As depicted in modern movies, zombies are re-vitalized corpses that have no souls and very little intelligence. They hunger for the flesh of living people, and they tend to gather in groups to search for victims. Because most of them can’t run, or even walk fast, they have to shamble slowly across the ground. But they pursue their intended victims relentlessly, and they can break through doors to reach a hiding place. If one of them gets hit by a bullet, it pauses for a moment but soon starts moving forward again. They can’t be killed because they’re already dead.
Modern film makers got their ideas about zombies from strange stories that originated in the country of Haiti. According to these stories, Voodoo sorcerers in Haiti can revive dead bodies and turn them into mind-controlled slaves to work as laborers in the fields. Some people in rural areas of the country believe that these zombie-slaves are still being created today using black magic. The people of Haiti use the name “Bokor” for someone who has mastered black magic, but outsiders usually call them sorcerers, wizards, or witch doctors.
Several theories have been put forward to explain the various beliefs about zombies. According to one theory, stories about zombies arose from observations of people who have schizophrenia or other mental disorders that cause them to be unresponsive and out of touch with their surroundings. Another possible explanation is that certain plant-derived drugs can put people into a trance-like state in which they obey outside commands. A third theory is that an unknown virus spreads a rare disease that causes zombie-like behavior. Another idea, used in a film called The Night of the Living Dead, is that an unusual form of radiation can turn corpses into zombies.
The modern Voodoo religion in Haiti developed from the beliefs of black people who were captured in Africa and transported to the island to work as slaves on sugar plantations. After they arrived, the plantation owners forced them to convert to Christianity. But they secretly kept some of their old beliefs, and they also adopted some religious ideas from the native Amerindian people. As a result, modern Voodoo is a mixture that includes elements from all of these religions.