Do zombies really exist?


Announcer

Welcome to Stuff You Should Know from howstuffworks.com.

Male Speaker 1

Chief, Chief McClellan. How's everything going?

Male Speaker 2

Well, things aren't going too bad. The men are taking it pretty good.

Male Speaker 1

Chief, do you think we'll be able to defeat these things?

Male Speaker 2

Well, we killed 19 of them today right in this area. It was the last three we caught trying to claw their way into an abandoned shed. They must have thought somebody was in there. We heard them making all kinda noise. We came over and beat them off, blasted them down.

Male Speaker 1

Chief, if I were surrounded by six or eight of these things, would I stand a chance with them?

Male Speaker 2

Well, there's no problem. If you have a gun, shoot them in the head. That's a sure way to kill them. If you don't, get yourself a club or a torch; beat them or burn them. They go up pretty easy.

Male Speaker 1

Well, Chief McClellan, how long do you think it'll take you until you get the situation under control?

Male Speaker 2

Well, that's pretty hard to say. We don't know how many of them there are. We know when we find them we can kill them.

Male Speaker 1

Are they slow moving, chief?

Male Speaker 2

Yeah, they're dead. They're all messed up.

Josh Clark

And with that Mr. George A Romero pretty much set the scene for all zombie movies to follow. Thanks for tuning in. This is Stuff You Should Know. I'm Josh Clark. This is Charles W. brain eater Bryant.

Chuck Bryant

Hey and welcome to the podcast.

Josh Clark

Yeah. Thanks Chuck.

Chuck Bryant

Sure.

Josh Clark

Somebody had to say it, right?

Chuck Bryant

Yes.

Josh Clark

So how are you doing?

Chuck Bryant

I tried to get one of those zombies to say it.

Josh Clark

That'd be pretty cool.

Chuck Bryant

I'm still wet. It's still raining in Atlanta.

Josh Clark

Good lord.

Chuck Bryant

I feel like we have - remember that picture of the super cell I printed out?

Josh Clark

Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant

For the webcast? I feel like -

Josh Clark

You love that picture.

Chuck Bryant

- one of those is hovering over the perimeter of Atlanta.

Josh Clark

You carry that picture in your wallet with you to show to people like it's your kid. Did you know that in, I believe Ecuador, once a year there's a heavy storm and after about two hours the storm subsides and everybody goes out and there's fish, dead fish laying everywhere. Well, some still alive.

Chuck Bryant

The rain of fishes.

Josh Clark

The weird thing is that they aren't found in any surrounding body of water, nor are they saltwater fish.

Chuck Bryant

Crazy.

Josh Clark

They are blind underground dwellers.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, zombie fish.

Josh Clark

Is that what - yeah, let's use that as our segway.

Chuck Bryant

Cool.

Josh Clark

Chuck, let's talk zombies.

Chuck Bryant

All right.

Josh Clark

Let's go with the real stuff first. Did you know that there may be such a thing as a real zombie?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. I didn't know until I read this.

Josh Clark

And where are you gonna go if you wanna find a real zombie? You go to the source, man. You go to the horse's mouth.

Chuck Bryant

You go to Haiti.

Josh Clark

Yes.

Chuck Bryant

That was The Serpent and the Rainbow, right?

Josh Clark

Yeah, what was that: 1987?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Wes Craven flick.

Chuck Bryant

Mid high school for me, very scary.

Josh Clark

Bill Pullman.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

And the weird thing is Wes Craven's not known for making movies based on true stories, but that one was. It's based on one of my heroes, the ethnobotonist and anthropologist, Dr. Wade Davis who is a Harvard grad. I think he has his doctorate and two bachelors from Harvard.

Chuck Bryant

Two more than me.

Josh Clark

Right, yeah. And he went down to Haiti in the early 1980s for what was called the zombie project.

Chuck Bryant

Yes, because of a certain - a certain man drew his attention, right?

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

How do you pronounce that? Clairvius Narcisse?

Josh Clark

Yeah. That's how I pronounce it.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, he started poking his head around in 1980 in a Haitian village and said, "Hey I died 18 years ago."

Josh Clark

Yep, and apparently, his - the similarity to his original self and the facts that he knew about his former life -

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, he passed a battery of tests, questions.

Josh Clark

Yeah or there was enough to make the - make his friends, family - I guess the estimate's about 200 people who saw him say, "That guy's a zombie."

Chuck Bryant

Right. And he claimed a bocor brought him back to life or brought him back to the undead state.

Josh Clark

Right Chuck, so Clairvius shows up in 1980. He had been - the thing that makes him significant is that he had been pronounced dead by American doctors who apparently carry more weight in the field of medicine and science.

