Indonesian Zombie Photo: Real, Fake, or Misunderstood?

Stories of the dead rising from the grave have haunted our dreams since the dawn of time.  To some cultures, the concept of raising the dead is not merely the stuff of nightmares.  In some regions, this practice still takes place, and to the people involved, it is very very real.

I recently happened upon a photo that purports to depict a real “Walking Corpse” in Toraja, Indonesia.   See the disturbing image below:

In the above photo we see what appears to be a Corpse standing upright.  Next to her is a coffin full of layers of cloth.  Some say that this is an image of a reanimated corpse being led to her new burial spot.

From what I can gather, the Toraja people do practice something akin to the rising of the dead.  It seems that the people believe that death is a long process, sometimes taking years as the deceased gradually works their way toward Puya (the afterlife).   Very elaborate measures must be taken during the funeral to ensure that the loved one makes it safely to that destination.

Because the funeral arrangements are so extensive, they are also very expensive.  For this reason, a body is sometimes placed in a temporary coffin.  During this time, the family can accumulate the necessary funds to pay for a proper funeral, which includes a cave or hanging casket, a multi-water buffalo slaughter, chanting, singing, music, stone and wooden effigies to protect the soul during travel, and so on.

Once the funds are raised, so is the dead.  It seems that the Toraja genuinely believe that the dead are able to walk themselves to their new burial site.  More likely, and what we are seeing depicted in the above picture, is that the somewhat mummified corpse is removed from its temporary coffin and transported upright to the permanent site.  As “corpse walking” is part of the tradition, the body is held in the standing position to simulate ambulation.

Now, as a disclaimer, I am not 100% certain that this is what we are seeing in the photo.  I can only assume.  You’ll notice that the arms are crossed in front of the body as they often are in narrow caskets.  The head is bowed down, almost as though there had been a pillow below it.

Now, some have speculated that perhaps this is a photo of an actual living woman who is suffering from leprosy or some other disfiguring condition.  Others say this is simply a hoax of the Photoshop variety.  I don’t believe it is faked.  When popping the following URL into Google Translate, we can see that at least the writer here believes it is real.


Some interesting info on the Toraja people can be found on the following Wiki entry:

Toraja From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Toraja Burial Site – Peter Ruckstuhl

Now, with all of that said, I cannot help but think about the Wes Craven film, The Serpent and the Rainbow.  That movie scared the wits out of me when I was younger, and this photo and tale of the walking dead brought it all back.




  1. Creepy image … I’d lean toward fake, or diseased person. Did you ever read my review for Serpent and the Rainbow? I think you did.

    • natalina

      Yes I did Bryn. In fact you’ll notice that the title of the movie right here in this article is linked to your review! ;)

  2. The Truth

    Yea, its sure is scarey, knowing that ya gotta spend money to die happy haha, sometimes ya gotta wait. i like it, keeps reminding ya that even in death, money has value.. haha.

  3. Francisco Martinavarro

    It is far fetched to propose that it is a living person with an illness that just so happens to make them resemble a rotted corpse, taking a walk through a bunch of coffins. If you notice, to the right there is what appears to be the coffin she was lifted out of, and there are stains from putrefaction in that coffin. Then in the background are 2 new coffins. So it is most surely a corpse. The most plausible explanation is that the corpse/”stiff” is mummified and is being propped up by the man in the foreground, as well as the lady behind it, whose arm is outstretched. Mummification is the most reasonable explanation, but if that is not true, then perhaps we would have to accept that this is the walking dead!

  4. sarah

    this is true coz my famly are from toraja…even my father said that it already happen so many time ago…not so many people can make the corpse walking..they say that we are not allowed to talk to the walking corpse.

  5. Vulcan

    A couple of points to make. Toraja is apperantly home to a very large Leper colony. Leprosy eats away at extremities, noteably the nose and fingers. An elderly person with Leprosy that has destroyed the nose could easily look like that, its not so far fetched. However I personally think that its just a body being propped up for the reasons mentioned by other comments. This is a well known photo, if the “walking dead” aspect had any merit the scientific community and media would be all over it. I’m sorry to tell you whimsical folks that this isn’t a zombie.

  6. ghost

    land slide survivor….may be…

  7. Anonymous

    looks like that famous “tree man”

  8. If you look at it closely, you can tell that it may well be a real corpse, being held erect by the man on the left. Remember, a corpse is completely rigid once decomposition begins.

    Any deception may have been unintentional because the mind tends to fill in pockets of information– therefore, since it looks like the woman is standing, it is easy to assume she is standing on her own power. But that is the first assumption the viewer draws.

    I do think it’s real but I also think all we are seeing is the man standing up the corpse after removing it from the coffin.

    • natalina

      Thanks for the link Joan. We touch on that in this post as well :)

  9. i saw a zombieeeeeee please help us its here im hideing in my closet teaxing you all day im 5 my parents are dead help me please

  10. mukal

    There’s a mistake of the pict in this article. I’m indonesian from sumatra, my friend from Toraja(this Zombie calture is from toraja), he said pict in the article is not a walking zombie, but the ritual for the zombie changed her clothed.

    And talking about the zombie calture, it is true, it is real. Walking zombie could walk because of the diviner gave his spirit for the zombie and guide the zombie walk to the new mausoleum . If you type of person which only could believe something when you see it in front of your eyes, just go to Toraja-Indonesia, but don’t expect to found the zombie in toraja city, go to the town which far from city, and in case you don’t find any walking zombie when you visit toraja(to make this ceremony need cost about 10million Rp or 300k-400k USD, don’t expect it is happening everyday),please don’t say “walking zombie is such a bullshit” in this area if you don’t want wake up in the morning with head full of water or your dick hang in the wall bt you still alive.

    Well, might be you want ask more about this. You can mention me on twitter @ Mukalofficial. It’s my pleasure to answer as much as I know and become my responsibilty to make anything straight from crooked because it’s happening among my calture.

  11. Knick Knack

    I think it’s a photo of a ritual in Toraja where they make the corpse walk while surrounded by the family before the corpse gets buried.

  12. sang mane

    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 :)

  13. Great article. I’m actually on my way to Toraja where 3 witch doctors have agreed to perform this ceremony using black magic on a dead pig to show how it works and get it on film.

    They have agreed to teach me to do it. Should be interesting!

  14. Anup Mathai
  15. sonia

    I don’t think that’s real,i gotta see it in person to believe that

Leave a Reply