The Nightstalker was a great resource for horror detective gaming. Fun, not overly complicated, and always moving forward. The plots did not sit idle, a lot was needed to be done in the 50 minutes of each episode, just like a good game. Lots of clues, lots of clue sources, research, a few minor encounters before the main monster brawl. Perfect game rhythm.
In the second episode of The Kolchak: the Nightstalker series (1974) Kolchak encounters a zombie, an undead automaton raised by voodoo magic to avenge its own death.
"Popular folklore would have us believe that there exists in the underworld ruthless men who fear nothing. This story should debunk that myth."
The story opens at night, August 14 at 2 a.m. in a seeding part of town. Inside of a shipping container is a secret counting house of the Benjamin Sposato crime family. The doors are barred from the inside with a stout wooden board as Al Berg, Sposato's incompetent brother in law, is leading a group of mobsters counting and preparing money from their rackets. Among them is Willie Pike, former boxer. A loud pounding on the door begins, shaking the container and cracking the door bar. The mobsters run around in a panic collecting money and shredding documents as the door flies open and a shadowy figure climbs in. The mobsters open fire but the figures fling them aside, grabbing Pike above its and breaking his back. Berg escapes in the confusion. Thus begins the terror of the Zombie.
"Captain Leo Winwood and I had a relationship that was long and bloody, like the Crusades, only without the chivalry."
Kolchak and Captain Winwood verbally duel as Kolchak demands to know about broken backs and about the third body at the Russo farm. Winwood deflects the questions only answering basic questions about the third corpse and abruptly ends the briefing as Kolchak brushes off the attempts of other reporters for info.
A phone call from Gordy leads Kolchak to the black man's second burial at St. Lucie's cemetery as city expense. This is confirmed by an older cemetary worker who thinks they are burying bodies on atop the other. Captain WInwood shows up to watch the burial and encounters Kolchak who throws more questions at Winwood who not so subtlety threatens to break his arms if he doesn't get lost.
A trip back to Gordy's (and another unwanted death lottery ticket) reveals the black man was one Francois Edmonds, a young bookie apparently hit by the Syndicate. Gordy theorizes that Edmond's was almost caught as a bookie and swallowed bookie receipts and the Russo's dug him up for 'exploratory surgery.' Kolchak immediately dismisses this as Gordy reveals there's been problems between the black numbers operators on the south side and the syndicate.
"I saw Victor Friese get his back snapped! I heard it crunch!! ...and the man who did it was dead - dead - and had been dead for over two weeks!"
"You oughta commit this to memory. You oughta really bone up on this, Captain. Especially the part on how to kill a zombie. What's the matter? You can't read? Well, I'll tell you how. You instruct all of your men that go out looking for this zombie to look in places of the dead- in graveyards, in cemeteries, in mortuaries or whatever. Each one of them has to be equipped with the following items- white candles, matches, salt and needle and thread. Now, after you catch the zombie, you pour the salt into his mouth. Then with the needle and thread, you sew the lips very tightly together."
"What do you do with it then, Kolchak? Cook the guy? Baste him with butter?"
"No, you light the candles around him. So far, this zombie has only killed people who were connected to his murder. That's why its so important, Captain, for you to find out how to kill him. "
"And what's that crack supposed to mean?"
"You see that little knickknack there, Captain? That is your coffin. And spelled in blood, chicken blood, on the top of it, is your name, Winwood. W- I-N-W-O-O-D. What it really spells, Captain, is not only are you a crooked cop, you're also a murderous one. How long have you been on Sposato's payroll, huh?"
"Item- Mamalois Edmonds was deported to her native country only one day after the events of the junkyard. Item- Captain Leo Winwood was relieved of duty for "reasons of health. '" Item- Francois Edmonds, the deceased, was buried a third time at public expense. A third time. However, this time rock salt was poured in his mouth, and his lips were sewn shut. City officials will deny this, but you can see it for yourself, if- if-you'd care to venture out to St. Lucy's Cemetery and exhume the corpse. Be my guest. If you've got the nerve."
A corpse raised by a bokor or practitioner of voodoo magic for the purpose of taking violent revenge for some wrong, usually revenge for murder. The corpse is raised up with a ritual of awakening by the bokor and sent to kill those targeted, one victim at a time.
The revenge zombie is of course undead and has the standard zombie undead traits such as immunity to sleep and charm spells, etc. This type of zombie is as fast as a normal human being and moves at the standard human movement rate; they roll initiative normally. The revenge zombie takes half damage from piercing and blunt damage.
The revenge zombie's primary attack is to pummel with its fists for 1d6 damage. If the attack roll hits by 5 or more points the revenge zombie grabs its victim over its head instead of doing pummeling damage and begins to break the victim's back for an automatic 1d8 damage each round. The victim can try to escape the grip in the next round by making a Saving Throw with a -4 penalty due to the zombie's strength.
It must reast in a place of the dead such as mortuaries, graveyards, cemetaries, etc. The revenge zombie will go dormant until revived by the bokor controlling it. While dormant any hp damage done will be 'healed' after eight hours. Even if a revenge zombie is burned, dismembered, or even blown apart it can 'heal' if the remains are placed in a place of the dead. If the corpse is missing parts they can be replaced, stitched on the corpse from another corpse by the bokor. It continues to slowly rot as time passes. This will not affect its statistics, it only makes it look more horrific as it becomes mottled and bloated.
Once the ritual of awakening is started the zombie is animated and unerringly makes its way to the person it is aimed at. It will attack until it is destroyed or its target is dead. Once the target is killed it returns to its resting place to lie dormant and await the next ritual call.
But how did it get on the bus and how did no one on the bus notice?
That's always been a bit of fun fan speculation over the years. Were the seedier folks of Chicago that oblivious in 1974? Did they mind their own business that much?
My own theory is that Mamalois was watching over the zombie as it was animated. When Kolchak destroys it she was seen intensely concentrating and crying out in pain when it de-animated. Perhaps she must upkeep the ritual during the entire animation and she can cast other rituals through this contact such as a glamour to make it appear alive except by those she wished to see it, namely its victims and their allies. Perhaps she could slightly control the zombie's actions? Perhaps she had money in its pockets for bus fare? Ultimately it doesn't matter, just make something up. The unusual and absurd are normal in the Kolchak life.