Chuck Bryant

Right. Yeah, it was documented.

Josh Clark

Yeah, they documented his death. So when he showed up in 1980 he presented a substantial case for the existence of zombies. And a guy named Dr. Lamarque Douyon who was a Haitian psychiatrist interviewed him, started interviewing bocor and got his hands on some zombie powders and then entered Dr. Wade Davis.

Chuck Bryant

Right. Now, he wasn't the guy they originally sent to go get these powders, right? No, that was Nathan Kline.

Josh Clark

Right. He wanted some of these powders to see if they could be used as anesthetics in surgery.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, which I don't get that. Why not just use anesthetic unless he found some cheaper, safer maybe anesthetic.

Josh Clark

Sure. Well, if you come up with your own anesthetic, I imaginethere's some dollar amount attached to that.

Chuck Bryant

That's true.

Josh Clark

So let's talk about this. He sends Dr. Davis down to Haiti and Dr. Davis kinda takes up where Dr. Douyon left off or maybe kinda takes over his research. And he himself interviews bocor which again, are those voodoo priests and interviews some of the zombies, some of these undead people.

Chuck Bryant

So they said.

Josh Clark

Yeah. And he comes to find that - he concludes that there is in fact such a thing as zombie. They're specific to Haiti though as far as he can tell. And it's a two-step process, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant

In how to make someone a zombie?

Josh Clark

Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant

Well, first they have to die, I would think.

Josh Clark

No.

Chuck Bryant

Or is that a three-step process?

Josh Clark

No.

Chuck Bryant

I thought zombies had to be dead first.

Josh Clark

We're talking Haitian zombies. We'll get to the Hollywood zombies soon.

Chuck Bryant

Okay. Well, the bocor has to capture their soul.

Josh Clark

What's that?

Chuck Bryant

[French]

Josh Clark

Sure.

Chuck Bryant

Is that - I suppose it's French, right?

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

That's apparently the part of the soul directly connected to the individual and once he captures that, they are a zombie.

Josh Clark

Right. That's Haitian folklore. Dr. Davis being a scientist, tried toget beyond that. He found that most Haitians - most educated Haitians we should say and those who live in the city don't tend to believe in zombieism.

Chuck Bryant

Right, even though it's part of law, which I found interesting.

Josh Clark

It is. There's a - back to 1835, right?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, article 246 of the Haitian penile code basically says that you can't make someone a zombie.

Josh Clark

Right, that you'll be charged with attempted murder or murder if the person actually manages to get buried, even if they're not dead yet. For all intents and purposes it's still considered murder under Haitian law.

Chuck Bryant

Thank God.

Josh Clark

Okay, so Dr. Davis gets passed this belief that's mainly held by rural, uneducated, poor Haitians that the bocor are capable of sorcery and can steal your soul. What do they get out of this?

Chuck Bryant

That's what I could never peg. Is there some money on the back end or something?

Josh Clark

No. No, there's precisely no money involved and it's not for any personal gain.

Chuck Bryant

Their status as a bocor?

Josh Clark

No. What it is, is there is a secret Haitian society called Bazango.

Chuck Bryant

The free masons?

Josh Clark

No, they're not the free masons, but they might as well be. Basically, this is the group that defacto runs the country, supposedly, but this is documented. This is from Davis' research. So the Bazango - there are - or not necessarily voodoo priests, but there are voodoo priests who are part of the Bazango. And zombification is only used in cases of punishment where a member of the Bazango, say a family member has gone against the will of his or her family or the will of the Bazango community as a whole. It's just a severe punishment.

Chuck Bryant

So you would have been zombified in our How Stuff Works Culture.

Josh Clark

Over and over and over again. And actually, Clairvius Narcisse said that he was zombified because - at the behest of his brothers because he wouldn't go along in selling the family land with them. Another documented zombie named Ti-Femme. She's a woman. She said that she was zombified by the will of her family because she refused to marry the man they wanted her to marry and she had a baby by another man. So generally, it's retaliation. It's punishment for transgressions against Bazango society or a person's family who is a member of Bazango society.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, there's gotta be a little money on the back end for the old bocor.

Josh Clark

You would think so, but Davis was adamant in his research that that's not the case. So okay, so let's get to how you make somebody a zombie.

Chuck Bryant

Well, you've got the powder, right?

Josh Clark

You have the powder and -

Chuck Bryant

The magic powder.

Josh Clark

What Davis found was that this powder - he took, I think eight samples and found that seven of them had some ingredients in common, right Chuck?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, want me to go over those?

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

He found the puffer fish which contains a deadly neurotoxin called Tetrodotoxin. He found a marine toad which also has a bunch of toxins, numerous toxins.

Josh Clark

Yeah, you don't wanna lick this.

