Every culture and religion around the world seems to have stories where the dead get up and walk around. These tales can be categorized in different ways. If purely by the creature they’ve become, we have resurrections and resuscitation, the undead, and ghosts. By type of story, we can find tales that are cautionary, those that speak of hope for life after death, and those that are clearly true.
Last month it was reported that a Zimbabwe man woke-up at his own funeral. Lack of access to medical equipment cause his shallow vital signs to go unnoticed. But there are also several instances where someone clinically dead and was resuscitated (you may very well know someone who’s been resuscitated).
That same month a man in California told cops he was speeding and swerving (in a stolen vehicle) to escape zombies. Which is clearly a different take on someone returning from the dead.
Back in February hackers bombarded television broadcasts with warnings of zombies. And in June Archeologists announced that they’d found corpses with anti-vampirism measures preformed on them (such as wedges of brick in their mouths), in Bulgaria.
It happens several times in the Holy Bible (bible just means book, so I’m using Holy Bible here to refer to the specific sacred book which you probably know as the Bible). Sometimes it’s believed to be a vision or figurative event, as when Ezekiel sees the valley of dried bones regain their flesh through God’s power. But in other instances it’s clearly meant quite literally, as in the resurrection of Lazarus, the resurrection of Jesus, and the Saints who walked the Earth when Jesus passed.
Greek Philosopher Athenodorus is said to have rented a house for cheaper than it would normally be, only to find it was haunted by a noisy ghost. The ghost, bound in chains lead him to the courtyard, where the next day he dug up a skeleton wrapped in chains.
Mexican legend tells of La Llorona, a desperate woman who drown her children in the river (or lake), then herself. Unable to find her own children, she now wanders the riversides (and lakesides) at night drowning or spiriting away children that go out after curfew.
Many Haitians are so afraid of their loved ones coming back as zombies, under the control of a bokor (a type of witchdoctor), that they often stake their dead to insure they are dead. This practice stems from a disturbing reality. The bokor may slip a poison to victims which will mimic death by suppressing vital signs, then dig them up after the funeral. They usually awake with brain damage due to lack of oxygen and are easily accepting of any manual labor their bokor instructs them to do.
Chinese tales speak of hopping corpses (jiangshi), who bound in burial garments are unable to walk properly, but hop from place to place. They sound almost comical, but they’re the Chinese equivalent of vampires, because if they touch you you’ll die and become a hopping corpse too!
There’s countless more tales, all of which seem to point at a hope for, or a fear of, life after death. So, it seems to be up to us to choose; hope for an afterlife later, or fear the dead right now.