Zombies are Our Monster

There are no celebrities among zombies.  Zombies wander without personality or purpose, a parody of our own deaths.  Zombies have no literary heritage.  Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and even the Wolf Man have a lineage in fiction, Gothic fiction and European folklore.  Zombies made their first ever appearance in The Magic Island (1929), William Seabrook’s study of Haiti.

The zombie myth seems flawed by its lack of complexity.  The zombie is really a mummy in street clothes with no love and a big appetite.  Both are automatons; neither is cunning nor heroic… As opposed to the vampire, who is crafty, circumspect and erotic, these two cousins are subhuman slugs… The zombie is an utter cretin, a vampire with a lobotomy, and this is what has tended to make [all films since I Walked with a Zombie (1943) little more than vehicles of graphic violence full of people (usually men) poking each other and then occasionally eating them.  The zombie is so shallow… even Abbott and Costello refused to meet with him.


James B Twatchell

Zombies are however OUR monsters more than any of these others, they have for nearly 100 years been our cultural contribution to ourselves.  The word monster has roots in the Latin monstare meaning to show, as in the word demonstrate

Thus, the zombie entered the USA in about the 1920s imported like sour sugar from Afro-Caribbean but primarily Haitian slave culture.  In our time, in the last 100 years, the zombie has been transformed and has come to signify what it originally did — the fear of death.