Chuck Bryant

Don't lick that. A Hyla tree frog, which secretes an irritating, but not deadly substance; some human remains were in all of these. Those were the common ingredients. And then things like skin irritants, they figured like spiders and lizards ground up in there would irritate your skin.

Josh Clark

Same with the Hyla tree frog, so basically, the reason you would wanna have a skin irritant is because the zombie powder is traditionally applied on the skin.

Chuck Bryant

Sure, it's topical.

Josh Clark

Right, exactly. So what happens is it's applied to the skin and it creates cracks and breaks in the skin and then it seeps in through there.

Chuck Bryant

Gross.

Josh Clark

And then it produces this zombified person. Basically, you start to have trouble breathing -

Chuck Bryant

Don't respond to stimuli.

Josh Clark

No, you become paralyzed. You have a glassy eyed stare, but you're still maintaining your normal mental state. You're still aware what's going on; you just can't do anything.

Chuck Bryant

Like The Serpent and the Rainbow.

Josh Clark

Exactly.

Chuck Bryant

You know you're getting buried alive and having the sheet pulled over you.

Josh Clark

Right. That's actually what Narcisse said. He said that he remembered and saw the doctors pulling the sheet over his head after they pronounced him dead.

Chuck Bryant

I wonder if they asked him what that felt like, "How was that for you?"

Josh Clark

I imagine it probably wasn't very good; creepy moment. So yeah, so you know what's going on. You just can't do anything about it and this struck Davis as particularly interesting because -what is it Chuck, the Tetrodotoxin? Davis started researching and he found that in Japan there's this stuff called Fugu which is a kind of sushi delicacy that's made from the puffer fish. It's very dangerous, but it apparently tastes like a Twinkie.

Chuck Bryant

Nice.

Josh Clark

A raw Twinkie, but if you make the cut wrong and too much of this Tetrodotoxin ends up in it, you're poisoned and the symptoms were virtually the same as what people who were zombified reported.

Chuck Bryant

That's awesome. Should we trust our sushi chef and order some up?

Josh Clark

I guess. I imagine that with Fugu you get what you pay for. You don't wanna cheap out with Fugu.

Chuck Bryant

You don't wanna go dollar sushi on the Fugu.

Josh Clark

So that's step one. You administer the zombie powder and then the person is pronounced dead.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, they bury them.

Josh Clark

Then you go get them.

Chuck Bryant

Well, that's the revelation moment. That's what makes the bocor look like they've done their thing -

Josh Clark

That's reference to our brainwashing podcast.

Chuck Bryant

Ah, thank you. Yeah, and I love the back door there for the bocor: if it doesn't work, there's a little loophole where he says that if the procedure doesn't work, then divine intervention can always prevent this from happening.

Josh Clark

Right.

Chuck Bryant

So anytime it doesn't work that's his go-to.

Josh Clark

Or if the powder is prepared to kill too strongly.

Chuck Bryant

Right.

Josh Clark

So you've got somebody -

Chuck Bryant

[Inaudible]

Josh Clark

Exactly. Its like, "Well, hey. It didn't work this time." And plus anyway, once you've administered the zombie powder, I guess under Haitian law you're in for a penny in for a pound anyway, right?

Chuck Bryant

Sure.

Josh Clark

So that's step one, right Chuck?

Chuck Bryant

Yes.

Josh Clark

You zombify the person. Step two is to get to their grave within about eight hours and you exhume them. And when you do, you feed them something called a zombie cucumber.

Chuck Bryant

What is that: the salt?

Josh Clark

No, you don't wanna feed them salt. That restores their senses. The zombie cucumber is a combination of sweet potato and De Terra.

Chuck Bryant

That sounds nice.

Josh Clark

Gypsum weed which is one of the more hallucinogenic plants available to man.

Chuck Bryant

That sounds real nice.

Josh Clark

So when you've got somebody who's already like half paralyzed and has been buried, that's a pretty traumatic experience, right Chuck?

Chuck Bryant

I would imagine.

Josh Clark

Yeah. So the next step is to feed them a highly hallucinogenic concoction and watch them go. So that's step two of creating a zombie. What Davis came up with was that none of this would work, Chuck unless you were in Haiti because all of it had this social support for belief that zombies can exist.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, the culture believes it.

Josh Clark

So once you've gone through this process you're not an American thinking about, "Oh, I'm a zombie." As Tracy Wilson put it in her "How Zombies Work" article that we're basing this on, she said in another culture, if you have Tetrodotoxin poisoning, you're just a toxin poisoning victim, but in Haiti, because of this belief among some people that there is such thing as zombies, that supports the experience and all of a sudden, this person is spending x number of years as basically a zombie slave.

