Clairvius Narcisse; Haitian Zombie?
By. Rebecca L. Brown
Clairvius Narcisse was declared dead on the 2nd May 1962 and yet in 1980 he returned to his home, the village of I’Estere in Haiti with an almost unbelievable story of magic and zombies. Could Narcisse and others like him truly be the walking undead?
After investigating reports of ‘zombies‘ (including Narcisse and a handful of others), researchers believed that Narcisse was given a dose of ’zombie powder’, a mixture containing tetrodotoxin (pufferfish venom) and bufotoxin (toad venom), by a ‘sorcerer’ to induce a coma which mimicked the appearance of death. He was then allowed to return to his home where he collapsed, ‘died’ and was buried. His body was then recovered and he was given doses of datura stramonium to create a compliant zombie-like state and set to work on a plantation. After two years, the plantation owner died and Narcisse simply walked away to freedom and spent the next sixteen years of his life trying to return home.
It was explained that Narcisse had broken one of many traditional behavioural codes and was made into a ‘zombie’ as a punishment; when questioned, Narcisse told investigators that the sorcerer involved had ‘taken his soul’.
But was any of this true? Traces of ‘zombie powder’ presented for analysis were found to contain varying amounts of tetrodotoxin; whilst some samples could have caused death-like comas, others were unlikely to have had the reported effect or indeed any effect at all.
The original researchers argued that cultural beliefs played a role in reinforcing the action of the chemicals. In Haitian culture, there is a widespread belief in the existence of zombies. Narcisse reported that he had heard doctors declare him dead and had been aware of being buried and exhumed. If all evidence suggested he was a zombie, why should he believe any differently? It is impossible to confirm Narcisse’s story but it would seem likely that creating a zombie-like state would be possible through the processes described.
Would ‘zombies’ created in this way be classed as undead though? As Narcisse was never actually dead in the first place, only unconscious, the answer is no. The Haitian ‘zombies’, then, were never truly reanimated despite their return from beyond the grave.
Rebecca L. Brown is a British writer. She specialises in horror, SF, humour, surreal and experimental fiction, although her writing often wanders off into other genres and gets horribly lost. For updates and examples of Rebecca’s work, visit her Twitter page @rlbrownwriter or her blog Bewildering Circumstances ( http://bewilderingcircumstances.blogspot.com/ )