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.
Florida College Student Stabs Strangers, Eats Their Faces
Florida was already on the cannibalistic, possibly zombie-related attack map with the infamous Miami case, but that was apparently not enough for the Sunshine State.
In August, 2016, a 19-year-old college student, Austin Harrouf, reportedly stormed away from a restaurant in Jupiter, FL, where he'd been dining with his parents, apparently upset over the slow service there. He then wandered into a neighborhood, where a couple, Michelle Mischon and John Stevens III, sat in their garage with the door open, enjoying a quiet evening. Harrouf pulled a switchblade on the couple and stabbed them to death, apparently without provocation. A neighbor attempted to intervene and called 911, but was stabbed by the man as well.
When police arrived, they found Harrouf naked, ripping away chunks of the couple's flesh and eating it. He was also growling, grunting, and making "animal noises." Repeated use of stun guns and a police dog could not sway Harrouf from his "meal," and finally three officers had to pull the man away from the bodies by force.
What makes this case especially strange is that Harrouf, prior to this bizarre crime, was a model student who seemed to have things pretty well figured out. It is reported that he had been hanging out with some of his fraternity brothers prior to joining his parents for dinner, but his toxicology report came back clean. Other test results for synthetic drugs are pending, though officials did say Harrouf showed no other characteristic symptoms associated with substances like flakka or bath salts.
Police were left baffled at Harrouf's behavior. Just what exactly happened to this man to prompt such a gruesome crime?
The Infamous Miami Cannibal Attack
This story was big news back in May 2012, especially given the eerie footage of the incident that made the rounds on the Internet. Miami resident Rudy Eugene stripped naked and attacked homeless man Ronald Poppo, eating about 80% of the man's face. When police arrived at the scene, they were forced to open fire on the belligerent Eugene. He took far more bullets than his body should have been able to withstand before finally dropping.It was originally theorized that Eugene had ingested "bath salts" or even PCP, but toxicology reports revealed only trace amounts of marijuana in his system, leaving the explanation for his zombie-like attack on Poppo a mystery.
Two-Year-Old Sits Up in Coffin, Asks for Water, Dies Again
Kevin Santos was pronounced dead at a hospital in his hometown of Belem in Brazil. The two-year-old was placed in an airtight body bag for three hours while his family made preparations for his funeral.During the wake, family members noticed the boy moving. Santos then sat up and asked his father for a glass of water. The ecstatic family was let down, however, when only seconds later the boy fell over again. He was rushed to hospital and declared dead a second time.
Woman Returns from the Grave in Catatonic State
This case was observed by researchers in Haiti sometime in 1996 or 1997. From i09:
"FI was around 30 years old when she died after a short febrile illness and was buried by her family the same day in the family tomb next to her house. 3 years later she was recognised by a friend wandering near the village; her mother confirmed her identity by a facial mark, as did her 7-year-old daughter, her siblings, other villagers, her husband, and the local priest. She appeared mute and unable to feed herself. Her parents accused her husband of zombifying her (he was jealous of her after she had had an affair). After a local court authorised the opening of her tomb, which was full of stones, her parents were undecided whether to take her home and she was admitted to the psychiatric hospital in Port-au Prince..."It was later determined the woman likely suffered from catatonic schizophrenia. However, just how she managed to emerge from her tomb and wander home isn't explained.