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The English settlers of Roanoke cut off from England, regularly sent hunting parties to the mainland to find food. One day, one of those parties failed to return. Three weeks later, a lone survivor of the eleven member group appeared at the colony. He told of an attack by “a band of savages . . . their putrid, worm-ridden skin impervious to powder and shot!." Although only one member of the party was killed, four others were badly wounded, succumbing the following day and were buried in shallow graves, only to rise up in just a matter of hours to attack their former friends. The survivor stated that his comrades were eaten alive by the risen colonists and that he was the only one to escape. The disbelieving colony magistrate thought that he killed the other colonists and lied about it, ordering him to be hanged the next day.

Afterward, another expedition of five men was sent to the mainland to try to find and recover the bodies of the first group, “lest their remains are desecrated by heathens.” They came back in a state of near collapse, with scratch and bite wounds all over their bodies. They said that they were attacked by both the "savages" described by the executed survivor and the members of the original group. The men, after a period of medical examination, all died within hours of each other, with burial set the following dawn. However, that night, they rose up and attacked the other colonists. It is unclear as to what happened next. One version told of the eventual infection and destruction of the entire colony. Another had the Croatan Indian Nation, knowing what was happening, killing all the colonists by burning them. Yet another had the Croatans rescuing the uninfected survivors, and eliminating both the zombies and infected wound. All three stories have appeared in fictional accounts and historical texts for the last two centuries; however, none presents a perfect explanation as to why the first English settlement in North America literally vanished without a trace.

The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead
Max Brooks | Solanum | Zombies | Outbreaks | Recorded Attacks