Is it true Voodoo shamans had a powder to make zombies?

Strange question, isn’t? But I would like an answer from some physician or expert that knows better.
I a report on TV, a while ago, I saw some people that claimmed some Voodoo shamans of Haiti had a powder that induced catalepsy on people by a severe brain damage, which make it possible the victims to survive a couple of days buried :eek::eek:

The report said that the base of that powder was a kind of sole fish, similar to the one that poisson japanese when eating fugu :(. The drug, called pufferfish, was so dangerous that produced permanent brain damage and that was, supposed, the base of all those stories about zombies.

There is even a book about it, called The Serpent and the Rainbow.

The question is, how real it is this stuff? It is all fantasy or is there some truth in it after all?

Fantasy, of course.

Cecil column on Serpent and the Rainbow.

Beyond the person (see below) that The Serpent and the Rainbow was based on I am unaware of anything remotely like proof (not even sure this measures up to “proof”) of zombie powder.

What a shame. Even BBC believed on it. :slight_smile:

I have just read Cecil’s column and the only “rebuttal” I see is that the powder this guy allegedly obtained contains not enough of the active ingredient. So maybe he got scammed.

Wikipedia article says that people doubt the possibility of keeping the victim in pharmacological trance for years. Why the doubt? If you can drug him for one day, why not just keep doing it day after day? If that does not actually work like that, why not write about this at length?

What does the opposition have against the notion of brain damage through oxygen deprivation? If the consequences of such damage does not line up with the claims based on available info (from drowning survivors, Dr. Mengele or whatever), why aren’t rebuttals included in the articles?

To sum up, the guy provides little evidence, but so do his opponents. Cecil just puts together random tidbits of info that point nowhere and then comes to his preferred predetermined conclusion.

incidentally, a better argument against zombies would be, what’s the point in making them? Salaries in Haiti are probably already about equal to the price of food for an adult male. So it’s not like the bokor would want to save money by employing non-unionized zombie workforce.

But then again, maybe doing this shit has a “religious significance” :slight_smile: . Back in high school our history teacher used to say that whenever archaeologists have no clue about something, that’s how they call it. “This weird thingie which we totally don’t understand must have had religious significance”.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call it fantasy. Cecil’s column doesn’t really describe the details of the controversy very well. For one thing, Davis didn’t contend that tetrodotoxin was the drug that maintained the zombie state, but rather that it produced the initial, reversible deathlike coma. The compliant state later on was maintained by dosing with datura.

IANADoctor or pharmacologist or scientist.

That said I would be surprised if you (or any human) could be drugged for extended lengths of time without seriously bad side effects.

It is one thing to do hallucinogens with your friends once. It is another thing to be dosed with those hallucinogens daily for a couple years.

Most addicts, of any stripe, show serious deleterious effects and even the worst of them I doubt would be drugged to the extent this guy was.

Maybe he was a special case where everything worked out just right but that would have to be a rare occurrence.

We like to think things like “knock-out gas” exist from movies. I recall the Russians awhile back tried knock-out-gas on terrorists holding hostages in a theater. It did not go well.

People are different and what you may tolerate may knock me on my ass. Everyone is different.

That such drugs exist that can theoretically produce the effects described is without a doubt. Whether someone can administer multiple drugs (serious and dangerous ones in this case) in just the right doses at just the right times to pull off what is claimed is something else.

The chances of killing the person or permanently scrambling their brain is probably pretty high with this stuff.

I hear the zombie powder myth might come from Dahomey in the first place (like a lot of voudun tropes). Who knows, maybe there was a poison which mimikced those effects back in western Africa. And the story got carried away across the Atlantic. I am not certain if the myth isnt purely voudun, and the obeah and santeria cults have that belief as well.

If anyone is an authoritative source Capitaine Zombie must be. :wink:

I agree with Whack-a-Mole that there are plenty of reasons for doubt. Another one, in keeping with my preferred economic explanations, is “aren’t all those brainwashing drugs a bit expensive, if only in bokor labor?” Why waste so much resources to achieve so little?

So maybe I was just bitching about the low quality of Cecil’s column. Boy, what a hatchet job…

And also, sometimes people indeed do things for reasons other than economics. People can be curious or “scientifically minded”, depending on how you want to call it. People can also be just plainly evil, sort of like the murderer who could just kill the victim but instead wastes time and effort to torture him beforehand. That’s irrational, but that does happen.

BTW, so if this anthropologist went to the cemetery and saw some powder being made, is that to mean that his friend the bokor was making another zombie at the time? Or was that for later use? Or was that preparing some totally unrelated witchcraft potion, with the whole incident being dragged into this particular discussion for sensationalism and/or smear value?

I suspect, if real, it is something really Haitian rather than African. Although it is possible to transport traditions, it is a lot harder to transport species that carry specific poisons, particularly if the base of those drugs is a fish.