First, there was that horrific incident in Florida. Now, in Louisiana’s Lafayette Parish, someone else has gone and bitten a man’s face. In Miami, a “copycat zombie” gnawed some paint off a cop car. And each time, something dreadful called “bath salts” might have been involved.
One story is a horrifying, isolated incident. Two are a copycat. Three are a Bona Fide Bath Salts Zombie Apocalypse.
What on earth is happening?
People, stop eating each other. Stop eating cop cars, for that matter. Everyone calm down.
The heading “Zombie Apocalypse” is proving handy. Before, these were isolated crime-page incidents that didn’t float to the scummy top of the news. But now we have a whole category for Horrific Inhuman Crimes: File them under zombie.
The most startling part of this story is that in a given week, there is apparently no shortage of news about people dismembering one another.
In response to the attacks, the Senate has taken action: It has banned bath salts.
If anyone had not been following this story, that sentence might come as a surprise. “Those have literally nothing to do with zombie attacks,” he might say. “What are they doing banning bath salts? Bath salts? I mean, I think most people agree that they are sort of a hassle and they leave strange, lingering, purplish residue in the tub, but I doubt they would make anyone want to go bite someone’s head off.”
Even by the time you explained that bath salts are a form of synthetic cocaine that can produce paranoia and hallucinations — or a set of “amphetamine-like chemicals” that give you the strength of 16 men — or a constantly shifting, bewildering concatenation of chemicals (“our knowledge about their precise chemical composition and short- and long-term effects is limited,” writes Nora Volkow of the National Institute on Drug Abuse) — he might still have a point.
Folks are fairly convinced that bath salts were involved in these attacks. Fairly. It seems consistent, Florida authorities noted.
In Miami, the copycat zombie was on Xanax, marijuana and something called Cloud 9, which the New York Daily News said “can produce hallucinogenic effects similar to ‘bath salts.’ ”
In Louisiana, according to the Shreveport Times, “a friend of the victim said she believes he was using bath salts, a drug police said can cause a state of excited delirium and dangerous behavior.”
“But,” the article continues, “police said they may never know if [Carl] Jacquneaux was under the influence of bath salts, because no blood tests were performed before he was booked into jail.”
If there is one common theme in all these Zombie Bath Salts attacks, it is that we are almost positive that there are no zombies involved and that, well, we do not know whether bath salts were involved. They do seem to match the description.
Sure, this is a substance that you cannot test for because you do not know what it is made of (“Dr. [David] Shurtleff says the drug presents a serious public-safety risk as the composition of the drug continues to rapidly change, making it difficult to determine even how to test whether someone has used the drug,” reports the Wall Street Journal). But it is definitely behind the killings.
I’d almost prefer a demon.
It seemed clear to the cops at each scene that the attacker was on some sort of substance. But is this a case of an epidemic just coming to light, or are we shaping a series of incidents unrelated except by their senselessness and brutality into a comforting, not to say amusing, zombie narrative? The one thing we do know is that we would really, really prefer to think that people did not suddenly go off the deep end and start gnawing on faces. To blame bath salts for the assaults seems like a logical step.
The girlfriend of Rudy Eugene in Miami wants us to know that this was not like him. I would hope so. Honestly, is there anyone out there of whom you hear that he just attempted to eat a man’s face off, and respond, “Oh, yeah, typical George!”
No. He was a quiet, Bible-reading guy with whom she felt perfectly safe. Until he tried to eat a man’s face.
These things used to be easier to explain. We could blame demon possession. We could blame curses. We could blame witch doctors. We could bring teams of exorcists to your home and sprinkle everything with holy water. We could do something. It might not work, but it felt like progress.
Now science has gone a bit further, and we flag exorcisms on YouTube as hoaxes. But still, sometimes these sudden awful things happen. Sometimes, it is well documented; people crack. And we absolutely have to blame something. We need an explanation, stat.
Even demon possession is better than nothing. Bath salts aren’t demon possession, but they’ll do in a pinch.
“You never hear about all the people who do bath salts and don’t cannibalistically attack people,” some lobbyist points out, somewhere.
Still, any excuse in a storm. After all, the only thing scarier than having a zombie problem is not having a zombie problem.