Does Datura Make Haitian Zombies?

Yes, that’s a crazy question. Yes, I’m really asking.

I was reading one of my favorite foraging blogs today, Berlin Plants, when I came across this link to a scholarly article published in a medical journal called The Lancet entitled, “Clinical findings in three cases of zombification.” The author writes that Datura stramonium, also known as jimsonweed, might be seriously be involved in reanimating dead people. The footnote tells us that this possibility is explored in a paper from the 1980s called, “The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie” by Wade Davis at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Wade apparently later turned it into a book, which you can check out on Amazon here.

Enjoy these links.

If you’ve been reading First Ways for awhile, you might remember this post in which I interviewed a friend about his experience ingesting Datura and going on a very memorable trip. That is quite a crazy thing to do, because datura is highly poisonous and can easily kill you at low doses. It was once even used as a murder weapon. That post is also a good source of background info on datura in general.

The Berlin Plants blog is another great resource to learn about datura, as it has wonderful photos. I subscribe to that blog and really enjoy it.

Share this post, because it’s about zombies.

9 thoughts on “Does Datura Make Haitian Zombies?

  1. Pingback: Locoweed, the Crazies, and the Zombies « the glyptodon

  2. To concur with and then extend the comment by phytoalchemist, part of the reason that the zombie effect, if you will, can work in Haitian society is the shared belief of its possibility. I wish I could remember the book I had seen about this, but the basic fact is, the seed is planted because it is part of the cultural agreement of the people. Having this as part of your basic understanding of the world, it becomes possible that you could be raised from the dead and be forced to serve your master IF you are regularly dosed with drugs and if the person is skilled enough at dominating you.

    It’s kind of like baptism. Western society believes that something miraculous can happen in the ritual and so it becomes possible for it to happen. Belief coupled with meaningful ritual can do a lot of amazing things.

  3. Great post, thank you. Last winter I read Jane Auel’s Earth Children series; (well, most of it!) and was very troubled by her description of Datura’s ritual use It’s good to understand that every trip has it’s price. Datura’s price is death. That’s too rich for my blood!

  4. Certainly to be avoided, but the flowers are truely amazing and the seed pods most interesting. I read somewhere that this was common ingredient in witch’s brews (hence the belief that they could fly). I’m a little more down to earth…Bill.

  5. I think puffer fish venom is the active zombie constituent. It causes a paralysis that makes the victim appear dead. Breathing almost stops entirely, but the poisoned may remain cognizant and mentally alert to their surroundings. They may witness their own burial. Then when they’re “resurrected” and pulled from the grave by a voodoo preist, they are severly traumatized, to say the least. The zombie effect comes from the severe PTSD of being buried alive, combined with a real belief that they have passed through death. scary.

  6. Good blog post Rebbeca! Ah–but if the auther thinks Datura, or anything else for that mater will raise the dead….well–perhaps he reached the hallucination stage of consumption! Illusions of reality–or perhaps reality of illusion. :+)
    Look forward to your posts!

    Jonathan (in SE michigan where we also have Datura and the dead stay dead)

Leave a Reply