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Bearnt Kuntzel, a friar on his pilgrimage to , recorded this incident in his personal diary. One zombie wandered out of the to bite and infect a local farmer. The victim reanimated several hours after his demise and turned on his own family. From there, the outbreak spread to the entire village. Those who survived fled into the lord’s castle, not realizing that some among them had been bitten. As the outbreak spread even farther, neighboring villagers descended in a mob toward the infested zone. Local clergy believed that the undead had been infected by the spirit of the devil and that holy water and incantations would banish the evil spirits. This “holy quest” ended in a massacre, with the entire congregation either devoured or turned to living dead themselves.
In desperation, neighboring lords and knights united to “purify the devil’s spawn with fire.” This ramshackle force burned every village and every zombie within a fifty-mile radius. Not even uninfected humans survived the slaughter. The original lord’s castle, inhabited by people who had shut themselves in with the undead, had by then been transformed into a prison of more than 200 ghouls. Because the inhabitants had barred the gates and raised the drawbridge before succumbing, the knights could not enter the castle to purify it. As a result, the fortress was declared “haunted.” For over a decade afterward, peasants passing nearby could hear the moans of the zombies still within. According to Kuntzel’s figures, 573 zombies were counted and more than 900 humans were devoured. In his writings, Kuntzel also tells of massive reprisals against a nearby Jewish village, their lack of “faith” blamed for the outbreak. Kuntzel’s work survived in the archives until its accidental discovery in 1973.
177 A.D., NAMELESS SETTLEMENT NEAR TOLOSA, AQUITANIA ()
A personal letter, written by a traveling merchant to his brother in , describes the assailant:
He came from the wood, a man stinking of rot. His gray skin bore many wounds, from which flowed no blood. Upon seeing the screaming child, his body seemed to shake with excitement. His head turned in her direction; his mouth opened in a howling moan. . . . Darius, the old legionary veteran, approached . . . pushing the terrified mother aside, he grabbed the child with one arm, and brought his gladius around with the other. The creature’s head fell to its feet, and rolled downhill before the rest of his body followed. . . . Darius insisted they wear leather coverings as they pitched the body into the fire . . . the head, still moving in a disgusting bite, was fed to the flames.
This passage should be taken as the typical Roman attitude toward the living dead: no fear, no superstition, just another problem requiring a practical solution. This was the last record of an attack during the . Subsequent outbreaks were neither combated with such efficiency nor recorded with such clarity.
Although this event appears to have taken place on or about 700 A.D., physical evidence comes in the form of a painting recently discovered in the vaults of the Rijksmuseum in . Analyses of the materials themselves fix the date listed above. The picture itself shows a collection of knights in full armor, attacking a mob of ragged men with gray flesh, arrows and other wounds covering their bodies, and blood dripping from their mouths. As the two forces clash in the center of the frame, the knights bring their swords down to decapitate their enemies. Three “zombies” are seen in the lower right-hand corner, crouching over the body of a fallen knight. Some of his armor has been pulled off, one limb ripped from his body. The zombies feed on the exposed flesh. As the painting itself is unsigned, no one has yet to determine where this work came from or how it ended up in the museum.
An attack by seventeen zombies left a prominent cleric infected. The Roman commander, recognizing the signs of a newly turned zombie, ordered his troops to destroy the former holy man. Local citizens became enraged, and a riot ensued. Total zombies dispatched: 10, including the holy man. Roman casualties: 17, all from the riot. Civilians killed by Roman crackdown: 198.
Six small outbreaks among desert nomads were recorded by Lucius Valerius Strabo, Roman governor of the province. All outbreaks were crushed by two cohorts from the III Augusta Legionary base. Total zombies dispatched: 134. Roman casualties: 5. Other than the official report, a private journal entry by an army engineer records a significant discovery:
A local family remained imprisoned in their home for at least twelve days while the savage creatures scratched and clawed fruitlessly at their bolted doors and windows. After we dispatched the filth and rescued the family, their manner looked near to insane. From what we could gather, the wails of the beasts, day after day, night after night, proved to be a merciless form of torture.
This is the first known recognition of psychological damage caused by a zombie attack. All six incidents, given their chronological proximity, make a credible case for one or more ghouls from earlier attacks “surviving” long enough to re-infect a population.
Although the source of the outbreak is unknown, its events are well-documented. The local barbarian chieftains, believing the undead to be simply insane, sent more than 3,000 warriors to “end this mad uprising.” The result: More than 600 warriors were devoured, the rest wounded and eventually transformed into walking dead. A Roman merchant named Sextus Sempronios Tubero, who was traveling through this province at the time, witnessed the battle. Although not realizing that the walking dead were just that, Tubero was observant enough to notice that only the decapitated zombies ceased to be a threat. Barely escaping with his life, Tubero reported his findings to Marcus Lucius Terentius, commander of the nearest military garrison in Roman Britannia. Less than a day away were well over 9,000 zombies. Following the stream of refugees, these ghouls continued to migrate south, moving steadily toward Roman territory. Terentius had only one cohort (480 men) at his disposal. Reinforcements were three weeks away. Terentius first ordered the digging of two seven-foot-deep, inwardly narrowing ditches that eventually straightened to form a straight, mile-long corridor. The result looked similar to a funnel opening into the north. The bottoms of both trenches were then filled with bitumen liquidum (crude oil: common for heating lamps in this part of Britannia). As the zombies approached, the oil was ignited. All ghouls falling into the trench were trapped in its deep confines and incinerated. The remainder were forced into the funnel, where no more than 300 could stand abreast. Terentius ordered his men to draw swords, raise shields, and advance on the enemy. After a nine-hour battle, every zombie had been decapitated, the still-snapping heads rolled into the ditches for cremation. Roman casualties numbered 150 dead, no wounded (the legionnaires killed any bitten comrade).
