep them in a constant trance-like state of mind, immune to pain, and signals a warning to the other islanders to heed caution to the power of bokors.