Real Life Zombies: The Walking Dead of Toraja

“Real zombies? no way..”

That is exactly what I said when I first was introduced to the walking dead people of Toraja, Indonesia.

Certain Villagers in Toraja have the ability to raise the dead with a specific ritual that they use during the funeral process. I know this sounds crazy, but it has been a part of their culture for thousands of years.

The walking dead of toraja

The “Walking Dead” of Toraja

After seeing this picture of a “walking dead person,” I asked myself multiple questions:

  • Is this lady really dead?
  • Is this lady just terminally ill and about to die?
  • Is this lady 100+ years old?
  • What makes these villagers want to raise a dead person?
  • How did this “walking dead” concept evolve?

So I did some research, and I was able to answer a couple of these questions.

To start, We will never know if this lady is dead in this picture or not. The only way to better understand this is to use common sense and think scientifically. Simply put, a person cannot function anymore when all of the organs of the body stop working. A dead persons heart is stopped which means there is no blood pumping through the body, and no blood getting to the brain.

So if she is really standing up, walking on her own, and she really has risen from the dead, the only possible conclusion is some kind of freaky ritual that actually works.

My first answer to this picture was that she was very ill or very old, but who am I to say that? This ritual has been going on forever in their culture.

During my research, I found some interesting information about the origins of this strange behavior. There seems to be two separate theories on how the walking dead came to be.

Funeral Rituals of Toraja

According to one, in the ancient past, it was believed that a dead man must be buried in the village that he was born in, and not at the place of his death. Since villages then were far apart, it was difficult for family members to carry the corpse from one village to another. Certain people would do rituals that made the dead man walk, and the dead man would be able to walk back to the village where he was born.

Imagine walking to the grocery store, and seeing a dead person making his way back to his place of origin?

Supposedly if they were interrupted or approached, they would just collapse. Pretty creepy.

The second theory about the Toraja zombies is just as scary.

The villagers believe death is a long process, and that it takes many years for the deceased to work their way through it, finally reaching afterlife. So long and costly arrangements need to be made for the funeral, allowing the dead to make the transition the right way. A problem arises when a family cannot afford all of the arrangements. So what they do is  make use of a temporary coffin, until they gather enough money and collect all of the funds. Once the permanent coffin has been made ready, the dead are actually raised and made to walk into it.

Today, there are roads and cars in Toraja and raising the dead is no longer needed to transport the body. Sometimes the villagers like to prove that they still know how to raise the dead so they use their rituals on dead animals.

Take one more look at the picture. Doesn’t it look like the “dead lady” is looking at something in the bottom right corner?

Maybe she is walking towards her coffin.

Research Source:


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12 Responses to Real Life Zombies: The Walking Dead of Toraja

  1. Anonymous says:

    I saw the video on youtube and that woman WAS walking few weeks later i wanted to show a friend the video but it was they only show photos…its still strange to me:/

  2. sang mane says:

    Rite to make dead body walk to his grave is real… i don’t know what the name of that rite… i think it is not “manene”… THAT PICTURE obviously not make dead body to walk… i still remember the ultimate rule of that rite YOU MUST NEVER TOUCH THE DEAD BODY or that body will vanish & you will see dark creature entire your life!!! It is true after christian came to toraja many people leave that rite… Ancestor of toraja known in South Sulawesi “the only one who did not converted to Islam even though Makassar & Bugis people attack toraja many many times to force them become Muslim…” that incident happen before dutch/netherland people come to Toraja… i want to learn that “special skill” but my grandfather already dead when i was kid… too bad my parents who live in city not interest to learn that “special skill”… recently i visit toraja but i never see that happen again… the only thing i ever see in my big family funeral ceremony is an old man smile when a youngster use his machete to cut buffalo throat, that yougster give deep cut because if you can’t bring down buffalo in one single cut in the throat than mostly audiences will shout “Ahh his skill really weak”… first i don’t know what their mean of “skill/knowledge” than later i know that their mean is “DARK SKILL/DARK KNOWLEDGE”…. that old man smile after that youngster fail to bring down that buffalo although that buffalo throat already cut off.. most my family shocked.. after that i still see that buffalo walking around than start running & attack audiences… than someone enter than tell that yougster to move aside/out… later that old man come in.. when he come that buffalo suddenly stop running and that old man swing his machete… i think he swing it not strong enough but that buffalo immediately down & dead… at that time i don’t know why that old man do that but later my family tell me that every single buffalo you bring down in funeral ceremony than you’ll get paid well + you can take a large portion of meat from that buffalo… i think that’s all for now

    sorry for that very long story & sorry my english so bad 🙂

  3. adi prawira says:

    For those unbeliever for this ritual..just come and see it foe yourself to know it. 🙂

  4. Anonymous says:

    That isnt edited photoshop, The zombie is 100% real but she is already dead not alive.

  5. I believe it is the ritual of Ma ‘Nene’ in Barupuu, I think she really is dead, and just being held up to have her clothes changed.

  6. Anonymous says:

    this is not photoshop..
    thia ia reAL..
    i’m from indonesia..
    chek this video..

  7. Anonymous says:

    She has no shadow… Photoshop?

  8. jalin says:

    hi my name is j.

  9. Then again, every photo I can find has a corpse standing with someone’s hand on its back — how hard would that be to fake?

  10. I always see the most interesting topics on your blog. I’m on my way over the to read about this — how weird. I can’t stop my Western ego from saying, “Photoshop,” but my Eastern id is not so sure at all. Fascinating stuff!

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