Into the Zombie Underworld
Credit: Photograph by Ben Lowy
V

Article 246 of the haitian legal code explicitly condemns zombification, specifically the "use of substances whereby a person is not killed but reduced to a state of lethargy, more or less prolonged…. If, following the state of lethargy the person is buried, then the attempt will be termed murder."

But Judge Etienne did not believe that Article 246 applied to either Mano or Overne. These men, he reasoned, had confessed to employing magical means to zombify Nadathe, not a "substance," and there is no provision in the Haitian legal code for the punishment of sorcery. Judge Etienne told me that he had no choice but to release the men – much to his displeasure.

He was convinced, though, that the men had transformed Nadathe into a zombie, knew where the zombie was, and could help Madame Zicot get her daughter back. For this reason, having held the men in his home for two days, very early in the morning of Sunday, January 21, 2007, he gave the accused back to the leaders of the mob, who headed up the mountains in the direction of Carrefour Charles.

Several hours later, the judge received a series of urgent phone calls from that village. The situation had become tense. By the time Judge Etienne was able to get to Carrefour Charles, he found the men he had released that morning on the front porch of Madame Precieuse St. Louis, the accused sorceress. Witnesses said the men looked like they had sustained another beating. Madame Precieuse had barricaded herself in her home.
Judge Etienne spent 15 minutes or so talking with Madame Precieuse, asking her if she knew the whereabouts of the zombie. She categorically denied any knowledge of the incident.

The intensity of the crowd made further discussions untenable. Judge Etienne ordered both Mano and Overne arrested and took Madame Precieuse into custody as well – for her own protection, he said. All three were transported to the central prison in Jérémie. Four days later, Judge Etienne ordered Madame Precieuse freed. Mano and Overne remained in jail for almost two months, charged with a crime that doesn't exist – "sortilege," or sorcery. Then both men were released as well, on the orders of a higher judicial authority in Jérémie. Within days they were back in Joseph, where the local population hacked the men to death with machetes.