1959 (pre): An Aristocratic Zombie

In his 1959 book Voodoo in Haiti, Alfred Metraux included a short account he had heard tell of one of the upper-class citizens of Haiti, which he states he heard in Port-au-Prince. As the story goes, a 'Monsieur' was traveling to Jeremie when his car got a puncture, forcing him to stop near a village to repair it. An old man with a white goatee appeared suddenly near the Monsieur, and stated he would get a friend to help out with the puncture; as this friend attended to the car, the old man invited the Monsieur to have a cup of coffee with him. As they walked, the old man explained that he was a powerful houngan, and laughingly admitted that he had used a charm to cause the puncture... he asked the Monsieur not hold it against him.

        As they were having coffee, the houngan warned the Monsieur that there was a wanga -- a cursed object that causes ill luck and accidents -- in his car (presumably, this was the reason the houngan had caused the car to stop). The Monsieur smiled sceptically as he received this news, which irritated the houngan who now felt a show of power was needed. He asked the Monsieur if he had known a man called Monsieur Célestin, who had died six months previous. The Monsieur admitted that Célestin had been a good friend; and with that the houngan cracked his whip six times. The door opened, and a man backed into the room. The houngan ordered that he turn around, and struck the figure for not reacting fast enough... and, sure enough, it was Célestin. The lumbering figure reached for the Monsieur's glass; the Monsieur started to hand it to the pitiful figure when the houngan stopped him. The Monsieur was reminded that handing anything directly to a dead person could be extremely dangerous; instead, he should just leave the glass on the table.

        Célestin's head hung and his face wore the empty expression of the zombie. The houngan stated that a sorcerer had caused the blood problem that had 'killed' Célestin with a spell; the same sorcerer had sold Célestin's zombie to the houngan for twelve dollars.


        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 how he heard the story. Presumably the 'Monsieur' survived the encounter to tell the story, if the event happened... however, there is just not enough information to allow the tale to be double-checked. For this reason, I'm marking this account as '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.

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