Graveyard Shift

Real "Zombie Attacks" That Actually Happened  

Christopher Shultz
608.6k views 16 items

The modern-day zombie was formalized in 1968 upon the release of George Romero's seminal Night of the Living Dead. The film featured all the typical characteristics of these supernatural ghouls: reanimated, mindless, and shuffling human corpses who eat the flesh and organs of the living. While they are slow, they are vicious in their hunger, and when they amass into a horde, they will tear you to pieces. Often, a zombie apocalypse in films and literature signals the end of days.

Since that time, we've seen numerous other variations on the same basic zombie characteristics. But in fact, the concept of a zombie predates Romero's film, specifically in the concept of a zombie in Haitian culture, which is effectively a person "risen" from the dead and brainwashed into a mindless automaton. While many insist these incidents are nothing but folklore, others insist such beings were successfully fashioned. 

Whether the Haitian zombies actually existed or not, there have been numerous cases of real zombies, though such incidents do not exactly involve things that have come back from the dead. Nature has given us both zombie ants and zombie spiders, and there have been several high-profile cases of people going berserk and feasting on the flesh of fellow humans for wholly unknown reasons. (And yes, some of them are examples of the "living dead.")   

Let's take a look at 15 times there were zombies actually roaming (or simply occupying) the earth.

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Clairvius Narcisse and the Proof of Zombification
Clairvius Narcisse and the Pro... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Real
Photo: Daniel Ramirez/flickr/CC-BY 2.0

Clairvius Narcisse died on May 2, 1962 after admitting himself to the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Deschapelle, a town in the Artibonite Valley of Haiti. He had been suffering from a plethora of ailments, but no direct cause for his symptoms could be determined.  

Eighteen years later, in 1980, his sister Angelina saw Narcisse in a market place. He recounted the memories of his own "death," including being buried alive. He had been placed into a death-like state by a bokor, or sorcerer, and after being dug up he was whisked away to a plantation to serve as a zombified laborer. He escaped after two years of slavery and wandered the Haitian countryside, only willing to return to his village when his brother, whom he believed to have made the deal with the bokor that turned Narcisse into a zombie, had finally passed away.  

A researcher named Wade Davis later investigated Narcisse's case, and claimed to have discovered the key to zombification, namely the use of the datura plant, which, according to Patrick D. Hahn of Biology Online, "contains the hallucinogens atropine and scopolamine, and induces delirium, confusion, psychosis, and complete amnesia." It could never be conclusively determined, however, whether or not this substance was actually used on Narcisse. 
Krokodil Turns Users into Zombie-Like Beings
Ranker Video
Video: YouTube

Note: The video above of a purported krokodil user is both NSFW and heartbreaking. 

Krokodil is a drug that rose to prominence in poor areas of Russia because of its potent opioid effects combined with the affordable and easy methods with which it is produced. There have been reports of the drug now cropping up in the US (a fitting homecoming, given the narcotic was patented in America in 1934).  

If the potency of krokodil was not alarming enough, its side effects are the stuff of horror movies. The drug gets its name from the gangrenous effect it has on users' skin as it literally eats tissue and flesh from the inside out. This often leads to open sores and wounds on users' flesh that leaves their bones exposed. It can also lead to incoherence, jerking motions, and shuffling or shambling steps.  

In other words, krokodil turns you into a zombie, technically alive, but in many ways, also dead.
Zombie Ants
Zombie Ants is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Real
Photo: Penn State/flickr/CC-BY-NC 2.0

You read that right - there are zombie ants out there in nature, afflicted by a parasitic fungus that biologically manipulates the insects into doing their bidding. Here's Joseph Castro of Live Science to explain this phenomena:

"Fungi of the genus Ophiocordyceps - so-called zombie ant fungi - need ants to complete their life cycle. When an ant comes across fungal spores while foraging, the fungus infects the insect and quickly spreads throughout its body. 

"Fungal cells in the ant's head release chemicals that hijack the insect's central nervous system. The fungus forces the ant to climb up vegetation and clamp down onto a leaf or twig before killing its hapless drone. It then grows a spore-releasing stalk out of the back of the victim's head to infect more ants on the ground below."

Headless Chicken Lives for 18 Months
Headless Chicken Lives for 18 ... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Real
Photo: via YouTube

On September 10, 1945, a legend was born in Fruita, Colorado. Farmer Lloyd Olsen was slaughtering chickens, taking their heads off with a hatchet. Generally, chickens die from beheading, but one brave poultry looked death in the eye and said, "Not today." He became known as Mike the Headless Chicken, and he made the side-show circuit for 18 months following his beheading.  

Although, technically, Mike still had a head. Sort of. Olson's hatchet whack only managed to sever the upper half of Mike's brain stem, allowing his body to retain all its motor functions. He could even still eat, though he had to be fed via a syringe full of liquid food dropped straight into Mike's esophagus.  

Legend has it, this manner of eating and drinking led to Mike's demise, as he suffocated before a syringe of water could be administered.