The article by Gino Del Guercio “The Secrets of Haiti’s Living Dead” tells the story of a man who comes to the village l’Estere to a woman named Angelina Narcisse, and introduces himself as her brother. Everything would be great, but eighteen years earlier her brother Clairvius was buried. He tells the story about how he was raised from the grave by a voodoo priest, beaten with a sisal whip and forced to work in a plantation with other zombies. But when the zombie master died they all were given a chance to escape, so Clairvius came back home. Most Haitians believe in zombies and voodoo magic, and in the same year two women came to their villages and told that they were zombies. But Angelina Narcisse’s had a right to claim as the case of her brother’s death was officially documented by doctors in the hospital; three days he suffered from the unknown illness that could not be diagnosed. The man who identified himself as Clairvius said that he remember all the things that were happening to him but could neither move nor say a word.
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Dr. Lamarque Douyon is known for investigating the reports of zombies; but he cannot find any scientific explanation. He assumed that the people took some kind of drugs that slowed process of metabolism, and then just were awaken. Angelina Narcisse gave Dr. Douyon strong evidence, so he had to ask for assistance from his American colleagues. Thus the research led the scientists to the Harvard botanical Museum, where Richard Evans Schultes recommended an ethnobotanist Wade Davis who could help them in the research. Though Davis knew nothing about the Haiti’s culture, but when he landed in Haiti, he saw that most people practised voodoo magic; “It was immediately obvious that the stereotypes of voodoo weren’t true. Going around the countryside, I found clues to a whole complex social world” (Guercio 2). Then a reporter introduced a voodoo sorcerer, who showed him the way in which the poison was made; though there five variations of the poisons, the active agents were the same; one of them are able to slow down the metabolism, others produce all features of zombification.
Thus the structure and beliefs of the Haitian society are full of stereotypes and prejudices. The secret societies within the whole structure of biases play a very important role to create a desired effect. Thereby such secret groups of people are aimed at punishing the pariahs like Clairvius Narcisse, who was blamed for abandoning his children and depriving his brother of land. By way of zombification the thieves, murders and other people committing crimes or social disorders are punished, because the culture represents it as the only effective way to reach cohesion and cultural wealth.
The article is written in an interesting manner, describes investigations, trips, interviews with victims and voodoo sorcerers, and gives rather clear and distinct explanations on the action of different kinds of poisons on the organism of people. The topic of the research is disputable as the theme of zombification is represented in horror movies produced by filmmakers. One can believe in the essence of magic transformations, other can believe the results of research conducted by a young ethnobotanist Wade Davis. Anyway the article is interesting from the point of view of additional information about African tribes and secret societies. It is your choice to believe or not!
Guercio, Gino Del. “The Secrets of Haiti’s Living Dead” Harvard Magazine, 1986, pp. 31–37.