Harley Smith was a 'walking dead'

One of the most feared situations is the possibility of a dead actually walking forth and back the graveyard and being with actual people. The zombies concept has been depicted in movies; as kids I recall not sleeping after seeing such movies and had to stop horror movies eventually. But this story is about Harley Smith, 17, from Alabama who actually visited graveyards ‘just to be close to others who were like me (her) – dead.’

Harley suffered from ‘walking corpse syndrome,' a condition also known as Cotard's Syndrome, an extremely rare disease which makes sufferers believe they are dead.

First discovered in 1788, this illness makes sufferers believe that they are actually dead and see themselves as zombies with feelings that some of their organs aren’t even needed because they are dead or nonexistent.

“In 1880, the neurologist Jules Cotard, described the condition as Le délire des négations (‘The Delirium of Negation’), a psychiatric syndrome of varied severity; a mild case is characterized by despair and self-loathing, and a severe case is characterized by intense delusions of negation and chronic psychiatric depression. The case of Mademoiselle X describes a woman who denied the existence of parts of her body, of her need to eat, and said that she was condemned to eternal damnation, and so could not die a natural death. In the course of suffering ‘The Delirium of Negation,’ Mademoiselle X died of starvation,” according to Wikipedia.

Describing how it started, Harley stated: "My parents had just divorced and I didn't cope with it well but one day when I was sitting in an English class I had this really weird sensation that I was dead and I couldn't shake it."

A visit to a school nurse revealed nothing wrong with her physically.

"As I walked home I thought about visiting a graveyard, just to be close to others who were like me - dead - but there were none nearby so I went straight back to my house and tried to sleep it off," Harley explained.

This feeling didn’t go off, though she thought it would in matters of days.

According to her, "I was out shopping when the sudden feeling returned.

"My whole body went numb and I dropped all the dresses I was holding and ran out of the shop. I felt like I was going mad."

Her studies suffered and no one knew why.

"I'd fantasize about having picnics in graveyards and I'd spend a lot of time watching horror films because seeing the zombies made me feel relaxed, like I was with family," Harley Smith recounted.

Describing how this affected her lifestyle, she said: "I decided to eat whatever I wanted because I couldn't put on weight if I was dead."

Eventually, she spoke to her boyfriend who rather than see her as bizarre, chose to listen. This encouraged her to speak to her dad who encouraged her to get a psychiatric help.

Eventually, Harley was diagnosed with Walking Corpse Syndrome or Cotard’s.

Though rare, she is not alone as there are others suffering from the same condition.

Haley said: "It’s a rare condition where sufferers believe they or parts of their body no longer exist,

"It was so amazing to find out it was a real illness.

"I went online and found stories of other people who suffered from it. They wanted to spend time in graveyards too. It made me feel so much better that I wasn’t the only one."

Reporting the incidence, Mirror quoted her as saying: ‘Watching Disney films gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling. The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty, Bambi – I watched them all. I asked my boyfriend Jeremy, “How can I be dead when Disney makes me feel this good?”.

On her current state of health, Harley, with relieve, said: "Jeremy helped me so much – as did Disney – and we’re hoping to get married soon and then get jobs in Disney World,"

Harley & boyfriend
  • Harley & boyfriend

"Being a corpse was the most bizarre experience, but I’m so glad I managed to get out alive."

Somewhere in Nigeria, Africa, and elsewhere, Harley’s experience would have been attributed actual communication with the dead.

If she attended a church and her pastor got to know of it, they’d have focused on demonism and asked her to fast endlessly. Perhaps, if she eventually mentioned of any encounter with ‘her fellow dead,’ it would have been a basis to further instill fears of a conscious suffering of the dead. For being misdiagnosed, she could suffer till she loses her life.

While prayer is a key to solving lots of problems, it is apparent that lots of conditions require being properly diagnosed and treated accordingly. Even in the Holy Scriptures, Timothy who had severe recurrent stomach was advised by Apostle Paul, a man who believed in prayers and performed miracles, to take a little wine – hence demonstrating that some situations requires medical attention.

We must be balanced in our approach to issues of mental health.

Listening to Harley gave her a much needed help; her boyfriend didn’t abandon her for fears that he was courting a zombie.

Harley also spoke up. When in a mysterious state, speak up to someone close, who can listen and understand. When you can’t find a friend or family member who understands, speak to a professional. You can also mail us on and state if you want others to benefit from you experience under anonymity in our forum.

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