Into the Zombie Underworld
Credit: Photograph by Ben Lowy
IV

A precise transcription of judge etienne's interrogations of Mano and Overne does not exist, but he took notes in French summarizing their statements, which were made in Creole. The judge allowed me to copy these from his private notebooks.

Judge Etienne began with Mano. "Is it true that you are a sorcerer and responsible for the death of Nadathe? How do you reply to this accusation?"

Mano: "Monsieur le Juge, I have for a long time courted Nadathe – but being engaged to a man she loves, she has never hesitated to respond to my entreaties, calling me a trivial man.… In order to avenge this insult, I went to the house of my superior, Joseph Overne, the man who initiated me as a sorcerer, with the aim of deciding what punishment to give her. We decided to kill Nadathe by one of our fetishistic procedures."

The judge told me that Mano spoke softly, with what the court's clerk later described as an air of sadness and regret – as if the whole nasty business had just slipped out of control. He began to cry.

He paused, then continued: "Overne was more competent than me in the composition of these powders, particularly the powder by which Nadathe was killed. This powder, on account of its rapidity and power, is sometimes compared to the speed of thunder: poud loraj, or 'storm powder.' When we had completed the composition of this powder, I placed it in the middle of the little path where Nadathe passed every morning. Then I called her. I was three meters away from her. I saw her coming toward me. She said, 'What do you want, Mano? What's going on? Why are you calling me?' But for the magic of this trap to work, I was not able to respond."

Mano looked around the room. This was a point on which he was insistent. His voice was choked. "I could not respond!" he said.

"I kept my silence, and Nadathe went up the path to the church, where her youth prayer group was meeting. At this moment, the outcome was decided.… Several hours later, she gave up the ghost."

A cry rang out in the small rural courthouse: "We have found the criminals! They killed Nadathe!" and the crowd exploded. Madame Zicot began to weep, and even the judge himself was forced to stand up and walk outside to wipe the tears from his face. Only after several minutes did he bring the proceedings back to order.

"The body was buried at 5 pm Friday," Mano said. "By 9 pm we were in possession of her zombie. The next day, Saturday, we held a meeting of our band of sorcerers.… We decided to take the zombie to Chardonette, passing by the village of Carrefour Charles. But we were held back there and forbidden passage by the chief sorcerer of Carrefour Charles. According to the rules governing occult societies, we needed to have a laissez-passer signed by the departmental chief, allowing us to transport the zombie. As a result, the zombie of Nadathe was seized. Not having the appropriate papers, we went back home, empty-handed – for this was an act we had performed without the approval of our chief. We had thought we could take the zombie as contraband, without papers! But this, unfortunately, did not bear fruit.… Now the zombie can be found in the hands of the chief of Carrefour Charles, Madame Precieuse St. Louis."