Investigating the Haitian Zombie - VICE - 3 of 6

Uploaded by vice on Jan 25, 2012


HAMILTON: The next day, I go to visit Max Beauvoir, a man
considered the voice of the Vodou community.

During Wade Davis's stay in Port-au-Prince, Beauvoir
served as his guide and mentor.
But in the years since, he's become the supreme chief of
Haitian Vodou.

MAX BEAUVOIR: How are you?
How are you?
MAX BEAUVOIR: Very good.
Glad to see you.
Please, come on in.
HAMILTON: Beauvoir started his career as a scientist.
MAX BEAUVOIR: Do not be afraid of my dog.
HAMILTON: Receiving a degree in
biochemistry from the Sorbonne.
And went on to investigate the medicinal plants of Haiti,
patenting a method to isolate cortisone
precursors from agave.
Though he once straddled the material world of chemistry
and the metaphysics of Vodou, Beauvoir has abandoned his lab
in favor of the temple in his own home called Le Peristyle
de Mariani.

HAMILTON: Max Beauvoir's explanation of zombification
is unlike any other I've heard thus far.
What he describes sounds strikingly similar to the use
of antipsychotic drugs in Western medicine.
But unlike pharmaceutical antipsychotics, the knowledge
of the poison used to perform this sort of chemical lobotomy
is controlled by an ancient secret society
known as the Bizango.

HAMILTON: So how would we go about this meeting people in
these societies?
If a foreigner wanted to go and learn about it, how would
they do that?

Beauvoir suggests I travel to the mountains to find rural
members of the Bizango society, who might be
intimately acquainted with the secret powder.

WADE DAVIS: All the time that I was working, both securing
the powders in various locations and trying to
understand what the nature of a zombie as and so on and so
forth, I kept brushing up against what I later came to
understand to be the secret societies of Haiti, the
Bizango Champwel And that Narcisse had actually been
brought before a tribunal of one of these societies and
condemned for any number of transgressions.
And in the end, I became initiated in these societies,
certainly if not the only, certainly one of the first
outsiders ever to become initiated
in the Bizango Champwel.
HAMILTON: Not long after Vodou was recognized by whites, they
began to fear its power.
Slaves found practicing Vodou were
harshly punished or killed.
Some slaves escaped their master's and formed colonies
in the mountains where they could practice their religious
beliefs and live freely.
They're known as the maroons.
It was the maroons who organized the first
small-scale slave uprisings, which culminated with the Bois
Caiman Vodou ceremony, in which all in attendance who
vowed to kill their white masters were anointed with the
blood of a slaughtered pig.
This ceremony sparked the beginning of the 1791 Haitian
Revolution led by Toussaint L'Ouverture and established
Haiti as the first independent black republic.
It was the maroons who later became the
Bizango secret societies.
To some, the Bizango are a sort of benevolent spiritual
police force.
But to many Haitians, they are a feared band of cannibalistic
criminals who feast on the unsuspecting during midnight

It is here that we meet Tomas the Bokor.
A Bokor is the Haitian equivalent of a sorcerer or
witch doctor, shaman or medicine man, a retailer of
potions, a plant doctor, a man in direct contact with deep
metaphysical realms.
We enter the peristyle to find its meticulously painted with
hundreds of images of white people being stabbed in the
neck by Satan, or being impaled by Satan while their
blood is consumed by tricephalous snakes.

There is also a Richard Avedon poster of Nastassja Kinski.
On the ground are three large piles of glistening rock salt
and an infant's coffin.
It is here that we meet Tomas.
Tomas is also the mayor of [INAUDIBLE].

ALEX: His name is Tomas.
HAMILTON: I'm Hamilton.


ALEX: He said on Sunday, we'll make that for you.

ALEX: He said $7,777 US.

ALEX: Yeah, he said the American doesn't believe in
the Haitian.

ALEX: He said, he will make it for you.

ALEX: He said, you are to give first.

ALEX: So he said, tomorrow night at the cemetery, he will
make a zombie ceremony, and you will see the zombie
getting up.

HAMILTON: Thank you.

HAMILTON: The next evening, we drive back into the mountains
to meet Mayor Tomas at our designated midnight

We enter the peristyle dedicated to
the malevolent baron.
And Alex walks in backwards to reverse any spells cast upon
him by Tomas.

He tells me Tomas is untrustworthy,
a man without morals.


HAMILTON: Tomas, now incensed, pulls off his gold embroidered
dashiki and puts on a baby blue gown with a scoop neck
and two-button closure.

As the associates of Tomas slowly gather around, Alex
begins to back away, telling me that it's no longer safe,
and we must return to our Mitsubishi Montero.

He then calls his friend to arrange a meeting with a
different Bokor, deep in the rice fields of Artibonite.

ALEX: He just told me that he talked to the houngan, and
everything we need, he will make it up to us.
So let's wait and see what happens tomorrow.

HAMILTON: At night, I experience a feverish dream of
Jean-Claude Van Damme, replete with hypnagogic
He approaches, knife in hand, and whispers in my ear,
flicking my earlobe with his tongue, urging me to remember
what we had said about the cultural matrix.