Clairvius Narcisse – A Real Life Zombie!

Clairvius Narcisse (born c. 1922) is a Haitian man said to have been turned into a zombie by a combination of drugs. After investigating reports of “zombies” (including Narcisse and a handful of others), researchers believed that Narcisse received a dose of a chemical mixture containing tetrodotoxin (pufferfish toxin) and bufotoxin (toad toxin) to induce a coma which mimicked the appearance of death. He was then allowed to return to his home where he collapsed, “died”, and was buried. The Canadian ethnobotanist Wade Davis, who did the research on tetrodotoxin explains how this would have been done. The bokor (sorcerer) would have given Narcisse a powder containing the tetrodotoxin through abraded skin. Narcisse fell into a comatose state, closely resembling death, which resulted in his live burial. His body was then recovered and he was given doses of Datura stramonium 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.

According to the American Scientist interview, Narcisse came home to his village after 18 years of being assumed dead. He was able to convince a few villagers and his sister that he was indeed who he said he was. This case puzzled many doctors because his death was documented and “verified” by the testimonies of two American doctors. The case of Clairvus Narcisse was the first potential verifiable example of transforming an individual into a zombie.

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, which at certain doses has a hallucinogenic effect and can cause memory loss. The bokor 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 while buried alive) and returned to his family after another 16 years. Narcisse was immediately recognized by the villagers and his family. When he told them the story of how he was dug up from his grave and enslaved, the villagers were surprised, but they accepted his story because they believed his experience resulted from the power of voodoo magic. He was seen as the man who was once a zombie.


About Andrew

Co-founder & lead investigator of Paranormal Encounters. I've experienced the paranormal all my life, having encountered ghosts, angels and demons. I live in a haunted house and when not exploring and researching the unknown, I enjoy single malt Scotch whisky & potato chips (though not necessarily at the same time).