c. 1800 bc: Middle Kingdom Egyptians perform rituals in honor of Osiris, who, according to myth, was cut into fourteen pieces by Seth and then later resurrected in the underworld by Isis and Nephthys.
c. 500 bc: Rise of the Ajivikas in India, ascetics who preach, among other things, the possibility for one person’s soul to be reborn in the corpse of another.
c. 30: Three days after his crucifixion, Jesus Christ is said to emerge from his tomb, later telling his followers, “Touch me and see, for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
c. 1197: William of Newburgh, in History of English Affairs, writes, “The bodies of the dead may arise from their tombs and…speed hither and thither, either greatly alarming or in some cases actually slaying the living.”
c. 1400: Icelandic sagas give accounts of draugar, undead who walk among the living and murder, bite off ears, incite madness, kill horses and cattle, and create new undead; the only way to destroy them is by cremation.
1645: Leo Allatius, in On Certain Greek Ideas Today, describes the vrykolaka of Greece and Macedonia, a “monster,” not “like other corpses,” which kills “without laying hold on [people] or even speaking a word.”
1732: Fourteen books are published in Germany on the outbreak of vampire epidemics reported in recent years in Greece and Eastern Europe.
1818: Mary Shelley publishes Frankenstein, in which Dr. Victor Frankenstein gives life to a man pieced together from body parts taken from different corpses.
1932: White Zombie, starring Bela Lugosi, is released. The first feature-length zombie movie is inspired by the account of Haitian voodoo in The Magic Island, by William Seabrook.
1968: Image Ten studio releases George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Pauline Kael calls it “cheaply made, gray and grainy, truly frightening.”
2003: Stephanie Meyer publishes the first of her Twilight books. Among the main characters is a 104-year-old vampire who marries a teenage girl. The books and movies have generated nearly $6 billion in sales.
2011: Zombie entertainment—movies, comics, books, costumes, video games, gatherings, art—reaches an estimated worth of more than $5 billion.
2012: Ke$ha tells Ryan Seacrest on his KIIS-FM radio show that her new song “Supernatural” is about the time she had sex with a ghost.