Investigating the Haitian Zombie - VICE - 6 of 6


Uploaded by vice on Jan 25, 2012

Transcript:
[MUSIC PLAYING]
MALE SPEAKER: Since leaving Crescent's peristyle, I'd been
plagued by questions regarding the man I saw
locked in the shed.
Unlike classic descriptions of the zombie, this man was not
shy, nor sullen.
Indeed, he was screaming.
It would be equally foolish to blindly trust or completely
dismiss what I have seen.
But I can say with certainty that it chilled me to the very
threads of my cultural tapestry.

Today, I'm going back to the rice fields of Artibonite to
collect the potions that Crescent has promised.
I meet with Alex, who fears Crescent may attempt to rob
us, and so has brought his friend
from the special forces.
Hamilton.
SERGE: Serge.
HAMILTON: Serge serves as the personal bodyguard to the
president's sister's husband.
Alex has brought along a magical potion to protect us.
Serge has brought a duffel bag full of guns and takes a
moment before we leave to hide one under
each seat in the car.
[MUSIC PLAYING]
Again, we drive for many hours and find the roads completely
blocked with a large funeral procession
supporting a wooden coffin.

MALE SPEAKER: [INAUDIBLE].

This is unbelievable.

HAMILTON: As we walk through the fields, I
am facing the unknown.
I have no idea what to expect from Crescent.
He could give me the poison, or poison me with the poison,
or shoot me in the face 14 times.
We are deep in the country.
And should we need help, it will be unavailable.
At first, I find this frightening.
But I'm comforted knowing that Alex's live, agile body will
be quick to respond to any threats.

MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING FRENCH].

HAMILTON: We arrived at Crescent's bearing gifts of
Barbancourt rum to show our goodwill.
He seems pleased.
But I'm anxious to see this new poison and how it might
differ from the last, seemingly inactive
powder he gave me.
Can we see the powder, then?
MALE SPEAKER: Huh?
MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING FRENCH].

MALE SPEAKER: We call it the weapon.
MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING FRENCH].

HAMILTON: Does he still have any of the
ingredients left over?
Does he have--
MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING FRENCH].

MALE SPEAKER: He said you can go with him.
HAMILTON: OK.
Fantastic.
MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING FRENCH].

HAMILTON: Crescent offers to let me see the laboratory
where he concocts his leaf medicines.
But he says that I must accompany him alone.
So Alex stays behind.

MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING FRENCH].

HAMILTON: Can you ask if I can come closer?
MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING FRENCH].

HAMILTON: OK.
Can you ask him what he was just crushing up?
MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING FRENCH]
HAMILTON: Ah.
The skull of a boy.
Can you ask him if he has the zombie cucumber?
MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING FRENCH]
HAMILTON: The powder is retrieved from a child's
coffin and presented to me.
I'm delighted to find he's given me not only a poison,
but also a new, powered antidote.
MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING FRENCH]
HAMILTON: The brown container?
MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING FRENCH]
HAMILTON: How much money does he want for those two bottles?
MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING FRENCH]
HAMILTON: $15, $16, $17, $1,000 in US dollars.
MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING FRENCH]
OK.

HAMILTON: At last, my mission is accomplished.
Yet the man holding the poison has a face strikingly similar
to the zombie I saw yesterday.
MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING FRENCH]
HAMILTON: Would Crescent make so shameless an
attempt to fool me?

MALE SPEAKER: [SPEAKING FRENCH]
HAMILTON: I went to Haiti to investigate a mystery.
And a mystery is exactly what I found.
Upon my return to New York, I bring the powers to the
laboratory of my friend, Jason Wallach.
Hello.
I've brought some samples of zombie poison from Haiti.
JASON WALLACH: Great.
All right.
We can look and see what's in these.
HAMILTON: He subjects the powder to
extensive chemical analysis.
JASON WALLACH: I'd say 100 milligrams is
probably a good start.
HAMILTON: First filtering the material to find it contains a
large quantity of sand and numerous, unidentified hairs,
likely of goat origin, the remaining material is then
extracted to detect alkaloids and run through TLC and GCMS.

When he's finally finished, we can see that we know for
certain the secret ingredients, oleyl alcohol and
methyl paraben, two non-psychoactive chemicals
commonly found in cosmetic products.

And so our powder is inactive.
Fake is too certain of a word to use.
But pharmacologically speaking,
it's certainly inactive.
And in terms of TTX content, the potions Davis collected
were practically inactive, as well.
So what can one make of an inactive powder?
Within the magical belief system of Haiti, zombification
would be possible in the absence of any active drug.
That is to say, the pure power of their belief in magic could
produce a self-induced, psychological zombification.

I saw a man in a shed making some unusual sounds.
Whether his condition was caused by a bazango bokor, I
cannot say.
In Haiti, I know the placebo can take on new heights of
untold potency.
And whether my inactive poison is truly inactive cannot be
said outside of that strange, Caribbean island.
I watched a man in the throes of spiritual possession, and
swam with the puffer, and had a mysterious powder
transdermally applied to my forearm.
But my search is not yet over.
I promised the goddess Erzulie that I would return to Haiti.
And I have no intentions of breaking her vengeful heart.

MALE SPEAKER: We never could prove that Narcisse had gone
through this experience.
My research was totally misinterpreted by the media.
What I had or had not discovered was always
exaggerated.
I was sent down to Haiti by linear, rational, Descartean
scientistic quote, unquote "find the drug that's used to
make zombies." Well, no drug can make a social phenomenon.
And in the end, instead of finding the drug used to make
zombies, I found myself investigating the social, and
psychological, and spiritual, and political, and historical
dimensions of a chemical possibility.
And the whole purpose of the research, in the end, was not
to prove zombies existed, which it did, but really to
take a phenomenon that, as I say, had been used in this
explicitly racist way and turn it on its head, make sense of
the sensation, and in doing so, try to draw attention to
the preconceptions and misconceptions that we had
about this extraordinary world view of Haitian voodoo, and
that this was not a black magic cult.
But this was a amazingly complex metaphysical world.

[MUSIC PLAYING]