Zombie lore lingers, looms in pop culture over time

Ali Dade

One of the most popular creatures featured around Halloween are zombies.

Being mindless, reanimated corpses, zombies have a strong desire to eat human flesh. They typically have rotting and decaying skin that is a white or green color.

Many believe that the idea of this terrifying creature came from director George A. Romero’s 1968 horror movie called “Night of the Living Dead,” but it was actually only the first time that the idea was present in American culture.

The idea of monsters that are composed of the bodies of former human beings is an idea that has been around in folklore since as early as the 18th century, when people would share scary stories of the dead coming back to life to eat humans.

However, the first documented use of the word “zombie” was from a poet named Robert Southey in 1819. The word comes from the Kongo and Creole words “nzambi” or “zonbi” which mean “spirit of a dead person.”

The film horror genre has had a particular preoccupation with zombie lore. Their first appearance in film was in the 1932 horror flick “White Zombie,” which is loosely based on the 1929 novel by William Seabrook titled “The Magic Island.”

The film’s plot takes place in Haiti as a couple, Madeleine and Neil, become cursed shortly before their marriage. The curse, put onto them by a voodoo master, kills Madeleine, but then promptly turns her into a zombie, who is kidnapped by the voodoo master. Neil, realizing that the body of his wife is missing from her grave, goes on a mission to save her. Madeleine is ordered to kill Neil by her kidnapper, but in the process of doing so, the voodoo master is killed, which then releases Madeleine from her zombie trance and she awakes to see Neil, as they have their happily ever after.

Since this first zombie film appeared in the media, the idea has skyrocketed into popularity, inspiring a slew of films, such as the aforementioned “Night of the Living Dead,” and its many remakes and spin-offs. Some more popular zombie movies include the 2004 comedy “Shaun of the Dead,” and the 1980 gore-filled film simply called “Zombie.”

A few popular examples of zombie-based novels include “World War Z,” by Max Brooks and “Warm Bodies,” by Isaac Marion, both of which have been turned into movies since their 2006 and 2010 releases. A couple popular examples of zombie-based television shows include “The Walking Dead;” (and its spin-off, “Fear the Walking Dead”) and “iZombie.”