No, this doesn’t have anything to do with prime-time television, the Bush administration and the T-virus. But it could.
Instead, it’s a medical odyssey involving a poison called Tetrodotoxin, a secret society using the poison on unsuspecting peasants and some hard science:
When Clairvius Narcisse entered the Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, he appeared to be suffering from malnutrition, high fever, and aches throughout his body. His condition deteriorated rapidly as he developed respiratory problems, became unresponsive, and then slipped into a coma. Two days later, on May 2, 1962, he was declared dead by two attending physicians. His sister, Angelina, identified the body, and another sister, Marie Claire, authenticated the death certificate by placing her fingerprint on it. The next day Angelina, Marie Claire, and the rest of the family buried Clairvius in a small cemetery near their village of l’Estere. Here the saga of Clairvius Narcisse should have ended, but 18 years later, in 1980, a shuffling, vacant-eyed man approached Angelina in the village marketplace and identified himself as her brother, Clairvius. His family and many villagers recognized him immediately, and he told them a fantastic tale of being dug up from his grave, beaten to his senses, and led away to work as a slave on a remote sugar plantation. Though surprised, the villagers accepted his story because they believed that the power of voodoo magic made such things possible. It was clear to then that Clairvius Narcisse had been a member of the living dead—a zombie.
Okay, you’re probably thinking that this is total bullshit by now. But keep reading (and read the whole article) to find out what’s really going on here.
Somehow, Narcisse received a dose of the zombie powder. He became ill, went to the hospital, became paralyzed, and “died.” He later said that he was conscious throughout and heard himself pronounced dead. After burial, he was dug up, beaten “to prevent his spirit from reentering his body,” and led away to a distant plantation. According to some accounts, zombies are fed a paste made from datura stramonium—the zombie’s cucumber—that contains tropane alkaloids capable of inducing a psychotic state. Continued doses could keep a zombie confused and docile during his new life as a slave.
In the case of Narcisse, the slave owner died after 18 years, and Narcisse regained his freedom by simply wandering away from the plantation.
Narcisse was smeared with “zombie powder” that appears to come from the puffer fish, or some other source of the tetrodotoxin:
The liver and reproductive organs of the puffer fish contain tetrodotoxin, an extremely powerful nerve poison. Only 0.00000065 g of tetrodotoxin is required to kill an adult, making it about 1000 times more toxic than cyanide.
The effects of tetrodotoxin are well documented in Japan, where the highly prized dish fugu is prepared from the raw flesh of the puffer fish. Chefs must be specially trained and licensed to prepare fugu. Even so, during the 1980s, nearly 200 Japanese diners have paid the ultimate price to satisfy their craving for fugu.
“It is a terrible death,” reports on fugu devotee. “Even though you can think very clearly, your arms and legs become numb and you cannot sit up. You cannot speak, cannot move, and soon cannot breathe.”
Sounds like fun! We’d better make sure the Bush administration doesn’t find out about this stuff or we’ll start receiving this in the mail with our anthrax letters.