5 Actual Modern-Day Zombies

They’re alive, and I will definitely need therapy about this!
5 Actual Modern-Day Zombies

It’s a horror movie opening so perfunctory that you could probably take the time to grab popcorn and have missed nothing. We’re shown a person or people, in any number from one to the dozens, who the movie clearly establishes are dead. Full doornail status, doctor confirmed. Yet, the camera’s not quite ready to pan away from the presumed corpse, staying on them just a beat too long, like the loaded gaze of a secret necrophiliac.

Suddenly, some section of the expired stirs, and we would be shocked if we hadn’t just walked into a movie titled some variant of The Dead Become Alive!. It’s bad news for everybody on that side of the screen, as they’re about to have to quickly brush up on their marksmanship and general engineering skills, and hope to god they didn’t decide on shorts and sandals today. 

Now, zombies, at least the cerebrum-starved shufflers of cinema, aren’t real. The idea of someone “dead” coming back to life, though, is a whole lot more common than anyone would like. Here are five examples of real-life zombies who trudged back onto this mortal coil…

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Carlos Camejo

Public Domain

Doesnt look very comfortable, but then again, I guess it doesnt have to be.

If you’re undergoing an autopsy, it’s because something has gone very wrong. It’s also a general rule that, by definition, you cannot be aware of your own autopsy. Unless, of course, the only person who realizes you’re not dead is you. That can present the fascinating situation of doctors starting to cut into an alive man in an attempt to figure out why they died.

That’s the exact situation a Venezuelan man named Carlos Camejo found himself in after a car accident. After the vehicular misfortune, he was declared dead and everything that came with it: transport to the morgue, cold steel table, even calling his wife to identify his body. As soon as they started to cut into his face, though, they realized that he was bleeding, something that’s the behavior of a very alive body. Carlos then woke up from what was the worst nap of his life, and when his wife arrived to identify his body, ran into her presumed-dead husband standing in the hallway outside.

4/num]Guo Liu


“Uh… guys?”

Some deaths feel like they come out of nowhere. They’re an unwelcome, unpredicted demonstration of the fragility of life, something that reminds us how little is guaranteed. Other deaths, well, let’s just say the logic was there. If a guy’s running through two packs of cigarettes a day, it’s pretty obvious where the nails for his coffin are going to come from. So when Guo Liu collapsed one day, presumably in a plume of smoke, nobody was particularly shocked.

Until they had him boxed up, that is. Liu was in the coffin, ready to be buried, when his family reportedly heard wheezing and crying from inside the casket. Now, either Liu’s ghost had already returned with the unfinished business of smoking a full 7-Eleven’s shipment of smokes, or they needed to do a little more examination before putting him below ground. It turned out Liu wasn’t, in fact, dead, despite his efforts to the contrary.

Valdelucio Goncalves

Ralf Roletschek

A jump scare waiting to happen.

I don’t know if I’ve just been trained by years of movies, TV and video games, but if I’m ever in a room with a body bag, you can bet I’m keeping that sucker in my peripheral. Body-bag jump scares have brought back enough of my Resident Evil protagonists for me to never trust one of those corpse-filled dust covers. Even if he was giving it the same wide berth, though, one presumed dead man’s brother must have had an extremely bittersweet blood pressure spike when the bag containing his brother’s body started, in his words, “wriggling.”

When they figured out that Valdelucio Goncalves was still alive, I’m sure they considered it a miracle. A bit of an inconvenient one, though, given that they’d already paid for his funeral. Most shocking is that the not-so-late Goncalves managed to stay convincingly dead even while they were packing his nose and ears with cotton. Waking up a little earlier could have saved everyone not only a lot of heartache, but also a lot of labor and paperwork.

Brighton Dama Zanthe


“Thing's really bouncing around in there, huh?”

This entry is a medical oversight that sounds like the master plan of a complete narcissist. A Zimbabwean man named Brighton Dama Zanthe, widely considered dead, made it all the way to his funeral before returning to consciousness. His body, which also still contained his soul, was on display and was actively being paid respects to when attendees noticed it beginning to move. They, in a move that horror movie protagonists could really learn from, immediately got the fuck out of there.

Once everybody calmed down, they called an ambulance. They loaded the body from the coffin into the ambulance, which is the absolute opposite of how that’s supposed to go, and took Zanthe to the hospital to figure this whole thing out. It turned out they had a very much alive and very much confused Brighton Dama Zanthe on their hands, and after what had to be one of the world’s most exasperated shrugs, sent him home.

Lots of People in the Victorian Era

Public Domain

Would love to be released from the cold earth whenever you get a moment!

These examples are all surprising because we’re generally pretty good at knowing when people are dead these days. We have a fairly solid understanding of things like hearts, blood and brain activity, so when somebody’s put on ice, that’s usually the end of it. Of course, there was a long period where doctors were doing a whole lot more winging it, and that led to people being very afraid of being buried based on guesswork.

So much so that they actually invented and sold what were known as “safety coffins.” These were, outside of a beautifully ironic combination of words, coffins that would allow not-so-expired people buried inside of them to somehow escape or alert people aboveground that they’d made a big time whoopsie. One of the most popular systems was a bell that could be rung by the returned corpse to let everyone know shovels were needed posthaste.

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