The original zombie myth can be traced back to the Republic of Haiti, a Caribbean country, where together with Catholicism and Protestantism some natives practice Voodoo or Vodou. The practitioners of Vodou revere death, and believe it to be a great transition from one life to another, or to the afterlife. Within Haitian religion, a zombie is an animated corpse raised by magical means, such as witchcraft. Haitian witch doctors claim to be able to keep “zombies” in a state of pharmacologically induced trance for many years using a concoction of poisons. Symptoms of poisoning range from numbness and nausea to paralysis — particularly of the muscles of the diaphragm — unconsciousness, and death, but do not include a stiffened gait or a deathlike trance.
Nowadays the idea of a zombie is as a creature from a horror film, and this genre keeps on growing as a way to frighten cinemagoers. The history of celluloid zombies can be traced back to a film made in 1932 called, surprisingly, White Zombie, and tells the story of a young woman’s transformation into a zombie at the hands of an evil voodoo master. Although it would barely raise an eyebrow now, back in the 30’s it terrified the audience, yet they always went back for more. A sequel was made in 1936 and although several other zombie films appeared throughout the 40’s it wasn’t until George A. Romero made Night of the Living Dead in 1968 that film fans returned to this genre. This film laid down the rules that hundreds of other filmmakers have followed, and it is considered by many fans to be the best zombie movie ever.
Read this illustrated guide to the evolution of zombies, tracing them from their early beginnings to the multi-million dollar businesses they have inspired and the franchises they have spawned.