Ramifications from this outbreak were both immediately and historically important. Emperor Hadrian ordered all information regarding the outbreak to be compiled in one comprehensive work. This manual not only detailed a zombie’s behavioral pattern and instructions on efficient methods of disposal, it recommended overwhelming numerical force “to deal with the inevitable panic of the general populace.” A copy of this document, known simply as “Army Order XXXVII,” was distributed to every legion throughout the empire. For this reason, outbreaks in areas under Roman rule never reached critical numbers again and were therefore never reported in detail. It is also believed that this first outbreak prompted the building of “Hadrian’s Wall,” a structure that effectively isolated from the rest of the island. This is a textbook Class 3 outbreak, and easily the largest on record.
During the Qin Dynasty, all books not relating to practical concerns such as agriculture or construction were ordered burned by the emperor to guard against “dangerous thought.” Whether accounts of zombie attacks perished in the flames will never be known. This obscure section of a medical manuscript, preserved in the wall of an executed Chinese scholar, might be proof of such attacks:
The only treatment for victims of the Eternal Waking Nightmare is complete dismemberment followed by fire. The patient must be bodily restrained, his mouth filled with straw then bound securely. All limbs and organs must be removed, avoiding contact with any bodily fluids. All must be burned to ash then scattered at least twelve li in all directions. No other remedy will suffice as the sickness has no cure . . . the desire for human meat, unquenchable. . . . If victims are encountered in numbers, with no hopes of restraining them, immediate decapitation must be used . . . the Shaolin spade being the swiftest weapon for this task.
There is no mention of the “Eternal Waking Nightmare” victims as actually being dead. Only the section about craving the flesh of the healthy, and the actual “treatment,” suggest a presence of zombies in ancient .
An unnamed Macedonian column built by the legendary conqueror Alexander the Great was visited many times by Soviet Special Forces during their own war of occupation. Five miles from the monument, one unit discovered the ancient remains of what is believed to be Hellenic Army barracks. Among other artifacts, there was a small bronze vase. Its inlaid pictures show: (1) one man biting another; (2) the victim lying on his deathbed; (3) the victim rising up again; and back to (1) biting another man. The circular nature of this vase, as well as the pictures themselves, could be evidence of an undead outbreak either witnessed by Alexander or related to him by one of the local tribes.
During his voyage to explore and colonize the continent’s western coast, Hanno of Carthage, one of Western civilization’s most famous ancient mariners, wrote in his sea log:
On the shores of a great jungle, where green hills hide their crowns above the clouds, I dispatched an expedition inland in search of sweet water. . . . Our soothsayers warned against this action. In their eyes was a cursed land, a place of demons abandoned by the gods. I ignored their warnings and paid the highest price. . . . Of the thirty and five men sent, seven returned. . . . The survivors sobbed a tale of monsters from the jungles. Men with fangs of snakes, claws of leopards, and eyes burning with the fires of hell. Bronze blades cut their flesh but drew no blood. They feasted upon our sailors, their wails carried on the wind . . . our soothsayers warned of the wounded survivors, claiming they would bring sorrow on all they touched. . . . We hastened to our ships, abandoning those poor souls to this land of man-beasts. May the Gods forgive me.
As most readers know, much of Hanno’s work is controversial and debated among academic historians. Given that Hanno also describes a confrontation with large, ape-like creatures he dubbed “Gorillas” (actual gorillas have never inhabited that part of the continent), it can be inferred that both these incidents were a product either of his imagination or those of later historians. Even with this in mind, and disregarding the obvious exaggerations of snake’s fangs, leopard’s claws, and burning eyes, Hanno’s basic description does closely resemble the walking dead.
A British dig in 1892 unearthed a nondescript tomb. No clues could be found to reveal who the person who occupied it was or anything about his place in society. The body was found outside the open crypt, curled up in a corner and only partially decomposed. Thousands of scratch marks adorned every surface inside of the tomb, as if the corpse had tried to claw its way out. Forensic experts have revealed that the scratches were made over a period of several years! The body itself had several bite marks on the right radius. The teeth match those of a human. A full autopsy revealed that the dried, partially decomposed brain not only matched those infected by Solanum (the frontal lobe was completely melted away) but also contained trace elements of the virus itself. Debate now rages as to whether or not this case prompted late Egyptian specialists to remove the brains from their mummies.