Want to know something about zombies? First, let's tackle the movie that made them a horror icon, with facts from Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Attack of the Factoids.
Night of the Living Dead (1968), directed by 28-year-old George A. Romero, changed the image of zombies in popular culture from enslaved workers of Caribbean voodoo wizards to hungry all-American flesh-eaters.
The film’s budget was tiny: just $114,000. It eventually grossed $30 million worldwide.
The actors who played the zombies were friends and clients of Romero’s struggling film production company. They had to provide their own costumes. Their pay? $1 and a T-shirt.
The blood was chocolate syrup, and the gory body parts came from one of the producers who was also a butcher.
The word “zombie” never appears in the movie.
Night of the Living Dead featured an African American as the lead of an otherwise all-white cast. That was almost unheard of in 1968.
The film entered the public domain early because its distributor made a mistake with the copyright. Before copyright laws changed in 1978, creators had to place a specific copyright symbol prominently on their work or it wouldn’t be protected. Romero did so in his title sequence, but when the distributor decided at the last minute to change the movie’s title (it was originally called Night of the Flesh Eaters), he didn’t add the copyright symbol and the film lapsed into the public domain.
Other Zombie Factoids
Zombies originated from followers of the Vodou (Anglicized to “Voodoo”) religion, which was born in Haiti and came to the U.S. with immigrants. The term “zombie” may come from the Caribbean word jumbie or the West African Kimbundu word nzambi, both of which mean “ghost.”
The tradition of walking dead people appears in many cultures, though, including Chinese, Persian, Arabian, Native American, and European. In fact, in the Middle Ages, the French believed that the dead would awaken as emaciated corpses to avenge any crimes against them.
Vodou tradition says that you can get a zombie to return to the graveyard by feeding it salt.
A 1929 fictional book, The Magic Island by William Seabrook, brought zombies to mainstream America. In 1932 the first zombie movie appeared, a horror film starring Bela Lugosi, White Zombie.
Biologist Wade Davis investigated reports of zombie slaves in Haiti and discovered they may be true. A cocktail of poisons from puffer fish and cane toads can put a victim in a zombielike state.
In September, 2012, FEMA offered a free webinar about being prepared for a zombie apocalypse.
According to mathematicians at the University of Ottawa, humanity would be unlikely to survive a full-scale zombie attack. In 2009 the researchers wrote: “While aggressive quarantine may contain the epidemic, or a cure may lead to coexistence of humans and zombies, the most effective way to contain the rise of the undead is to hit hard and hit often. As seen in the movies, it is imperative that zombies are dealt with quickly, or else we are all in a great deal of trouble.”
The article above is reprinted with permission from Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader Attack of the Factoids. Weighing in at over 400 pages, it's a fact-a-palooza of obscure information.
Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute had published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts. If you like Neatorama, you'll love the Bathroom Reader Institute's books - go ahead and check 'em out!