In the November 2011 Harper’s, pharmacopeia correspondent Hamilton Morris recounts his journey to Haiti, there to attempt to duplicate the decades-old exploits of Wade Davis, and, like Davis, return with evidence of zombies and zombie powder.
Morris’ sojourn becomes a farce and a fiasco, though he does learn that that these days zombies are enslaved before computers—”they work on the computers,” he is told, “making accounts, like spread-sheets; they make Excel”—and that some of the island’s women will fly if presented with “six tubes of Ultra Strength Bengay.”
However, the most intriguing information Morris unearths may be that NASA was involved in Davis’ research, the agency seeking zombie powder in order to zombify astronauts headed for Mars.
Yes. This is Real. For details, follow along beyond the “furthur.”
Wade Davis is a respected ethnobotanist who in the 1980s traveled down to Haiti and there commenced to believe he had learned the secret to the island’s fabled zombies. People are temporarily paralyzed, Davis said he discovered, and thereby rendered more or less as dead, by the surreptitious administration of tetrodotixin; once buried, and then unearthed, these people are then easily convinced that they have become undead indentured servants.
Davis returned to the US with tales of what he had seen, and with traces of the powders that he believed had been successfully administered to people who later walked as zombies.
Scientists of the Normal persuasion, perusing Davis’ work, proceeded to screech and rend their garments, pronouncing Davis a freak, a fraud, and/or a charlatan.
Davis’ cause was not helped much when he sold the rights to his non-fiction account of his Haitian adventures, The Serpent and the Rainbow, to Hollywood. Where it was promptly knuckle-draggingly de-evolved into a blood-pornography gore-fest, wherein, among other wonderments, the character based on Davis was dispatched to the hereafter by a nail driven through his scrotum.
The man who guided Davis through the Haitian zombie mysterium was Max Beauvoir, a powerful Haitian voudon shaman (one of the several indictments against Davis was that he had spent considerably more time romancing Beauvoir’s daughter, than with hunting up actual zombies).
However, Beauvoir spoke glowingly of Davis, to Harper’s belated Morris, and bemoaned the world’s abandonment of Davis’ zombie project.
Max recounts, “Wade Davis was a fantastic worker, he is the kind of guy who wakes up at five in the morning and at seven he is on his way. He lived in my house. I do respect the amount of energy that he has spent. That was a teaching of what ambition can do and what good people can do . . . but unfortunately the whole idea collapsed because”—he mimes pulling a rope. “Everybody tried to pull the project below their own carpet and this is why, so far, nobody has put a man on Mars.”
Among the many things I discussed with Davis, a manned mission to the Red Planet was not one of them. Yet the financial impetus for his zombie project was the need for a drug that could induce a state of true suspended animation, not the trifling thirty-minute paralysis of tubocuraine or the transient stupor of kavalactones, but something that could pause human life for days or even years. There was such excitement that even before Davis had published his TTX hypothesis, Max recalls, the substance had been given the proposed trade name of Zombinol.
“NASA understood that the human mind cannot suffer such a long trip at the speeds required to reach Mars, if men were submitted to that they would become crazy,” Max explains. “NASA thought they could zombify an astronaut, put him into the ship, and after a certain time give the astronaut a counter-portion to allow him to conduct his work on Mars and then re-zombify him for the trip back. I don’t believe any American knows how to make a zombie well enough to allow an astronaut to reach Mars, but with more time and more genuine research the project will be finished.”
So. We now know that NASA seeks to make zombies of those who would drive RVs into space.
So. Don’t say I never warned you. When your train gets lost.