Don’t eat the Zombie Cucumber!

Even if you’ve never seen a zombie movie, you probably know something about the walking dead. But did you know that zombies have their roots in folklore and — according to some researchers — in real events in Haiti?

Zombies are real. And the real-life version is scarcely less terrifying than the cinematic one. In fact, if one imagines him or herself as the zombie, then the real zombies are far more terrifying.

Imagine you live in Haiti. You manage to make an enemy of the wrong person, or perhaps you have greedy relatives and they want something of yours. Someone pays a witch doctor, a HOUNGAN, to “get rid of you.” You are secretly poisoned with the houngan’s powder, a mixture of tetrodotoxin (it comes from a pufferfish, the same one that a Japanese sushi chef has to be licensed to prepare because doing it incorrectly can KILL you), a plant called Datura stramonium, or “Zombie Cucumber,” and a whole bunch of other stuff we probably don’t even want to know about. You die—or at least you appear to. Your heartbeat and breathing become so minimal that they are undetectable. You are buried. Then, during the night, the houngan comes and digs you up. The effects of the drug wear off, but you are left with permanent brain damage from the experience. You are now the houngan’s property, his zombie, to do with as he pleases.

Scarier than Romero? I’d say so.