Zombie Reporter

People keep asking me about zombies and since I nearly became one—courtesy of the ghoul, Clément—I’m probably better versed in the subject (the real truth about zombies, that is …) than most.

So let me tell you about a poor half-Irish boy whose mother was Greek. His dad was surgeon-major Charles Bush Hearn. The younger Hearn was born in Lefkada, a beautiful place in Greece that I’ve actually visited. He was taken to Dublin, Ireland, as a child and grew up with a rather lackluster school record. He moved, while still in his teens, to the U.S. where he spent some time virtually penniless until he found he had a lurid talent for writing and reporting on local murders.

Did this lead to his outstanding career of reporting on international matters of the darkest kind? He introduced the English-speaking world to zombies in 1889 in a short article in Harper’s Magazine in which he describes the “corps cadavres” (aka zombies) that turn up in Haiti. He spent two years in the French West Indies for Harper’s and wrote a couple of books about his experiences there. Then off Patrick Lafcadio Hearn went to Japan (another of my favorite haunts) to create quite a name for himself as Koizumi Yakumo, Japanese citizen and author of Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things and other collections of ghostly tales, thus continuing to share his taste for the ghastly in global fashion.

Quite ahead of his time, this traveling lover of the supernatural tale lit a nice little fire and left it to others to peer into the darkness, fan the flames, and stir up that zombie formula. More on that later …

—Erin Orison, DEAD LOVE/The Daily Slice