Everything You Wanted to Know About Zombies but Were Afraid to Ask

The undead have been rising to popularity over the past decades with an explosion of books, TV shows, and movies about zombies. Embedded within the belief systems of various cultures around the world is the fear that the dead could resurrect and terrorize the living. Some suggest that the cannibalistic monsters are nothing more than mischievous troublemakers, amusing themselves at the expense of society. However, others genuinely believe that a zombie is a malevolent monster who was somehow wronged in life and is now awakened to seek revenge. In modern culture, though, the Walking Dead might simply be ordinary people infected by a zombifying virus.

When it comes to zombies, there are still numerous unknowns, even with modern science. It is widely understood that a zombie is essentially a reanimated corpse that typically develops a taste for human flesh. Apart from that, here are some basic things about zombies you need to know.


According to Max Brooks in his book “The Zombie Survival Guide” (2003), the solanum virus is responsible for turning humans into zombies. The virus travels to the brain through the bloodstream and renders all bodily functions paralyzed. Solanum destroys brain cells and stops the heart; in other words, an infected person is as good as dead. The brain remains alive, but it temporarily ceases to function as the virus continues its mutation cycle. Once the mutation process is complete, the virus transforms the body into a new organism known as a zombie. Some bodily functions are restored, but with modified capacity.


A zombie can only spread the virus to a living person through direct contact. While a bite is one of the most common means of transmission, it is not the only possible manner of infection. Direct exposure to the remains of a zombie or unintentional direct contact between an infected person and an open wound may also turn an otherwise healthy human into a living dead. Ingesting infected flesh results in death.

Animal Zombies

Certain parasites are known to possess the ability to enter the brains of other animals and turn them into zombies as well. A few examples of such parasites are:

• Web-slinging Costa Rican wasps

• Jewel wasp larva

• Adult lancet liver fluke

• Hairworms

• Euhaplorchis californiensis

In most cases, the infected animals lose control over their bodies and instead behave in self-destructive manners that offer benefits only to the parasites, such as providing nutrients or moving to a different environment.

Haitian Zombies

The foundation of much of the American zombie culture can be traced back to Haiti. In the past, many Haitian slaves believed that death could be the means to reconnect them with gods and their homeland. The only exception was death by suicide, in which case the person would be forced to live a soulless life and continue working on the plantation. This concept was later merged with Haitian voodoo religion, leading to a belief that powerful shamans could resurrect the dead and control the reanimated bodies.

Slow and Fast Zombies

Many movies and TV shows present different interpretations of how agile zombies should be. In some depictions, zombies are as fast as sprinters when pursuing their prey, typically humans. According to George Romero – the man behind the “Night of the Living Dead” film series – zombies should not move fast because their ankles would snap. This idea is somewhat logical, considering that zombies are essentially rotten corpses. Even if the brain is partially working, cognitive function remains minimal at best.

On the other hand, zombies are typically depicted as self-sufficient creatures that do not require nourishment, so slow movement is not entirely logical either. Until a zombie emerges somewhere in the world and is witnessed by credible individuals, there is no way to be sure of its speed. Until then, it remains unclear.

Super Senses

Movies, TV shows, and books have shown that zombies can attack despite having severely damaged sensory organs. A plausible reason for such ability is that the undead develops an unusual sensory organ or function not found in normal humans – a sixth sense of some sort. The virus might be responsible for it, too.

How to Kill the Already Dead

Killing a zombie might seem like a simple matter, but it could be trickier than you think. Zombies can stay aggressive even with damaged organs, and they don’t need to eat or drink to survive. When destroying their respiratory or digestive system doesn’t kill them, the most effective method is to attack the command centre of their mobility: the brain. By targeting the brain, preferably with firearms or edged weapons, you also attack the virus or at least stop the virus from controlling the body.

We think zombies have affected nearly every aspect of popular culture thanks to the large number of movies and books featuring these creatures. Unfortunately, quite a lot of the information provided by the media is outright false or misleading at best. At this point in history, cannibalistic zombies remain fictitious, but no one can tell if or when another viral pandemic might turn the population into the walking undead.

Do you believe that zombies are real? Can you name any actual incident involving zombies? We’d love to hear from you.

Other things you might want to know:

Can zombies reproduce?

People infected with the solanum virus may retain some of their bodily functions; reproduction is not one of them. The walking undead are sterile, and they have never been observed to show any kind of sexual desire for both humans and other zombies.

Do zombies think?

The basic brain capacity to accomplish tasks through trial-and-error is lost on zombies. Even throwing a stone as a means to attack prey is beyond their intelligence level.

What are some recommended zombie movies?

According to the British Film Institute (BFI), the 10 greatest zombie films are:

• White Zombie (1932)

• I Walked with a Zombie (1943)

• Night of the Living Dead (1968)

• Nightmare City (1980)

• The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

• Braindead (1992)

• Fido (2006)

• Colin (2008)

• Pontypool (2008)

• One Cut of the Dead (2017)

For more information, please visit BFI.

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