The Creepy Walking Dead of Tana Toraja

If you thought that zombies were only a figment of the imagination of storytellers, well, prepare to have your mind blown. If the rituals of the villagers of Toraja, Indonesia, are to be believed, almost every person who dies can turn into a zombie. Apparently, certain people of the village had and still have the ability to make dead people walk. And I don’t mean that metaphorically.

Reading about the funeral rituals of Toraja, I’ve come to realize that there are two separate theories on how the ‘walking dead’ evolved. According to one, in the ancient past, it was believed that a dead man must be buried in his village of origin, and not at the place of his death. Since villages then were far apart and extremely isolated, it was difficult for family members to carry the corpse through long distances. The help of people who could make the dead walk was sought, and the dead man would be able to walk back to the village where he was born. Kind of like a mobile service for the dead, I suppose. So in those days, it was not uncommon to find a stiff, expressionless corpse, walking straight ahead. And it is said that if anyone addressed the corpse directly, it would simply collapse, unable to continue the journey. Imagine the horror!

The second theory about the Toraja zombies is equally creepy. According to this one, the villagers believe death is a long process, and that it takes many years for the deceased to work their way through it, finally reaching afterlife. So elaborate and expensive arrangements need to be made for the funeral, allowing the dead to make the transition smoothly. In the case of a family not being able to afford these arrangements, they could make use of a temporary coffin, until the funds have been collected. Once the permanent coffin has been made ready, the dead are actually raised and made to walk into it. Again, pretty unbelievable.


But then, how would you explain this picture that has been doing the rounds on the internet, of a zombie-like woman, standing with very little external support? While some have said it could be a morphed picture, others argue that it could be a diseased woman, suffering from something like leprosy. Whatever it is, she sure does look very much like a corpse. And the fact that she seems to be looking at and walking towards a coffin in the corner, makes it all the more scary. But that isn’t the only thing the myth of the walking dead id based on. Since the quality of roads around Toraja has greatly improved, most people now prefer to transport the deceased the old fashioned way, but to prove they still know the secret of the walking dead, they mostly perform their mysterious rituals on animals. At funerals, it’s common for the people of Toraja to sacrifice cattle, and after they separate the head from the body, reports say they can make the dead animal rise up and walk for as long as ten minutes…Pretty creepy stuff, but without any real video proof, I’m having a tough time believing it myself.

In the past we’ve written an article on another bizarre burial ritual of Tana Toraja, practiced by a different tribe.

Sources: 1, 2