Most of the population of Haiti is descended from African slaves, and many people follow voodoo, which is based on the religions of West Africa. In voodoo, a zombie is a dead person brought back to life by a priest called a bokor. These “walking dead” have no free will and must obey their masters, who force them to work as slaves, toiling on farms from sunrise to sunset.
No one outside of Haitians took these tales of zombies seriously until one actually appeared! Clairvius Narcisse had been “dead” for almost 20 years when he suddenly reappeared. He claimed that a bokor had drugged him so that everyone thought he was dead—before digging him up after his funeral and putting him to work as a slave on a farm.
Hearing the story, Dr. Wade Davis traveled to Haiti to investigate. He learned that the bokors used a substance called “zombie powder,” which he analyzed and found to contain poisonous puffer fish and the skin of poison toads. He believes that these substances make victims appear dead with hardly any breath or heartbeat.
The victims are dug up after burial and given other dangerous drugs to confuse them and make then forget who they are.