1959 (pre): Young Woman’s Zombie

In his 1959 book Voodoo in Haiti, Alfred Metraux included a short account of one zombie he had heard tell of. As the story goes, a young woman of the town of Marbial who was engaged to a young man she loved very much, rather sharply rejected the advances of a powerful "houngan" (a voodoo priest) who found her attractive. The houngan left, emotionally wounded and muttering threats. A few days after this, the young woman became very ill, and shortly after died in the hospital in Jacmel... her body was returned to her family, who arranged a funeral. It was unfortunately found that the coffin her family had purchased was just a little small for the young woman's corpse, so when she was placed in the coffin her neck had to be bent to fit her in. In addition, during the funeral itself a clumsy guest dropped a lit cigarette on the corpse's foot, and left a small burn.

        Just two or three months after the funeral, a rumor reached the family saying that the deceased young woman had been seen in the company of the aforementioned houngan; but no one believed the rumor. A few years after the young woman's death, during one of the anti-superstition campaigns, the houngan repented his past actions and chose to set all his zombies free... and the young woman arrived back at her old home. Her neck was still bent, and she had a scar on her foot from the burn; and though she lived a long time after this return, she never regained her sanity.


        Though often repeated since Metraux first published the above story, it must be noted that he was not a witness to any of the events described, nor does he state where or how he heard the story. The woman, if she existed, is implied to have died before Metraux was told the story. In addition, other than place names there is not enough specific information to allow this account to be double-checked or verified; therefore, the story must be considered 'Unreliable' as evidence for zombies. Nonetheless, it still stands as an example of what Haitians believe and expect to be possible for accounts of zombies, so it still has merit as a folklore legend.

        Having said that, however, it must be noted that there is a distinct similarity to the verified story of Francina Illeus, who was found in an Ennery marketplace in Haiti in 1979... for more on that story, follow the 'See Also' link below.

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