Chuck Bryant

Right, like snake handlers.

Josh Clark

Sure.

Chuck Bryant

Most people would think you're just a redneck that got bit by a snake and they think that it was all divine.

Josh Clark

Right, yeah. That's actually very much the same. Nice one, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant

I just pulled that one out of my keyster.

Josh Clark

That was great. It smells delicious.

Chuck Bryant

Thanks. So a lot of people - do you wanna get to where people think Davis wasn't exactly on the level?

Josh Clark

Sure.

Chuck Bryant

On all levels?

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Because that all sounded good until the article turned a little bit and said, "No, not quite."

Josh Clark

Well, yeah. It definitely depends on where you're coming from, but there is a tremendous amount of criticism for somebody like Daviswho's saying, "Yeah, zombies exist."

Chuck Bryant

Right, because one thing he did, which you mentioned, was dig up bodies or supervise the digging up of bodies.

Josh Clark

Well, he was there at least.

Chuck Bryant

He was there and a lot of scientists didn't like that.

Josh Clark

That kinda goes against the code of ethics somewhere.

Chuck Bryant

It crossed a boundary and I think I might agree with that.

Josh Clark

Yeah?

Chuck Bryant

They also questioned the initial experiments with powder and if they were scientific enough because he practiced these on monkeys and rats when he got back to the states, right?

Josh Clark

Yeah, he made zombie rats.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, that was pretty cool.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

So they questioned the initial experiments, they didn't know if he had added anything else to the powder. I guess he says he didn't, but they weren't there to witness that so they questioned that.

Josh Clark

Right. What else?

Chuck Bryant

Oh yeah, this one I found odd. They found samples contained no Tetrodotoxin.

Josh Clark

Yeah, and he said that you guys are putting it in some kind of solvent to carry out these tests, so you may have destroyed it.

Chuck Bryant

That's a little iffy though.

Josh Clark

Maybe. I think one of the big points about this in Davis' defense is that his reputation academically is still very much in tact years after this.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, it survived.

Josh Clark

He published two books on it. The Serpent and the Rainbow came out and he survived that. I can't imagine that making him look really good among his academic peers and this guy's still doing more and more research. He's a National Geographic explorer in residence, which as you know, I think is one of the coolest things ever. So his reputation's still in tact and he's still a respected ethnobotonist and anthropologist.Another point that people made though, Chuck was that a lot of these people who were supposedly zombies were chalked up to mistaken identity, cases of mental illness, kind of like Jerusalem syndrome. If you live in Jerusalem, you're gonna have a much higher tendency of believing that you're a reincarnated saint or prophet than if you live in -

Chuck Bryant

Than if you live in Detroit.

Josh Clark

Exactly.

Chuck Bryant

What were you gonna say?

Josh Clark

Denver.

Chuck Bryant

Oh, okay.

Josh Clark

Yeah, you said Detroit though.

Chuck Bryant

Are we moving on to Denver now?

Josh Clark

Maybe.

Chuck Bryant

All right.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Go west young man.

Josh Clark

So Chuck, that's the Haitian zombie.

Chuck Bryant

The real, "real zombie."

Josh Clark

We should say as far as I could turn up, there is no one who satisfactorily debunked Clairvius Narcisse's story. And also, I should also say that at no point did Davis say that these people were dead in any way, shape or form.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, or undead.

Josh Clark

But they were strictly poisoned by this specific toxin that brought them - that lowered their vital signs. They were pronounced dead and then they were revived by De Terra and then believed that they were zombies, but they were not dead and brought back to life.

Chuck Bryant

So those are real zombies. Let's do face zombies that started - not started, but very much kick started with George Romero's classic that we played earlier, Night of the Living Dead.

Speaker

Brains.

Josh Clark

Oh, did you hear that? That was our colleague, Chris Pollete. Did you hear that?

Chuck Bryant

Um-hum.

Josh Clark

Brains.

Chuck Bryant

I was gonna do that, but I didn't - apparently, Jerry said Chris nails it, so there you have it.

Josh Clark

Yeah, he does. Can't you tell?

Chuck Bryant

Brains.

Josh Clark

Right. That's pretty good too, Chuck. Yeah, so Romero starts the whole thing off basically. He comes up with all the rules of the game like we heard at the beginning of this podcast.

Chuck Bryant

Right, which actually, Tracy did say that movies as early as 1919 had zombies, so save your fingers on the keyboard from typing in, "No, he wasn't the first."

Josh Clark

Nice one, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant

He definitely brought it into the mainstream and zombie movies forever after were based on like you said, his world and his rules.

Josh Clark

Um-hum. For example, he was the one that said, "If you can destroy a zombie's brain or detach its brain from the rest of its body, that's it for the zombie."

Chuck Bryant

Everybody knows if you wanna kill a zombie, you've gotta cut their head off basically.

Josh Clark

That's Romero.

Chuck Bryant

Or blow their head off with a gun.

Josh Clark

I should tell you that our colleague and sometimes stand in producer, Matt Frederick got really excited when he found out we were doing a podcast on zombies.

Chuck Bryant

Oh really?

Josh Clark

He thinks that a Remington pump action shotgun is the best weapon to have against a zombie.

Chuck Bryant

I would say that in one hand and a Samurai sword in another would be pretty cool. You'd be doing well for yourself.

Josh Clark

I'm more a battle axe man myself.

Chuck Bryant

Although, that - were you gonna talk about that Canadian mathematician study?

Josh Clark

Eventually.

Chuck Bryant

Okay. We don't stand a chance if there's a real zombie attack, dude.

Josh Clark

Well, it depends on what we do. Let's talk about that, Chuck. This is the one with Robert Smith?

Chuck Bryant

Oh yeah, with the question mark name. That's right. That guy has a question mark at the end of his name.

Josh Clark

Robert Smith? And one of his colleagues, both mathematicians at the University of Ottawa; they used contagious disease models.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, pandemic models to study out the math of whether or not we could actually survive a zombie attack, a slow moving zombie attack.

Josh Clark

Yes, they specifically picked the classic slow moving zombie. And they still found that unless humans strike fast, strike often and strike increasingly escalatingly, we're in big trouble.

Chuck Bryant

Right. So you can't do the, "Oh gee, we gotta learn a humanitarian way to put these zombies down" like District 9. You gotta go in hard.

Josh Clark

He said don't even bother trying to figure out how to cure it. You just have to kill everybody you find.

Chuck Bryant

Exactly.

Josh Clark

And that was another thing that Romero established with Night of the Living Dead was that zombies beget zombies, right?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

In his version, what happened was a zombie was - somebody who was killed by a zombie was brought back because of this radiation from a satellite that had returned to Earth that was causing the dead to rise in the first place. So if you were killed while that radiation was still around, you were inevitably going to come back. And also, did you know that George Romero got his start shooting segments for Mr. Rogers Neighborhood?

Chuck Bryant

I think I did know that.

Josh Clark

Really?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Yeah?

Chuck Bryant

He also established some other rules about their strength. They're very strong, but typically slow moving, although there have been movie offshoots with the fast moving zombie of course.

Josh Clark

It depends.

Chuck Bryant

Well, they're fast or slow.

Josh Clark

Well, like 28 Days Later is technically not a zombie movie because no one who is a zombie is actually dead.

Chuck Bryant

No, they're infected by that - whatever that was, that disease.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

The infection.

Josh Clark

Yeah, I don't remember what it's called.

Chuck Bryant

But there are some other fast moving zombies I've seen in other movies.

Josh Clark

Resident Evil, the game, they had some herky-jerky fast moving zombies, right?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Again, Matt Frederick thinks is the perfect zombie motion.

Chuck Bryant

Herky-jerky?

Josh Clark

Herky-jerky; whatever is in Resident Evil, he's hip with because he said that's where the pump shotgun is found.

Chuck Bryant

I like the slow movers.

Josh Clark

Yeah, they're a lot more comforting.

Chuck Bryant

But it was always funny to me to watch those movies and think, "You're all faster than the zombies. How could you ever get caught?"

Josh Clark

Yeah, just walk briskly.

Chuck Bryant

But you get surrounded; that's what happens.

Josh Clark

Surrounded is the big problem.

Chuck Bryant

Are we gonna get into that: how to avoid getting eaten by a zombie?

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Okay. Well, we should wrap up the rules first. They're impervious to pain. You can hit them in the face with a baseball bat and they'll just keep lumbering forward. So you really have to cut their head off. You cut their arm off and they'll walk with one arm. They'll cut a leg off and they'll hop at you.

Josh Clark

Oh yeah. Their arm will come at you, Return of the Living Dead.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, or Evil Dead.

Josh Clark

Yes.

Chuck Bryant

Two.

Josh Clark

Dead By Dawn.

Chuck Bryant

Dead by Dawn.

Josh Clark

You will be dead by dawn.

Chuck Bryant

And they are driven to eat, relentlessly driven to eat. They're afraid of fire and light. So they'll come out at night; they want to eat your brain.

Josh Clark

That actually came later. That was largely Return of the Living Dead from 1985 where they actually have a zombie pinned down and it's just this woman's torso and arms and head and this medical examiner, doctor says, "Why do you eat humans?" She goes, "Not humans, brains."

Chuck Bryant

That's the clip you sent me today?

Josh Clark

Let's Pollette do it again.

Male Speaker

Brains.

Josh Clark

Nice. Thank you, Pollette.

Chuck Bryant

So good.

Josh Clark

Yeah, that was that clip I sent you.

Chuck Bryant

That was awesome.

Josh Clark

Isn't it?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

Yeah, and what else, Chuck? Are there anymore? How are zombies created? In Romero's version it was radiation from a returning satellite. In Night of the Comet it was a comet. In 28 Days Later, if you wanna consider that a zombie movie and Resident Evil it was a virus that was passed around.

Chuck Bryant

I love Night of the Comet, by the way. I just wanna go on record. I love that movie.

Josh Clark

That was a good movie.

Chuck Bryant

Well, it's off. It's kinda very dated and an awful '80s movie, but for the time period -

Josh Clark

It was dated the second it came out.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, it was. It was really - for a 13-year-old watching HBO on a Saturday afternoon, it was pretty perfect.

Josh Clark

Did you have a crush on the younger sister too?

Chuck Bryant

I had a crush on both. A couple of hot cheer leader chicks. That was nice. I learned a lot by watching that film.

Josh Clark

I'll bet you did. Chuck came of age to Night of the Comet.

Chuck Bryant

I did.

Josh Clark

All right, so I think we're -

Chuck Bryant

Do you know how to fight them?

Josh Clark

Yeah. Chuck, let's say that Robert Smith? - is prediction comes true and by the way we should say their paper was called "When Zombies Attack!" and there was an exclamation point. Robert Smith?: he's big on punctuation.

Chuck Bryant

You now include an exclamation point at the end of your name in your e-mail signature.

Chuck Bryant

So right, let's say we were getting attacked. We'll say Robert Smith? is right on the money; what do we do?

Josh Clark

Well, first of all, you want to go to a place - if you're going to retreat, you wanna retreat to a place that has plenty of supplies, preferably one of those Wal-Marts - I don't know if they're still around or not - that also sells guns and ammunition.

Chuck Bryant

And groceries, yeah; the super center.

Josh Clark

Super death center. You want one of those because you wanna hold up in there. You can last as long as you need to. There's probably communications equipment in there and again, you've got guns, hoes, machetes, anything; blunt instruments.

Chuck Bryant

What would be your favorite weapon?

Josh Clark

I told you: a battle axe.

Chuck Bryant

Oh, that was yours?

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

I've changed mine.

Josh Clark

What?

Chuck Bryant

Crossbow with those Rambo exploding arrows.

Josh Clark

That would be sweet.

Chuck Bryant

That would be awesome.

Josh Clark

Wow.

Chuck Bryant

I would like to kill them before they even get close to me.

Josh Clark

Yeah, I think it'd be unsettling to be face-to-face.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah. So where are we? We're in the Wal-Mart.

Josh Clark

Or Costco or Target or wherever.

Chuck Bryant

Sam's Club.

Josh Clark

Sure.

Chuck Bryant

And the zombies are attacking. You want to stay away from where there's people, so that would be a good place.

Josh Clark

Yeah, that was a really good point that Tracy made that the - ifyou're in the midst of a zombie epidemic, just like any other epidemic, it's going to spread more quickly and have more casualties in a populated area.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, if you live in Manhattan, you'd probably wanna get the heck to Long Island I would say.

Josh Clark

Sure, but as anyone who's seen 28 Days Later knows, you still wanna be on your guard even out in the sticks.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, the old cottage in the marsh; that's not a good place to go either.

Josh Clark

No.

Chuck Bryant

Because they're gonna be waiting for you in the movie version.

Josh Clark

Yeah, they are.

Chuck Bryant

You wanna barricade everything so Michael Jackson and his cohorts can't get in.

Josh Clark

Nice.

Chuck Bryant

You like that?

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

You never -

Josh Clark

Actually, that's more applicable than ever, Chuck.

Chuck Bryant

I know. You want to not back yourself into a corner because that's what we talked about: you always end up getting surrounded. And just like in Thriller, I believe, she backed herself into a corner literally.

Josh Clark

Yes, she did.

Chuck Bryant

In that house and then they descended upon her.

Josh Clark

And walls - or hands came out of the wall. Yeah, she was in trouble.

Chuck Bryant

I don't know if I'd wanna be inside at all, come to think of it. I'd wanna get my supplies and go to the mountains. That's what I'd do.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Get in a tent.

Josh Clark

I don't know if a tent offers that much protection. You wanna be able to barricade.

Chuck Bryant

Well, I would just wanna be in the open so I could run. I would never want a wall around me anywhere.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

That's just how I do it. That's how I party.

Josh Clark

Give us some more. That's how you party with zombie death.

Chuck Bryant

Well, Tracy said, "Wait for rescue and make long term preparations for your survival." I guess so, but what if you wanna fight the zombies?

Josh Clark

I think you can do both at the same time.

Chuck Bryant

Hers was kind of a run and hide mentality.

Josh Clark

Yeah. I think Tracy would be good to have on your team. It'd be good to have somebody like us armed with battle axes, crossbows, pump action shotguns, but then have Tracy maybe behind the semicircle thinking about what we need to be doing a year from now.

Chuck Bryant

Maybe.

Josh Clark

Mix it all together because you don't want just bone headed thick Mac rock skulls battling.

Chuck Bryant

Woody Harrelson -

Josh Clark

Zombieland?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, during the making of Zombieland when he blamed - remember, he attacked those photographers?

Josh Clark

Huh?

Chuck Bryant

He got all in trouble because he attacked some photographers and his excuse was that he was playing a zombie hunter in this movie - I think it was actually shot in Atlanta called Zombieland and he told the judge that he was so caught up in that character and so in character as a zombie hunter that he reacted too aggressively to the photographers who follow them around like zombies I guess.

Josh Clark

Wow, that man is a pro.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, he's a pro.

Chuck Bryant

Smoked a huge joint and -

Josh Clark

Yes, he did.

Chuck Bryant

Got off Scott free probably.

Josh Clark

Probably. At least he didn't plea bongo snake or anything like that.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, who was that: McConaughey?

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

Nice.

Josh Clark

Didn't you hang out with him?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

McConaughey.

Chuck Bryant

Actually, speaking of Zombieland, I just saw today where the director of that film was gonna have Patrick Swayze play a Swayze zombie like as himself, come back from the dead Swayze zombie. Originally, it was written into the script and this was before he got sick or anything. So obviously, once -

Josh Clark

Oh okay. I was like, "That's pretty tasteless."

Chuck Bryant

No, no. The movie's just coming out. So this was a while ago. And then he got sick. He contacted him and everything and he had fallen ill and couldn't do it. I think he got some other big star to do it and they're trying to keep that a big secret or something.

Josh Clark

Who is it?

Chuck Bryant

I don't know.

Josh Clark

Dish.

Chuck Bryant

I tried to find out. I couldn't.

Josh Clark

When's that come out?

Chuck Bryant

I don't know; soon. I saw the preview the other day, so it's soon.

Josh Clark

Chuck, basically, there's some pretty common sense things you wanna avoid in any zombie attack like don't lock yourself in a car that you don't have keys to.

Chuck Bryant

We'll call these movie things because this is what always happens.

Josh Clark

Movie things?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, in the movie, they get in and they don't have the key and then you're thinking, "Why did you get in the car if you didn't have a key?"

Josh Clark

Right. You don't wanna leave any implements that a zombie could use as a weapon out for them to find and pick up.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, because they can use basic weapons only.

Josh Clark

Do not give a weapon to a hysterical person. You have no idea what they're going to do and at the very least, they're not going to use it properly. And you'll end up really regretting that.

Chuck Bryant

Um-hum.

Josh Clark

There's other stuff like getting into an elevator in a building infested with zombies. You don't wanna go on a retreat to a cellar or something without taking supplies with you because God knows how long you're gonna be down there.

Chuck Bryant

Oh, I've got one. How about you fight the sudden urge to make out with a zombie?

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

That'd probably be a good thing to do.

Josh Clark

Sure. That happened in Night of the Living Dead, wasn't it? Oh really?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

The girl was like, "Johnny?"

Chuck Bryant

Oh yeah.

Josh Clark

And he was like, "Yeah." So that happens sometimes.

Chuck Bryant

Awesome.

Josh Clark

Chuck, let me talk about one of my favorite zombies.

Chuck Bryant

Okay.

Josh Clark

Re-Animator. Did you ever see it?

Chuck Bryant

Yes.

Josh Clark

You know that was a love craft story?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah.

Josh Clark

It was based on -

Chuck Bryant

Classic, classic film.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Chuck Bryant

And B movie.

Josh Clark

You remember the guy decapitates either his mentor or the dean of the school. I can't remember who it was. He decapitates him with a shovel and then he's like, "Awesome, I've got another specimen to work on." And he uses this serum to re-animate both the head and the body, which is highly unusual because in most zombie films once the head's detached from the body, that's it.

Chuck Bryant

Bye, bye.

Josh Clark

But he was re-animating it after it was detached so hence that's how you break the rules.

Chuck Bryant

Ah, okay. There were sequels to that too, I think.

Josh Clark

There were, but do you know what's particularly unsettling about Re-Animator?

Chuck Bryant

What?

