1. The flesh-eating undead date as far back as the 18th century, BC.
You may think you’re breaking new ground with that Zombies vs Baristas screenplay you’ve been penning, but the shambling, ambling living dead ain’t exactly a new concept. In fact, stone tablets scrawled with ancient Sumerian story The Epic of Gilgamesh dished about walking, flesh-hungry undead folks as far back as the 18th century, BC. Admittedly, these walkers were a far cry from the contemporary creepy crawlies of Romero-era horror flicks, but that shouldn’t stop Gilgamesh: Retribution 3D from stumbling into theaters sometime in the near future. Somewhere, Milla Jovovich’s phone is ringing off the hook…
2. The “draugr” of ancient Norse mythology exhibited many traits of the modern day undead.
These flesh-starved souls were, in many ways, the proto-zombies of horror lore. Like their contemporary counterparts, the draugr were reanimated corpses who, with a single bite from their rotted maws, could recruit the living into their undead legions. But unlike modern day undead, these bogeymen favored guarding their own tombs and mortal possessions instead of aimlessly staggering through the land of the living. So, in summary, yes: zombie hoarders were the cornerstone of Norse mythology.
3. Archaeologists may have traced fear of the dead rising dating back to 700 AD.
The science world shook with the 2011 discovery of two unfortunate stiffs found buried deep beneath the Irish countryside. Excavators were befuddled to find that the skeletons — both dating back to medieval Ireland — were buried with baseball-sized rocks jammed into their mouths. At first confounded, the archaeologists later posited one of the most likely explanations for this unconventional burial: the mouth was long thought to be the soul’s main portal for leaving — and re-entering — the human body, and the rocks were likely lodged in the cadavers’ craniums to stop them from lumbering back to life.
4. Someone even tried to reanimate George Washington’s corpse.
It’s one of those facts that’s so absurd that it can only be ripped from American history headlines. Following his fatal bout with pneumonia, our very first commander-and-chief wasn’t buried immediately. The president’s corpse was actually kept on ice for a few days before he could be moved to his family vault, and in that time a man named William Thornton — a family friend and physician of the US consul — offered to, er, raise the recently deceased cherry tree-chopper by defrosting him, pumping his lungs with air, and offering up an infusion of lamb’s blood. The Washington’s politely declined in what was undoubtedly the Most Awkward Conversation of 1799.
5. The word “zombie” originated in Haitian folklore.
Any seasoned purveyor of fine folklore can tell you that much of the modern day zombie myth owes its roots to Haitian folktales. The traditional “zombi” — a key element in the Haitian Vodou religion — was borne by a recently deceased soul being captured and commandeered by a sinister sorcerer, or “boko.” Reportedly a derivative of “nzambi,” the Kongo word for “dead,” the Merriam-Webster dictionary dates the phrase “zombie” back to 1871, where it reportedly first entered the modern English language. Two days later, it entered the first modern Hollywood pitch meeting.
6. The very first zombie movie was even based off Haitian zombie lore.
And it was a terribly far cry from modern day horror fare. Taking inspiration from the Haitian myth mentioned above, the 1932 horror film White Zombie — which, yes, would later inspire the name of Rob Zombie’s heavy metal vehicle — remains the first known instance of a zombie on film. But for all its historical prestige, we’re hoping future audiences will remember this movie for its most important cinematic contribution: having a middle-aged Béla Lugosi play an evil voodoo master named Murder Legendre. Actually, shame on Rob Zombie — “Murder Legendre” is a much better band name.
7. In fact, there have been reports of “real” zombies in Haiti.
Sure, they weren’t the lumbering, brain-craving undead we all know and fear, but numerous reports placed zombie-esque activity in early 1900s Haiti. One of the most notorious stories is linked to Clairvius Narcisse, a Haitian man who was apparently poisoned by his brother, “killed” with a coma-inducing toxin, revived, and forced to work under the influence of a mind-numbing “zombie powder” on a nearby sugar plantation. Following the plantation owner’s death, Narcisse escaped with his senses restored, and later returned to his family a full 18 years after his initial “death.”
8. Early drafts of “Night of the Living Dead” were…different.
Further proof that nobody gets it right on the first try — not even master of horror George A. Romero — the original version of zombie film forefather Night of the Living Dead was, reportedly, a very different beast. While the actual film would pioneer the look and lore of the modern day undead, the original draft of the movie’s screenplay had little to do with staggering hordes of hungry zombies. In fact, it had nothing to do with them; sources say that the original film, then dubbed Monster Flick, was actually a horror comedy about a gaggle of goofy aliens that visited Earth to make friends with a group of human teenagers. Sources also say that it would’ve been awful.
9. There have been reports of “zombie bees” buzzing around Washington and California.
And now, some terrifying reality to break up all this terrifying fiction: zombie bees are real, they’re hungry, they’re mad, and they know where you live. Or maybe just that first part. When a bevy of bees were spotted buzzing aimlessly about in California, biologists soon discovered the terrifying truth behind their erratic flight: a swarm of deadly parisitic flies. You see, the flies land on the bees’ backs, and actually lay eggs inside of the bees. We’ll leave out the grisly details — and boy are they grisly — but the end results are zombified zom-bees that act as undead incubators for the flies. Now, who’s hungry?
10. The zombie industry is worth $5.74 billion.
This probably won’t come as a surprise to, well, anyone, but according to MSNBC, the undead entertainment industry is worth a staggering (har har) sum of 5.74 billion dollars. Lump in the mega-millions being raked in by those oh-so-popular vampire flicks and you have undeniable proof that horror movies and TV shows are officially keeping our economy afloat.