Are there really zombies in Haiti? Wade Davis devotes two long sections to this question. He first looks at the popular views and then explores cases where there have been some attempts to carefully and more scientifically determine the status of suspected cases. His key candidate for zombiehood is Clairvius Narcisse. In spring, 1962 Narcisse “died” at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Deschapelles, Haiti. His death was verified by the hospital staff. 18 years later Narcisse turned up alive and well, and claimed to be an escaped zombie.
Having thus satisfied himself that it is likely there are zombies in Haiti, PASSAGE OF DARKNESS is Davis’ fascinating and provocative attempt to explain how zombies are made.
The extraordinary thesis he puts forward is, as the subtitle tells us, an ethnobiological story. That is, on Davis’ account, what makes zombies is the interplay between certain features of the culture of Haiti and the use of drugs. However, neither the cultural phenomena alone, nor the poisons alone can account for zombies. There are even larger historical issues at stake: