Tomorrow night is the Krewe de Bayou Voodoo Masquerade Mardi Gras Ball, and one of the most popular and frightening elements of voodoo is the zombie.

Zombies were familiar in popular culture long before 'Night Of The Living Dead' remade them into undead, flesh - eating monsters. The voodoo or Haitian zombie was the subject of tons of movies from the 30s - 60s. These zombies were humans who had either died and been brought back to life to serve their masters, or were people under the spell of a master who used black magic to control them.

These zombies were so frightening because they had an origin in the real beliefs of Haitian voodoo, which is also very much part of New Orleans and Louisiana folklore and history.

Those who don't believe in and practice voodoo believe that bokors, or voodoo shamans, use ingredients like pufferfish toxin to make a human being appear dead. After they're buried, these bokors wait until the drugged person wakes up and then gives them another potion, this time made with powerful mind - altering ingredients. These 'zombies' are disoriented and probably brain - damaged after being buried, causing them to follow the orders of the bokor.

Wade Davis, an anthropologist who went to Haiti to research voodoo and zombies in the late 70s, wrote 'The Serpent and the Rainbow,' which was made into a horror film by Wes Craven. Davis is one of the scientists whose research has shown that pufferfish and other toxins and chemicals are used by bokors in 'creating' voodoo zombies. Davis and other scientists believe there is nothing supernatural to voodoo zombies.

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