The mystery of Clairvius Narcisse, the Haitian who has been zombies for 18 years

On April 30, 1962, a man named Clairvius Narcisse presented himself at the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Haiti. He felt like “thousands of bugs crawled under her skin.” Seeing that the condition of the man is getting worse, doctors hospitalized him in the hospital.

Two days later, the man was declared dead and the authorities issued the death certificate.The family of Clairvius Narcisse reorganized the funeral and buried the body at the local cemetery in L’Estere.

They knocked on the lid of the coffin and buried it traditionally. For most people, funeral is the end. But not for Clairvius Narcisse …


Narcissa, where he was buried in May 1962

At some point after the funeral, someone bothered Clairvius Narcisse’s tomb. At night, a bokor, a Haitian wizard practicing voodoo , uncovered the body and pulled him out of the coffin.

The man was still alive. The wizard took him out of the cemetery and took him to a sugar cane plantation where, in the first instance, he was beaten, bound, and forced to drink a potion.

In a permanent trance, Clairvius Narcisse stayed on the plantation, where he met other people in a state similar to his.

Clairvius was forced to work on the plantation, and the wizard forced him to swallow the substance regularly to keep him in the state of zombies. In the next two years, Clairvius Narcisse remained on the plantation until the wizard who “raised the dead” died.

Although in appearance it was just a lifeless body, Clairvius Narcisse left and wandered through the world anonymously. 18 years later, he returned to his native village, where he sought his sister, Angelina.

It was in the village square when Narcisse approached her and identified herself. To prove her, she told her a childhood nickname that only her two knew her.

Angelina was extremely shocked to discover that her brother was alive. However, the rest of the family did an investigation to make sure it was not a felony.

The investigation showed that Clairvius Narcisse was who he claimed to be. She was, indeed, Angeline’s brother.

The Story of Zombies

Narcisse, along with his family in his hometown, l’Estere. The scar on the right cheek indicates where a nail pierced when he was buried

The story of Clairvius Narcisse has long held the front page of Haitian newspapers.Everything that happened to him before he was admitted to the hospital and until his sister’s meeting, almost two decades later, happened while he was conscious, but in a nearly vegetative state of motion.

Clairvius Narcisse remembered how doctors had declared him dead and how he had been buried alive. He claimed to have been conscious when the sorcerer took him out of the tomb shortly thereafter.

The remembrance of the two years of slavery still haunted him, and he remembered how he had worked on the plantation from sunrise to sunset. The working day was interrupted once for a short meal break.

According to Narcisse, the conditions were too heavy for one of the slaves to succeed in killing the sparrow who was holding them captives. Because they no longer received the potion that kept them in trance, the other zombies took the opportunity to escape the plantation.

Clairvius Narcisse explained why he did not get home earlier. He had quarreled with his brother the day before the illness and blamed the latter for everything that had happened to him. Therefore, he returned home only after the death of his brother.

Religion Nzombi, from Africa to Haiti

Zombie belief has a hundred years past in Haiti and is even older in Africa. The modern term “zombies” comes from “nzombi,” which translates into “the spirit of a dead person.”

It’s easy to understand why and how the zombies have become horror film characters over the years. When planting owners searched slaves in Africa, they did not only import good people from the African continent.

Many of the religious beliefs of Africans also passed the ocean. Religious practices continued in Haiti, where the voodoo religion became a fearsome and poorly understood religion. In 1804, the Haitians banished the French colonists from the country.

Although slavery officially ended at that time, the reality was different. The bokor wolves have taken on a much more active role in Haitian culture. Despite the revolution, there is still a strong French influence in Haiti, which still persists today.

What really happened to Clairvius Narcisse?

Like all the Haitians, Clairvius Narcisses knew legends of zombies. To make you say zombies without this being true would have resulted in many humiliations.

Friends and family have been disowned by those who claimed to be zombies without any evidence to strengthen their sayings. For this reason, Narcisse is unlikely to have said a bokor turned it into a zombie.

No Haitian would have done that. Can Narcisse, however, be wrong?

Tetrodotoxin and bufotoxin

Mixed in some quantities and in some way, narcotics can induce a death-like state that would deceive most people. In order to deceive a doctor, such a potion should have a very good quality.

Researchers like Wade Davis have studied Clairvius Narcisse’s case and believe they have identified the ingredients used for the potion that might have held him in a kind of deep coma.

Tetrodotoxin and bufotoxin (taken from balloon and frog fish) could have immersed Narcisse in a coma, while repeated doses of Datura Stramonium, a potentially toxic hallucinogenic substance, could have kept it in that state.

Bufotoxin has anesthetic properties and tetrodotoxin can cause paralysis. Datura is added to these two toxins . In this way, the mixture that took 18 years of Clairvius Narcisse’s life was obtained.

The border between truth and fiction

Not everyone who has heard this well documented account believes in it. Skeptics say there were other factors in the game. Belief in the zombies is strong among the Haitians.

Skeptics say that these beliefs had a kind of placebo effect on Narcisse, who became convinced that his soul had gone away.

Whether you think that Clairvius Narcisse has been the victim of a voodoo ritual, that he has become an actor in a criminal operation or simply lied, the story told by this man is remarkable and inspired the book of anthropologist Wade Davis, the Serpent and the rainbow, and the movie of the same name.

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