Thursday, June 07, 2012

You Are What You Eat

You've probably read about the naked man in Miami who attacked another man on the street, tore off his clothes, and ate his face. Have you heard about the recent arrest of a man in Joppa, Maryland, for murdering and dismembering another man and eating his heart and brain? How about the man in New Jersey who reportedly pulled out his own intestines and threw them at police?

A person in the office where I work declared (jokingly, I hope) that these events signify the onset of the zombie apocalypse. As Dorothy Sayers says in GAUDY NIGHT, it is the "unpleasant habit" of writers to transmute incidents from life into scenes in books. When I heard that the face-eating mugger "growled" at police before they shot him, my first thought was, "Of course, werewolf." The self-disemboweler, however, fits better into the zombie hypothesis.

Writers draw together unrelated events and observations from daily life to combine them into new creations. In CELL, Stephen King developed the trend for people to walk around apparently grafted to their cell phones into an apocalyptic horror novel in which a signal from their phones turns them into homicidal pseudo-zombies.

The Baltimore SUN last Friday included an article speculating on why cannibals eat their victims. The face-eating mugger is supposed to have been high on "bath salts." Most such cases doubtless involve psychosis, but even psychotics have motives in their own minds, such as Jeffrey Dahmer's belief that by eating his victims he could absorb part of their essence into himself. A lifelong horror fan and writer can't help imagining some incitement more bizarre, even supernatural. Demon possession?

An acquaintance of the Maryland cannibal killer described him as "always in his own little world, preaching everywhere he went and talking about how he was writing a book." Aha, writing books—obviously a symptom of a deranged mind! :)

Margaret L. Carter Carter's Crypt


  1. In reaction to public alarm over these incidents, the CDC has announced there is no evidence of a zombie plague. Interesting double bind there: If a prestigious public agency proactively comments on a hypothesis, even to deny it, the denial in itself implies that there's something going on to be taken seriously. Conspiracy theorists could interpret the CDC's statement as proof that "since they went out of their way to deny it, they must be covering up the truth of the zombie apocalypse."

  2. Some of the literature available today does appear to be depraved in the extreme. I wonder at the public's obvious taste for such reading matter.

    Should writers and film makers bear any responsibility for the ideas they give to the most impressionable members of their audience?