From their beginnings in Caribbean voodoo culture to a Brad Pitt blockbuster, the zombie has been reanimated many times over in the last couple centuries. Animal entrails have been eaten by eager extras, countless kids have been frightened out of their minds and Bill Murray even got to play a zombie.
With the updated and fully revised release of author and journalist Jamie Russell's "Book of the Dead: The Complete History of Zombie Cinema," HuffPost Entertainment spoke to Russell to learn a bit more about the phenomenon that's become ubiquitous in American culture in recent years.
When he began the first edition of this book, as Russell put it, "people weren't interested in zombies at all." He said it took him by complete surprise. At times his wife even threatened to turn him into a zombie. But now the zombie is unavoidable. Talking about how the zombie can serve as a "kind of a metaphor for the death we all face," Russell said: "No matter how hard you try to run away, it's always going to get you." In contemporary America, especially as Halloween quickly approaches, there's no escaping this monster.
Here are eight things you didn't know about zombie movies.
1. The idea of zombies comes from Haitian voodoo and were popularized by a book called "The Magic Island."
The word "zombie" first made its way into The Oxford English Dictionary in 1819, but as Russell explains in "Book of the Dead," the first full introduction of "zombies" into the English-speaking world was an 1889 article in a Harper's Magazine called "The Country of the Comers-Back" by a journalist named Lafcadio Hearn. While learning the local customs of the Caribbean, Hearn came across a legend of "corps cadavres" which means "walking dead." Unfortunately, Hearn was unable to figure out exactly what these zombies were, a mystery that would eventually be solved by an American author named William Seabrook.
"The Magic Island" was written by Seabrook and was released in 1929. Seabrook discovered that the fear of "zombies" was tied to the practices of voodoo where it is possible for their idea of a soul to be removed and replaced by a god or sorcerer. As voodoo was deeply connected with the forced work and slavery of the people of the Caribbean, the main fear was that it'd be possible, even after death, for a sorcerer to reanimate your corpse to be an obedient drone, capable of continuing to work in the fields. Richer Haitian families would bury their dead in more secure tombs to eliminate the risk of the bodies being stolen and reanimated. They were not afraid of a zombie attack, they were afraid of becoming a zombie.
Russell told HuffPost: "From my point of view, as a kind of movie historian and anthropologist, the ground zero for the zombie really is 'The Magic Island' and the publication of that is really what brought the zombie into American popular culture ... This is certainly the arrival of the zombie myth in all its glory. The idea of dead men walking. The idea of dead men working in the cane fields."
Seabrook actually met "zombies" as a Haitian famer named Polynice introduced him to three workers who seemed "unnatural and strange" and "plodding like brutes, like automatons." Although Seabrook did not think they were actually the reanimated dead -- and instead either had a medical condition or were heavily drugged -- he could not fully explain away their existence. As a result, his tales took hold in American imaginations.