Unlike corpses rising from the grave in George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead, Voodoo zombies are created through a mixture of drugging, religious ritual, and cultural belief.
After being put into a trance-like state that approximates a coma, victims are regularly fed the hallucinogenic drug scopolamine, derived from the Datura stramonium plant, otherwise known as jimsonweed, the zombie cucumber or the Devil’s weed.
Vice Magazine called scopolamine/Datura the scariest drug on the planet because of its ability to completely consume the mind of those who ingest it (see video below).
Webster University Professor Emeritus and Haitian scholar, Bob Corbett, had this to add:
“Eating the zombie cucumber keeps them in their zonked-out state, but otherwise they are just like animals in a pen and will do what they are told to do. Mainly they’re used as slave labor.”
Corbett went on to emphasize that despite the effect of the drug Voodoo zombies have beating hearts, and normal blood flow and body temperature. They need to sleep and eat regular foods, and are not contagious, dangerous or aggressive in the slightest.
Here’s the full Vice documentary about the active ingredient in Datura: