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The Magic Island

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  89 ratings  ·  11 reviews
1929. The author's West Indian mail boat lay at anchor in a tropical green gulf. At the water's edge, lit by sunset, sprawled the town of Cap Haitien. Among the modern structures were the wrecked mansions of the 16th century French colonials who imported slaves from Africa and made Haiti the richest colony in the western hemisphere. In the ruins was the palace built for Pa ...more
Paperback, 350 pages
Published May 28th 1968 by Lancer (first published January 1st 1929)
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3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  89 ratings  ·  11 reviews


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Malini Sridharan
The Magic Island supposedly introduced the zombie to the west, which is why I decided to read it.

The early zombie flicks definitely reflect the racial tension and American paternalism of Seabrook's travelogue. There is weird mix of disregard and respect for Haitians in his tone. The illustrations are horribly racist, so much so that I had to fold the pages because I felt really gross for looking at them. Seabrook supports the idea of overall white superiority and condescends to black Haitians.
...more
ein Leichter
Apr 17, 2007 rated it liked it
Unlike vampire movies, which can all be said to owe their existence to the novel Dracula, there never was one major zombie novel. However, this book was very influential, and inspired many early zombie films, such as White Zombie (starring Bela Lugosi). Exactly how accurate the book is, is a separate issue.
David
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
Written in 1929, this is a remarkably unbiased account of the author's experiences in Haiti. Ranging from Voodoo rituals to cock fights to mountain hikes, he treats the Haitian people with credibility and respect. The Americans - occupying the island following the assassination of their President in 1915 - are not portrayed in a particularly complimentary (but probably accurate) light. Very entertaining and enlightening. Well worth reading, if only to gain historical perspective.
Aaron Meyer
Nov 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: occult
This is a really good book if you are in to travel literature type stuff. The book covers a long trip to Haiti by Mr. Seabrook and his various adventures upon the island. In the first part of the book you get alot of good first had account of voodoo rituals and songs. In the second major part of the book you get the rest of his adventures throughout the island with a variety of people American and Haitian with stories which cover politics, history, and just everyday life. Nothing in the book is ...more
Aaron the Pink Donut
I have read a number of editions of this book. This edition doesn’t have the photos (quite interesting) or the horrifically racist illustrations of the late 20’s and early 30’s editions. The book has also has been reprinted a number of times under several different titles (jungle magic..Etc). The major flaw with this book is the inherently racist slate and its leanings on the sensational. A great read but take the anthropology information with a grain of salt. This is not a definitive text or ev ...more
Aaron the Pink Donut
I have read a number of editions of this book. This edition doesn’t have the photos (quite interesting) or the horrifically racist illustrations of the late 20’s and early 30’s editions. The book has also has been reprinted a number of times under several different titles (jungle magic..Etc). The major flaw with this book is the inherently racist slate and its leanings on the sensational. A great read but take the anthropology information with a grain of salt. This is not a definitive text or ev ...more
cs
Nov 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I found this book at a library book sale and was delighted to read about the author's descriptions of a little-written-about part of the world during the 1920s. I wouldn't judge it on it's "political correctness" as the term didn't even exist in the 1920's (did it??). What's fascinating is the idea that this book introduced the concept of zombies to western culture! Think about that next time you watch Walking Dead. The author himself was a fascinatingly bizarre character who tragically ended up ...more
Alexandra
Jul 21, 2010 rated it liked it
An enjoyable and engaging read about Haiti in the 1920's. Some of the essays are more realistic, some sensationalistic, calling into question the reliability of the account, despite the author's repeated claims that they are true. Less sensationalistic than many other books on Voudou. Contains exciting travel, political and adventure writing. Seabrook veers far off the political correctness trail, but it could have been much worse for 1929. Appalling illustrations.
Marcy Reiz
Nov 18, 2009 marked it as to-read
Shelves: books-i-own
I have the 1929 edition of this book (recently acquired...it was my great-grandfather's) and it definitely has some very interesting illustrations.. can't wait to read it
Randy
Jul 08, 2008 is currently reading it
Seabrook introduces a new word to the English language: "zombie".
Purple Iris
Nov 25, 2010 marked it as to-read
I am not looking forward to reading this, but probably should as I begin the whole revision process. I'm sure there will be a review!
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Spencer
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Rebecca Babcock
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Aug 23, 2012
María
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Kameelah Martin
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Wouter Dronkers
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Charles Lyons
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« previous 1 3 next »
  • The Undead and Philosophy: Chicken Soup for the Soulless
  • Voodoo in Haiti
  • Every Sigh, the End
  • Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie
  • Wet Work
  • The Quest for Cush (Imaro #2)
  • Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!
  • The Variant Effect
  • Toussaint Louverture: A Revolutionary Life
  • The Happy Zombie Sunrise Home
  • Masters of the Dew (Caribbean Writers Series)
  • A Town Called Dust (The Territory, #1)
  • Enter, Night
  • Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic: A Materia Magica of African-American Conjure
  • Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter from Haiti
  • Life Sentence (Dying to Live, #2)
  • Avengers of the New World: The Story of the Haitian Revolution
  • 28 Days Later: The Aftermath
William Buehler Seabrook was a journalist and explorer whose interest in the occult lead him across the globe where he studied magic rituals, trained as a witch doctor, and famously ate human flesh, likening it to veal. Despite his studious accounts of magical practices, he insisted he had never seen anything which could not be explained rationally.

His book on witchcraft is notable for its thought
...more