Clairvius Narcisse

Clairvius Narcisse

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Clairvius Narcisse was a Haiti
Haiti
Haiti , officially the Republic of Haiti , is a Caribbean country. It occupies the western, smaller portion of the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antillean archipelago, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. Ayiti was the indigenous Taíno or Amerindian name for the island...

an man said to have been turned into a living zombie
Zombie
Zombie is a term used to denote an animated corpse brought back to life by mystical means such as witchcraft. The term is often figuratively applied to describe a hypnotized person bereft of consciousness and self-awareness, yet ambulant and able to respond to surrounding stimuli...

 by a combination of drugs. His case was the subject of a book, The Serpent and the Rainbow
The Serpent and the Rainbow (book)
The Serpent and the Rainbow is a book by ethnobotanist and researcher Wade Davis. He investigated Haitian Vodou and the process of making zombies. He studied ethnobotanical poisons, discovering their use in a reported case of a contemporary zombie, Clairvius Narcisse.The book inspired a dramatic...

.

History


Clairvius Narcisse was declared dead on 2 May 1962, and yet in 1980 returned alive to his home village of L'Estère
L'Estère
Petites dedunes is a municipality in the Gonaïves Arrondissement, in the Artibonite Department of Haiti.It has 3,000 inhabitants.This historical city of 3,000 inhabitants is where the famous battle of the revolution took place on February 23, 1803 between the troops of Rochambeau and Dessalines at...

 in Haiti.

After investigating reports of "zombies" (including Narcisse and a handful of others), researchers believed that Narcisse received a dose of chemical mixture containing tetrodotoxin
Tetrodotoxin
Tetrodotoxin, also known as "tetrodox" and frequently abbreviated as TTX, sometimes colloquially referred to as "zombie powder" by those who practice Vodou, is a potent neurotoxin with no known antidote. There have been successful tests of a possible antidote in mice, but further tests must be...

 (pufferfish venom) and bufotoxin
Bufotoxin
Bufotoxins are a family of toxic substances found in the parotoid glands, skin and venom of many toads ; other amphibians; and some plants and mushrooms. The exact composition varies greatly with the specific source of the toxin. It can contain: 5-MeO-DMT, bufagins, bufotalin, bufotenine,...

 (toad venom) to induce a coma
Coma
In medicine, a coma is a state of unconsciousness, lasting more than 6 hours in which a person cannot be awakened, fails to respond normally to painful stimuli, light or sound, lacks a normal sleep-wake cycle and does not initiate voluntary actions. A person in a state of coma is described as...

 which mimicked the appearance of death
Death
Death is the permanent termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include old age, predation, malnutrition, disease, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury....

. He was then allowed to return to his home where he collapsed, "died" and was buried. His body was then recovered and he given doses of Datura stramonium
Datura stramonium
Datura stramonium, known by the common names Jimson weed, devil's trumpet, devil's weed, thorn apple, tolguacha, Jamestown weed, stinkweed, locoweed, datura, pricklyburr, devil's cucumber, Hell's Bells, moonflower and, in South Africa, malpitte and mad seeds, is a common weed in the...

to create a compliant zombie-like state and set to work on a plantation. After two years, the plantation owner died and Narcisse simply walked away to freedom.

It was explained that Narcisse had broken one of the traditional behavioural codes and was made into a ‘zombie’ as a punishment; when questioned, Narcisse told investigators that the sorcerer involved had ‘taken his soul’. The instigator of the poisoning was alleged to be his brother, with whom he had quarreled over land. After his apparent death and subsequent burial on May 2, 1962, his body was recovered and he was given a paste made from datura
Datura
Datura is a genus of nine species of vespertine flowering plants belonging to the family Solanaceae. Its precise and natural distribution is uncertain, owing to its extensive cultivation and naturalization throughout the temperate and tropical regions of the globe...

 which at certain doses has a hallucinogen
Psychedelics, dissociatives and deliriants
This general group of pharmacological agents can be divided into three broad categories: psychedelics, dissociatives, and deliriants. These classes of psychoactive drugs have in common that they can cause subjective changes in perception, thought, emotion and consciousness...

ic effect and can cause memory loss
Memory loss
Memory loss can be partial or total and it is normal when it comes with aging. Sudden memory loss is usually a result of brain trauma and it may be permanent or temporary. When it is caused by medical conditions such as Alzheimers, the memory loss is gradual and tends to be permanent.Brain trauma...

. The bokor
Bokor
Bokors in the religion of vodou are sorcerers or houngan or mambo for hire who are said to 'serve the loa with both hands', meaning that they practice both dark magic and light magic...

 (sorcerer) who recovered him then forced him, alongside others, to work on a sugar plantation until the master's death two years later. When the bokor died, and regular doses of the hallucinogen ceased, he eventually regained sanity (unlike others who had suffered brain damage from hypoxia
Hypoxia (medical)
Hypoxia, or hypoxiation, is a pathological condition in which the body as a whole or a region of the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply. Variations in arterial oxygen concentrations can be part of the normal physiology, for example, during strenuous physical exercise...

 while buried alive) and returned to his family after another 16 years, after finding his brother had died.

Narcisse's story was popularized in the book The Serpent and the Rainbow
The Serpent and the Rainbow (book)
The Serpent and the Rainbow is a book by ethnobotanist and researcher Wade Davis. He investigated Haitian Vodou and the process of making zombies. He studied ethnobotanical poisons, discovering their use in a reported case of a contemporary zombie, Clairvius Narcisse.The book inspired a dramatic...

by researcher Wade Davis
Wade Davis
Edmund Wade Davis is a Canadian anthropologist, ethnobotanist, author and photographer whose work has focused on worldwide indigenous cultures, especially in North and South America and particularly involving the traditional uses and beliefs associated with psychoactive plants...

, which met with some criticism in the scientific community.