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The History of Zombies and what Makes Them the Greatest Halloween Monster

Updated on October 8, 2014


As we know them today, zombies are the undead who rises to feast on the flesh of people. They cannot be killed easily, and are now considered to be fast-moving and even have some intelligence to sneak up and attack survivors. Within days or a mere week, zombies are able to destroy the world, leaving only a small group of survivors throughout the world to fight against the dead.

The zombies I just described are the urban legend, the myth, the mystical tale about zombies. However there are real cases of zombism, just different from what what our version of zombies are. This article will explore the real cases of zombies and how the real zombies turned into the fictional kind that everybody loves, and finally why they are the greatest Halloween monsters.

The fou-fou fish, one of the deadliest fishes in the world
The fou-fou fish, one of the deadliest fishes in the world | Source

Zombies Origins

The first earliest description of Zombies began in Haiti and was said to have origins to the voodoo religion. As it is described, people would hire voodoo priest or priestess to turn annoying family members, neighbors, or even members of a town into a zombie because they did not want to be around them anymore. The priests would do this by administrating coup padre-a powder that has tetrodoxin which is the deadliest substance found in the fou-fou fish.

From there, the victims would appear dead because the heart-rate would slow to almost stopping, their breathing would be subdued, and their body temperature would drop. the relatives will then bury them until oxygen becomes thin and they get brain damage. Once they were there long enough, the priest or priestess would dig them out. With the brain damage and poison, the victims would come out as a shell of a person, unable to think for themselves.

Due to their inability to think for themselves, they were easily controlled and manipulated by other people. In fact during wars , the 'zombies' were used to charge at enemies, in a way to both scare the enemies as well as protect the other members of the tribe or town.

Zombies and Slavery

Slavery is one of the many shameful parts of human history, and every civilization is guilty of slavery. However the first time zombies appeared in America was due to slavery. At first, it kept slaves from trying to commit suicide, because they were afraid that if they committed suicide they would come back as zombies and that would mean the slave owners had power over them and they were not going to be able to go back to Africa (GANDHI 2013). However it was first described in a newspaper in 1838 when a slave of the painter Bartolome Esteben Murillo claimed that zombies appeared in the studio at nights to work on art pieces (GANDHI 2013). Just like any story about zombies now, in 1838, this story exploded into many different newspapers and in late 1800's, newspapers stated that zombies willingly help white folks.By 1872, the ideal of zombies started to change when linguistic scholar Maximilian Schele de vere who believed that they were a new type of ghosts or a phantom.

In 1929, zombies started to become more mainstream as we know today, as an explorer wrote a book about the Haiti practices, so basically it went full circle again. in 1932, the first zombie movie appeared called white Zombie, due to the 1929 experience, only the zombies were white. This was the first time, that zombies were not of African decent.

Start of the Modern Day Zombie

The modern day version of zombies are actually due to media, mostly horror movies and television shows. It started with the 1932 film White zombie, in which a man obsessed a woman, ioffers her to marry for fiancé in Haiti and then convinces a doctor to help him make her his wife instead. the doctor agrees only for the young man to discover the doctor turned her into a a zombie( The movie did nothing more more but make the term 'zombie' popular. It was not until The Return of the Living dead (1968) that zombies rose from the dead and can infect and turn other people into zombies. it was the first movie to have a zombie Apocalypse even if it only spread in one town.

From that point forward, zombies became the masterminds behind horror. There is nothing more scary than the thought of fighting against a herd of zombies which cannot die easily and are vicious in their needs to feed. With every generation, zombie movies adapted and changed to ensure that it stays fresh. If one is to compare the 2013 latest advancement to zombies and the 1968 version of zombies, they are two completely different monsters. The 1968 version showed them as dumb, slow, and less dead looking. The 2013 version in War World Z, showed them moving like an ant herd, fast, vicious, and smart enough to figure out how to climb the side of walls.

The difference between the two really has to do with competing movies and television shows as well as better CGI. IMDB, the biggest movie information site has over two thousand movies just on zombies, so with so many movies competing for audiences, writers and directors have to make their own spin on zombies, which in return changes the folklore of zombies, including what causes it, how quickly it spreads, how quickly the world will die off, and the chances of survival for victims. Even in regards to cross-species infections. In the 1988, Return of the Living Dead, people used dogs to attack and kill the victims. In the Resident Evil series, animals also turn into the undead.


No Longer Confined to Just Movies

Big surges of zombie films pops out after major events like chemical plant meltdown, natural disasters, biochemical welfare, etc. Most people are terrified of these events happening, more so after the 9/11 terrorist attack. So more and more zombies movies have that as a basis for the infection to start. It has also been a big thing to have real newspaper reports mixed in a zombie movie, to further make the situation seem more likely. As like the beginning of War World Z, where the director wisely put news reports about strange natural events like breached whales, the Florida zombie attack incident, and videos of war before the movie began.

Zombies do not need movies anymore. There are tons of websites devoted to do nothing more than share 'fake' news reports about zombie attacks. Websites such as which does nothing but shows you a warning system for the chances of an attack just like there would be fire warnings for mountains (low, medium, high, etc) and then which shows a map of potential zombie attacks and then describes the attacks in detail.

There is also websites linking major plagues to zombies too like in where they link the mayan extinction as well as other events. They also have other strange events like finding a graveyard where every skeleton was headless and violent injuries but on other websites like BBC they think it was gladiators that were beheaded and buried in York (BBC 2014).

Halloween and the Undead

What makes them the greatest Halloween creature? For one, they have less weaknesses than other creatures. Vampires die easily by crosses and can be kept away with garlic. Werewolves can be killed with a silver bullet and can only turn on full moons. Mummies can be burnt and killed. All three of these creatures only come out at nighttime or in the dark. Frankenstein in my opinion does not deserve to be considered with the other Halloween creatures, because he was not evil like the monsters are considered, but even he could be warned off by fire.

Zombies, well modern ones, can venture out day or night, they spread the virus quickly, and can infect many people in a short period of time, they can only be killed by shooting them in their head or the removing the head and in some cases even that does not work. Also as vampires, werewolves, mummies are more isolated in attacking and spreading their disease, zombies are well-spread. So they are the ultimate creature on Halloween.

In Conclusion

Mixed in with reality and fiction, zombies are here to stay in society. Although unlikely of such an event happening in real life, they bring fear and terror to horror lovers everywhere. There are now comic books, graphic novels, and even full length novels dedicated to this monster as well as youtube shorts that show just how creative fans can get. Remember next time you watch a zombie movie the history behind how they came to do the creatures they are today. They have came a long way and are still changing and adapting today. What will zombies be like in another ten years? When will we see a peak in the zombie folklore and what would that mean to society once that happens?

Poll 1

What is the greatest Halloween monster?

See results


BBC (2014) Roman Gladiators Linked to York skeleton Find, BBC,

Gandhi, Lakshmi (2013) Zoinks! Tracing the History of 'Zombie' From Haiti to the CDC, npr,

IMDB (2014) White Zombie, IMDB,

IMDB (2014) Zombie titles, IMDB,



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    • Melissa Noon profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa Noon 

      4 years ago from California

      Have you heard about clowns popping up in cities late at night. My city was struck with one last night. I missed the fun apparently but yeah really creepy, I can't believe I forgot about clowns

    • poetryman6969 profile image


      4 years ago

      Then again, clowns are pretty scary.


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