7 real-life reanimations that have us fearing a zombie uprising

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Evan Hoovler
Dec 16, 2012

We've been stockpiling weapons for months in anticipation of Sunday's Walking Dead premiere. Even more, we've been researching to find out whether, in fact, science can create a zombie apocalypse. The answer, fortunately, is "not yet." However ...

... we found seven disturbing examples of reanimation (or attempted reanimation) that make us afraid to enter a graveyard unarmed:

Giovanni Aldini Plays a Young Frankenstein

In the early nineteenth century, scientists were still trying to break out of the stereotype of "possible warlock who should be killed for heresy." One man who certainly didn't help this cause was Giovanni Aldini. Giovanni Aldini did "experiments" with corpses that were, well, just look at the pictures:

We feel awful for this guy's housecleaner

Aldini was interested in the effect of current on deceased muscles, specifically "what happens when you shock the crap out of corpses." Obtaining plenty of bodies from the local authorities, who were fond of executing people for pretty much anything, Giovanni set to work. He was convinced that electricity was the link that connected the brain to the muscles. Using current and corpses, Aldini made the dead bodies jerk and move.

"I'll make this headless horse dance while we pop-lock"

Aldini's experiments with shocking corpses became so popular that he performed a live demonstration. (And you thought today's entertainment rotted brains ...) Giovanni moved on to attempting to treat personality disorders with electric shocks, so he's probably the father of horror films that take place at insane asylums.

Scientists Reanimate Dogs

Pittsburgh's Safar Center for Resuscitation Research conducts studies on the best ways to bring victims back to life after trauma. One day, they decided to start screwing around with replacing the blood of dogs, probably because they were bored. Researchers drained the subjects of all their blood and filled their empty veins with ice water. Apparently this preserved the dogs, while also probably helping them be calm decision-makers during a crisis.

"That sounds mean, can't we just make a nice jacket out of them?"

Three hours later, when the dogs seemed pretty darn dead, scientists replaced their blood. A little bit of oxygenation and some gentle really-hard-shocks-to-the-heart later, the dogs were doing just fine. Physically, at least.

Live Tissue From Dead Skin Cells

Stem cell research has faced opposition from those who don't want scientists harvesting live fetuses. Some genius British scientists may have found a loophole. At the Newcastle Centre for Stem Cell Biology, researchers took arrested embryos and used them to make living stem cells. The ethics are still gray, as there is no concise definition on what makes a stem cell "dead." Still, the possibility of using a dead thing to create new life has far-reaching zombification ramifications.

We could one day have zombies that walk around growing spare organs.

The Walking Corpses of the Toraja

One of these people is dead. Can you spot which?

The Toraja live in the mountains of Indonesia. In the 1970s, their land became a tourist spot and the once-remote tribe blended customs. Before then, however, they were known for an eccentric legend. It is passed down among the Toraja that dead people walk around before being buried. We can't say whether this legend is true, but we can provide some freaky photographs of Toraja corpses on parade.

They may be able to walk, but the dead still make lame party guests

A classic Toraja burial ritual involves Weekend-at-Bernie's-ing a corpse up to its house, then changing its clothes. We can just imagine the horrific heart-to-heart conversations parents had with their children:

"I have bad news: Grandma died. That's not the worst part: You get to strip her naked."

Cryobiologist Reanimates Rats

In the 1950s, the field of cryobiology was so new, it didn't even have a name yet, so budding cryobiologists didn't always have the exact tools they needed for a particular procedure. James Lovelock was one such scientist, and he outlined a method to bring rodents back to life.

Maybe not this one

Lovelock's procedure involved putting a rat in a bath at minus 5 degrees Celsius for 90 minutes. After the rat was good and frozen, Lovelock would attempt to bring it back to life. Back then there weren't fancy lab tools like rat heart defibrillators, so Lovelock brought the rats' hearts back with a warm spoon.

He probably had to fight a constant urge to play "Oh Susanna"

By restarting the heart, and gradually warming the body, Lovelock brought the mice back to life. Although we can't say that's what the mice would have wanted.

Professor Shocks Dead Criminals

The 1900s were a tumultuous time, especially for dead people seeking corpses' rights. As such, professor Alfred Hoche was allowed to experiment on a freshly executed criminal. After carefully considering the avenues this opportunity could open, Hoche decided the best course of action was to shock the body and find out what happens.

This is pretty much what happens

A freshly decapitated criminal was given to Hoche, who immediately ran a current through the spinal cord. The body jerked and flailed about for nearly 10 minutes before finally deciding it was dead and ceasing to move. Onlookers were so amazed that Hoche was allowed to repeat the experiment with a second fresh corpse. All this was for nothing, however, as Hoche concluded the loss of movement when electrified was due to the body cooling and losing blood. Which couldn't be more wrong.

Communists Reanimate the Head of a Dog

The year was 1940. War had broken out in Europe, and tensions were mounting on the Eastern front. Every day, Russia felt the pressure of Axis powers creeping in like the bitter chill of a Soviet winter. A move needed to be made, something that said, "Hey, you silly Axis powers, don't bring your Nazi gun shooting over here!"

The solution? Make a video in which your scientists seem to have supernatural powers.

Just a few pumps, and you've got a creepy puppet show

We're just going to skip right to the meat of the video, and not cover the parts where Soviet scientist necromancers keep a heart and a lung functioning while solely hooked to tubes. All of this is in the 1940 medical video "Experiments in the Revival of Organisms." The exact medical purpose of these "experiments" is unknown, besides to announce to the world "don't try to fight us unless you want an army of zombie heads chasing you down." The centerpiece of the film is an experiment where scientists take a dog's severed head and make it come to life.

This is just about the cutest picture of a dog's severed head we've ever seen. In fact, it's so cosmetic we're going to go ahead and suspect that it's fake. Helping our argument is how nonplussed the dog's head is, once reanimated it glances around nonchalantly. If we came back to life as a severed head in a lab with a bunch of wires sticking out of us, we'd do nothing but scream. There's probably an unseen hole where the dog's body is tucked out of sight. You've got to wonder about a set of doctors that would fake such a thing, though. Whether the resurrected heart in the video is real, we can't deduce. If you've got the stomach, decide for yourself:

Despite ample warnings from the modern media, scientists continue to toy around with bringing the dead back to life. We're quite afraid that they will succeed, the government will step in, and everyone will become a soldier slave after they die.

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