Josh Clark

That there's actual research into that very stuff going on right now.

Chuck Bryant

Into human re-animation?

Josh Clark

Um-hum.

Chuck Bryant

Cool.

Josh Clark

Max Planck Institute. I was reading an article that was linked from a Cracked blog post.

Chuck Bryant

You love that website.

Josh Clark

I do. It's great. And it was, I think from 1999 or 2000 and they were like, "We're getting close, actually. We found out that it's not cardiac arrest. Your brain doesn't die as a result of cardiac arrest like we thought. Instead, we destroy it when we try to re-animate it. So now we're trying to be a little more gentle and actually, we've gotten a brain to kinda function after it's been dead for an hour. We didn't get the whole organism re-animated, but we're working on it." And I just went [gag] and that was it.

Chuck Bryant

Well, it kinda makes sense. What was it,

Futurama that had the different heads in the jars and they actually still talk and everything

Josh ClarkYeah.

Chuck Bryant

From the neck down, it's really not a lot going on besides organ function and moving. If you could find a way to wire the brain up and keep it from decaying, you could keep partying.

Josh Clark

Yeah, keep on trucking. Well, let's see. If you wanna keep on trucking with zombies, you can go read the article by our esteemed colleague, Tracy Wilson who knows a lot about zombies; probably more than she should know. You can type in zombies in the handy search bar at howstuffworks.com, which means it's time for listener mail.[Chimes]

Chuck Bryant

Yes, the return of listener mail. Josh, we're gonna call this listener mail from the dude in the band.

Josh Clark

I like this guy.

Chuck Bryant

"Hey there Chuck and Josh and Jerry. I'm writing on behalf of my band. We're an Indi rock and roll band from Eagle Rock Glendale, California." That's where I used to live. "We've been lucky enough on our tour for a good chunk of the year - to be on tour for a good chunk of the year opening for bigger acts. While on tour, we constantly fight over who gets control of the CD player in the van. It gets nasty sometimes and we frequently run in opposite directions to our iPods. It's pathetic: five guys in a smelly van, each in our own little world, not talking, tired and cranky. I quickly learned to resent touring. And the 45 minutes on stage wasn't worth the hours of driving and sleeping in dumpy motels and on couches." So they're not having a good run of it, sadly.

Josh Clark

I like this exposition.

Chuck Bryant

Right, he's a good writer. "Well, as we were headed back on the road, our old bassist sent us off with a spindle of Stuff You Should Know podcasts burned to a CD. Though we were reluctant at first to throw it into the CD player, but find ourselves intrigued by how cannibalism works."

Josh Clark

For sure.

Chuck Bryant

That or body farms would be a good lead in for Indi rockers. "That was one of the first episodes we listened to. We were hooked after that. The iPods went away. The band started talking more in the van. The podcasts ignited debates. We joked about our favorite lucid dreams, cringed at the image of a dog eating its owner's face, drooled at the thought of a banana cream Twinkie. I also panicked because my girlfriend recently died her hair red." So he just wanted to say thanks for bringing the spark back in their touring. They listened to 20 hours of the show driving through Kansas and Montana and we've been all around the country with them and they burned another CD for the next upcoming tour.

Josh Clark

Did you just have a stroke a second ago?

Chuck Bryant

I did. So they're playing here in Atlanta actually soon.

Josh Clark

It's the Henry Clay People, right?

Chuck Bryant

The Henry Clay People is the name of the band and they are actually awesome.

Josh Clark

Yeah.

Josh Clark

You have their music, right?

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, they're great. I like it a lot and we get people that send in their bands' stuff sometimes and it's not very good.

Josh Clark

Are we gonna go?

Chuck Bryant

I'm gonna go. I wrote him back and he still has not responded so maybe he's on tour and can't get to his computer.

Josh Clark

Put me down for a plus one, will you? Jerry, you going? All right.

Chuck Bryant

Yeah, we're gonna be there at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta on October 7th rocking out to the Henry Clay People opening up for Airborn Toxic Event which is a big tour for the Henry Clay People. That's good for them.Josh Yes.

Chuck Bryant

It's good rock and roll rockess.

Josh Clark

Rock and roll.You know what's funny is that's exactly what Chuck said in the e-mail to me and Jerry. He's like, "I like these guys. Rockers rock and roll!"

Chuck Bryant

It's good. It's like good drinking music like early Stones or something.

Josh Clark

Right on. Let's go.

Chuck Bryant

October 7th.

Josh Clark

All right. Well, if you wanna see if you can entice Chuck, Jerry and I to come out and see whatever, or if we left out your favorite zombie movie, which we inevitably have, you can send an e-mail inviting us and/or chastising us to stuffpodcast@howstuffworks.com.

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