With the popularity of shows like The Walking Dead, iZombie, and Z Nation, along with countless movies, zombie fever has infected the Western world. The reason that the word zombie is tied to undead corpses actually derives from Haitian folklore and voodoo, though no one is quite sure how the transition from Haitian culture to modern horror films was made. One of the first zombie films, Night of the Living Dead, only referred to them as ghouls and it wasn’t until Dawn of the Dead that the creatures started to be referred to as zombies.
While modern society is quick to equate voodoo with zombies, the practice is actually opposed by the hougan and mambo (priests and priestesses) of the religion. Rather, the necromancer, or bokor, is the one who revives the dead body, forcing them to work as a slave. There are two types of zombies in voodoo lore: the solid undead corpses and the incorporeal zombies. Both of these types can be formed from the same person. According to Haitian belief, each of these two zombies, each only half of the original person, only has one half of the human soul. Those who practice voodoo believe that the deity Baron Samedi gathers the deceased and take them to Guinea, a paradise in Africa. However, if the deceased displeased Baron Samedi, then they would be turned into a zombie. Common belief holds that zombies can be freed from control by feeding them salt.
The first actual zombie film was White Zombie (1932), which revolves around Haitian zombies. In the movie, a couple goes to Haiti and run afoul of a voodoo priest. The priest turns the bride into a zombie and her love must fight to return her to normal. Most people, however, know of zombies from Night of the Living Dead (1968), though as stated above, the creatures weren’t referred to as zombies. A cult classic, it was actually a low budget film but turned into a hit success. George Romero, the creator of the movie, reshaped zombie culture and lead to this version of the zombie being called Romero Zombies.
Zombies have also taken over video game culture. From Resident Evil to The Last of Us, zombie horror games have their own cult following. Some of the zombie games are horror or survival based games while others, like Plants vs Zombies, take a more humorous tone to the undead creatures. Zombies also appear in tabletop games such as Dungeons and Dragons and Munchkin.
As far as TV shows and books go, The Walking Dead is probably the most popular show and comic book in modern day. Starting on its seven season in 2017, The Walking Dead also have a series of very successful comic books. World War Z by Max Brooks is one of the most popular zombie book, even earning a film on the silver screen (though it kinda flopped). Max Brooks also wrote The Zombie Survival Guide, which I would highly suggest.
Real Life Zombies?
There exist, right now in this world, an undead zombie roaming the woods. Known as Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, this horrifying infection would haunt anyone’s nightmares. If you were an ant that is. A fungus found in tropical forests, this plant takes over the bodies of ants and turns them into zombies. The spores of the fungus land on carpenter ants and use mechanical pressure and enzymes to break through the ant’s exoskeleton. Once the ant is infected, its body goes through random confusions that make it fall to the forest floor. As it climbs back up, the ant will grab onto a leaf with its mandibles. The fungus then takes over the body of the ant, removing its ability to control the muscles of the mandibles, leaving the ant hanging off of the leaf. Once this is done, the fungus kills the ant, then extends a shoot in order to spread its spores and start the life cycle all over again.