My meeting with a zombie

Posted on January 11, 2012

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Claimer: Some things come with a disclaimer, stating that some of the information presented may not be accurate. This is a “claimer.” The following is true. I have included nothing that I do not directly remember and that I have not also confirmed with my eye-witness. Keep that in mind as you read.

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This happened around 1976 or 1977. I was looking for a new job, and ran across an ad for a “social worker” dealing with drug addicts. My experience in social work was extremely limited. On the other hand, ever since I’d walked across the street to a newspaper office and landed myself a column, getting jobs for which I was hardly qualified had started to seem normal, so I figured I had nothing to lose.

I arrived at the address on St. Clair Ave. West (north side), and was ushered into the storefront operation by a tall black man who moved slowly and deliberately, but never said a word. On the right was a large room suitable for group meetings, but he took me to the room on the left, which was obviously an office. It contained a lovely wooden desk, a couple of comfortable chairs facing it, and a wooden cabinet with closed doors along one wall. The head of the operation sat behind the desk, a short black man with a neatly trimmed beard. I sat in one of the chairs for the interview. The taller man didn’t leave, but neither did he do anything else. He didn’t speak. He didn’t move. He just stood in a corner. The man behind the desk, whose name I forget, told me he had a new method of dealing with addicts that had proved successful in his native Haiti, and he was expanding his operation in Canada.

Following our discussion, he agreed to take me on, and I headed home.

The whole thing struck me as extremely strange, however, and I turned around and went back. When I was in his office again I said, “Look, I don’t really care what you’re doing, but I have to know. What is really going on here?”

After thinking for a moment, he opened up the wooden cabinet, revealing a mass of candles and some very real-looking human skulls. He then proceeded to tell me that he had an army of zombies in Haiti — that in fact, the tall black man was one of them — and he wanted to do the same thing here.

Well, that explained everything. It was, after all, the ’70s, and weird cults and “spiritual leaders” were pretty much a dime a dozen. It was an interesting conversation, but I left knowing there was no way I was going to get involved.

At home, I told my wife (my first wife, whom I’m calling Valerie in this blog) about the encounter, and she was fascinated enough that I agreed to go back and take her to meet him.

We went back the next day, or possibly the day after. We were ushered into a large kitchen in the back, with a table big enough for eight or ten people. There was also an easel with a pad of flip-chart newsprint on it. (Remember this flip chart.) I think we had some tea while the Zombie Lord talked to us for a while. Afterwards, he took us back into his office. Valerie sat to my right.

I don’t really know what happened after that.

I know that we seemed to be having a conversation, but I also noticed that nobody’s mouth was actually moving. In fact, it dawned on me that none of us had said anything for a long time, and that the man behind the desk was simply staring at my wife. I turned my head (which seemed to take a long time) and saw that she was just sitting there looking back at him.

I knew that something was terribly wrong, and I seemed powerless to do anything about it. I tried to speak, but couldn’t. I turned my head back to look at him, and as hard as possible I thought, “You bastard!”

To my surprise, he turned away from my wife with a sudden start, and looked at me with a smile.

I don’t know exactly what happened after that, but swearing at him in my mind seemed to break the “spell,” and a little while later my wife and I were walking out the door. Much to our surprise, we discovered that it was now dark out. While our time sense seemed a bit distorted, neither of us felt we’d been there longer than an hour — two hours at most. It was summer time, and we’d arrived in the early afternoon. Darkness seemed impossible, but despite our objections — there it was.

We went to a nearby restaurant and did our best to recall the recent events while they were still fresh in our minds. Not that there was much to remember.

That was the end of that.

But there is a codicil that is perhaps even more disturbing than the event itself.

Zakes Mokae — image from filmdope.com

Years later, I and my second wife (the lovely lady to whom I’ve been married for over 30 years) rented the movie, The Serpent and the Rainbow. When the Zombie Lord, Peytraud (played by  Zakes Mokae), appeared, I almost fell out of my chair. He was the spitting image (at least in memory) of the man who had apparently held me in thrall so many years before.

But that wasn’t the disturbing part.

We’d watched the movie with our good friend Richard, and afterward I told him about my encounter. When I reached the point about going into the kitchen he stopped me.

“This is going to sound weird,” he said, “but — was there a flip chart in the kitchen?”

“Why would you ask that?” I said when I’d managed to get my voice back.

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I just had this mental image of him standing there with a flip chart behind him.

Now seriously — what the hell are you supposed to do with an experience like that?

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