Zombie lore in Supernatural and reality

Photo Credit: Supernatural/The CW by Michael Courtney Image Acquired from CW TV PR
Photo Credit: Supernatural/The CW by Michael Courtney Image Acquired from CW TV PR /

Supernatural introduced zombies in the second season, along with necromancy, but does the lore match the reality?

When Supernatural first started, fans wondered if they’d come across zombies, vampires, werewolves and many other common creatures. It took until the second season for zombies to be introduced, along with the raising of the dead. Episode 4, “Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things,” showed the horrors of bringing people back from the dead. Even if they were originally sweet and kind, they turned into ruthless killing machines.

Angela Mason was the first zombie on the screen. She had all her memories and could react in the same way as a human, losing the dead and shedding flesh most zombie movies show. Here’s a look at the Supernatural zombie lore and the real lore it was based on.

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Zombies in Supernatural

When people are raised from the dead, they become zombies. They have all their original memories and their personality, but they tend to be superhuman. They are stronger and faster than they were originally. Most zombies start off like themselves, but turn violent within a few days. Angela Mason was just the first, but this change to the personality continued in future episodes, with “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” bringing back both Bobby’s wife and Jody’s son from the dead.

Zombies are difficult to kill. A silver bullet to the chest would slow zombies down, but it would take a stake to the heart to kill one. Later, Sam also finds that a bullet to the head can kill zombies, suggesting that different ways of bringing people back from the dead changes the way zombies can be killed.

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The croatoan virus can be considered a zombie virus. Those infected become infected with a virus that makes them murderous versions of their former selves. Think 28 Days Later style.

Photo Credit: Supernatural/The CW by Michael Courtney Image Acquired from CW TV PR
Photo Credit: Supernatural/The CW by Michael Courtney Image Acquired from CW TV PR /

Zombie lore in the real world

Real zombie lore differs between cultures. The word zombie wasn’t actually used until 1819 (first recorded) although the idea of raising people from the dead can be found first in Haitian folklore. In Haitian lore, dead bodies were reanimated through magic and other methods. Most of the lore that is specific to zombies (or zombi) is fictional.

In Haitian lore, a necromancer will raise the dead person and then controls the zombie. The necromancer practices the art of bokor, rather than voodoo, and is known as a witch or sorcerer, rather than priestess or priest. This is a similar connection to the zombie lore first used in Supernatural, although it turned out Angela wasn’t controlled by her necromancer and ended up killing the person who raised her.

Over the years, there have also been scientific explanations for zombies. People have been turned due to viruses, scientific experiments and other similar instances, which is where the croatoan virus comes into play.

African folklore also states that a young child or a witch can zombify a person, through the killing and possession of the body. That person then becomes a slave. There is a deeper history that links to the reality of slavery, although this was replaced overtime with the folklore.

When it comes to stopping the zombies, Haitian folklore suggests that feeding salt to a zombie would save them. The idea of killing by damaging the brains or chopping the heads off was made for TV. The use of silver bullets and a stake to the heart in Supernatural was based on the lore surrounding the likes of vampires, werewolves and shape shifters.

Next: Necromancy lore in Supernatural and the real world

Did you know the real, forgotten lore of zombies? Did you understand the darker meaning behind it all? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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