Author Dr. Bob Curran explored beliefs, folklore, and truths regarding zombies, the frightening manifestation of the dead returning. Ancient cultures, such as the Viking, Egyptian, and Celtic all believed in the idea that the dead could return from time to time, in physical form. During Medieval England, certain days were set aside for visitations from the "blessed dead"-- who were said to return to warn, advise and enjoy physical activity, he added. It wasn't until Victorian England that the idea of ghosts as apparitions rather than solid forms took hold, he explained.
The condition of catalepsy, where living people were sometimes mistaken for dead, may have accounted for some cases of zombie-ism, Curran noted. The expansion of the medical profession in the late 1700s created the need for grave-robbers or "Resurrectionists," and they sometimes delivered bodies which actually were still alive-- contributing to the zombie lore, he commented.
In the Caribbean, and later in such US cities as New Orleans and Charleston, the slave trade brought in the practice of voodoo, which combined elements of African religion with French and Spanish Catholicism, said Curran. He also touched on the Jewish legend of the golem, a zombie-like creature said to be made out of clay, and the "living mummies" of Japan, a group of Buddhists who slowed their bodies down through diet.
First hour guest, author David Skal talked about horror films, and some of the early actors associated with them, such as Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Lon Chaney. The appeal of horror films may lie in the thrill of fear, which acts as a stress releaser like laughter, he said.