Wade Davis The Zombie Anthropologist

In my previous article, I talked about Mr. Davis’ account with Haitian culture and the zombification of people.  Mr. Davis’ work is known, read, and some even scoffed at his work.

However, I believe he was the first to take West African zombies seriously. Wade Davis might be the zombie anthropologist!

Wade Davis The Man

E. Wade Davis is a Canadian man born in British-Columbia on December 14th 1953. Mr. Davis studied at Harvard University and became an anthropologist and ethnobotanist. Wade Davis’ lifetime work included the study of psychoactive plants – which means he studied Botanics that changes human behavior, mood, consciousness, and perception. He focused is work mostly in North and South America.

Wade Davis — Anthropologist and Ethnobotanist
Wade Davis — Anthropologist and Ethnobotanist

His most recognized work is in the 1985 best-selling novel, The Serpent and the Rainbow.  The book consists of his research that he made about the zombies in Haiti. Now a Professor of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, it is safe to say that he has made a name for himself as he also is the BC Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk at the same university.

However, Mr. Davis’ work doesn’t stop in one novel. He has published his work in various magazines, including National Geographic where he also is an Explorer-in-Residence for the National Geographic Society. NGS even named him one of the Explorers for the millennium.

“Wade Davis is a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet and passionate defender of all of life’s diversity.” — National Geographic

Mr. Davis visited many places while exploring his passion for botanic. He has discovered many properties and beliefs along the way. In April of 2018, he received Colombian nationality and citizenship.

However, what I want to focus on, is his work regarding the zombies in Haiti!

Controversial Zombies

It was in the year 1983 that Mr. Davis introduced his idea that tetrodotoxin or TTX could potentially prove the existence of zombies in Haiti. His hypothesis caused people to talk and created waves in the scientific field.

The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis
The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis

In 1985, Wade Davis released his book named, The Serpent and the Rainbow in which he elaborates his views and research. Sadly, his research, criticized and categorized as inaccurate denied his claim that tetrodotoxin was at the source of zombification.

The main problem with Mr. Wade’s research, declared by scientists, was that tetrodotoxin could maintain someone in a zombified mode for years. In my previous article, Reanimated Corpse, I talk a little about TTX and explain that even in small dosage, it can be quite lethal and cause paralysis.

Haiti Voodoo
Haiti Voodoo

While doing his research, Wade Davis received the right to exhume the body of a recently buried child. Davis Wade did it because in the zombie powder, apparently, there was dead tissue from young children recently reported dead. By doing so, his gesture received many criticisms as a breach of ethics on Mr. Davis’ part.

Zombified Analysis

The central claim form Mr. Davis was the effect of tetrodotoxin on the body. It was also the main compound that had him overlooked by other scientists. Wade Davis brought back with him a sample of the zombie powder and the analysis were conclusive on one thing.

Zombie Eye
Zombie Eye

“insignificant traces of tetrodotoxin [were found] in the samples of ‘zombie powder’ which were supplied for analysis by Davis” and that “it can be concluded that the widely circulated claim in the lay press to the effect that tetrodotoxin is the causal agent in the initial zombification process is without factual foundation.” — Analysists, 1986

In the year 1986, the analysis done on the zombie powder showed small traces of tetrodotoxin levels.

Scientist Zombification

Not everyone was against Mr. Davis’ claims and went on with their research and analysis. Their findings were then criticized as well by other scientists saying that poor methodology and techniques were used to prove Mr. Davis right.

The reason why tetrodotoxin was Wade Davis’ main concern and claim, revolves around the fact that TTX is quite dangerous and does enormous amounts of involuntarily working on the body.

Tetrodotoxin Molecule
Tetrodotoxin Molecule

Mainly, what the molecule does is blocking the sodium channels, which are integral membranes that form ions channel, on the neural membrane which produces slurred speech, it can paralyze and create respiratory complications by attacking the diaphragm and creating numbness. It is mostly followed by death in severe cases.

Despite tetrodotoxin not known to create a state of slavery as mentioned in Haitian folklore, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t at the base of what creates the illusion of a zombie.

Some Thoughts

I’m not one to run after conspiracies, but while doing research, I was quite surprised to see how quick to judge the scientific community was to disproof Mr. Davis’ work.  Also, if other scientists were capable of proving Wade Davis right, instead of criticizing the work of their kin, I would imagine scientists reopening the case not overlooking it.


Maybe I am overthinking this case, but somehow, I’m inclined to believe that Mr. Wade was about to discover something the scientific community didn’t want him to stick his nose in.

The OCD Vampire,
Alexa Wayne

8 thoughts on “Wade Davis The Zombie Anthropologist

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