In August 1964, a very strange yet fascinating document was secretly prepared for senior personnel in the U.S. Army and the Pentagon. Its title was Witchcraft, Sorcery, Magic, and Other Psychological Phenomena and Their Implications on Military and Paramilitary Operations in the Congo.
It was a document written by James Price and Paul Juredini, both of whom worked for the Special Operations Research Office, SORO, which was an agency that undertook top secret contract work for the military.
The document, now in the public domain via the terms of the Freedom of Information Act, is a fascinating one, in the sense that it focuses on how beliefs in paranormal phenomena can be successfully used and manipulated to defeat a potential enemy.
The bigger the belief in the world of the supernatural, noted Price and Juredini, the greater the chance was that a particularly superstitious foe could be terrorized and manipulated by the spreading of faked stories of paranormal creatures on the loose, of demons in their midst, and of ghostly, terrible things with violent slaughter on their monstrous minds.
Interestingly, one portion of the document deals with a classic aspect of the zombie of the modern era: its terrifying ability to keep on coming, even when its body is riddled with bullet upon bullet. In the example at issue, the authors reported that:
“Rebel tribesmen are said to have been persuaded that they can be made magically impervious to Congolese army firepower. Their fear of the government has thus been diminished and, conversely, fear of the rebels has grown within army ranks.”
That was not all: rumors quickly spread within the army to the effect that the reason why the rebels were allegedly so immune to bullets was because they had been definitively zombified.
Not in Romero-style, but by good old, tried and tested Voodoo techniques.
The rebels, entire swathes of army personnel very quickly came to believe, had literally been rendered indestructible as a result of dark and malignant spells and incantations.
On top of that, the minds of the rebels, controlled by a Voodoo master, had been magically distilled, to the point where they were driven by a need to kill and nothing else. Or so it was widely accepted by the Congolese military.
It transpired, as one might guess, that the stories were actually wholly fictional ones. They were ingeniously created and spread by none other than the rebels themselves, and with just one purpose in mind: to have the army utterly convinced that the rebels were unbeatable and indestructible.
Such was the ingrained fear that infected the army, the brilliant piece of disinformation was accepted as full-blown fact – as was the belief that fearless, and fear-inducing, zombies were roaming the landscape and who were impervious to bullets.
The result: the rebels delivered the army a powerful blow of a terrifyingly psychological kind. While the bullet-proof zombies of the Congo never really existed, for all of the stark fear and mayhem they provoked, they just might as well have been the real thing.