Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

The Magic Island (1929)

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You realize that you are on to something when the book you need to check out for your next non-fiction article was written by a cannibal that tried to kill Hitler with a voodoo ritual.

William Buehler Seabrook was a writer and reporter, an explorer, an occultist, occasionally a cannibal. He served in the Great War and was gassed in action.
While visiting Africa he developed an interest in cannibalism, that led him to acquire a number of medical samples and cook them to try and see what they tasted like. This was in the ’20s.
Then, in ’29, he visited Haiti – that at the time was being controlled by the US, that had invaded it in 1914 – and “discovered” voodoo.

41ZSBRFZBYLThe result of Seabrook’s visit to Haiti was The Magic Island, a learned tome that was to become the reference book on the subject of zombies for the following fifty years (it was superseded in 1985 by The Serpent and the Rainbow, from which Wes Craven made a movie).
With The Magic Island, Seabrook provided information for a number of pulp writers – especially in the weird menace genre.

And the fun bit is, the book is available through the Internet Archive, in a variety of formats, and it is a fun read. Seabrook was a sensationalist writer, but as long as you did not have him for dinner, I guess, he was all right.
Or maybe not – he was also an alcoholic and a sadist, according to his second wife.
Not a very pleasant chap all things considered.

Then yes, in 1941 he held a “voodoo party” to put a spell on Hitler and kill him off.
Evidently it did not work1.
While William Seabrook remains an unsavory character and quite obviously a crackpot, his book on voodoo is certainly worth a read if you are into exotic locales in the golden age of pulp fiction.


  1. but the idea of a zombie Hitler leading the Third Reich into a disastrous Eastern Front campaign does have a twisted appeal. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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