Can the Undead Be Killed? (A Handy Guide)

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By: Andrej Jovanovski

How Do You Kill That Which Has No Life?!

As long as death has been around, the fear of the dead coming back to life has been something that has boggled the minds of humans.

These creatures have been known to be notoriously difficult to get rid of, be it zombies, vampires, ghouls, skeletons, banshees, wraiths, etc., these creatures have been known to be notoriously difficult to get rid of, but the question still stands…

Is it possible to kill the undead?

Even though they are not alive, there are known methods to kill that which is already dead, just remember that these methods DO NOT work on every form of undead.

Before we look at the methods, it is important to look at what classifies as undead. So let’s see if the undead are unliving, undying, or just the dead that are brought back to life.

portrait of an undead human
What are the Undead?

What Does it Mean to be Undead?

Undead are mortal beings that are deceased but behave as if they are alive, caught in a state called undeath. They can be either incorporeal, such as spirits, or corporeal, mummies, vampires, zombies, etc.

One of many ways for a corpse to become undead is through reanimation by supernatural forces and magic, demonic and spirit possessions, radiation, and pathogens.

However, it is possible for the living to become undead, which is mostly done through either an infection or a bite.

Even though there are ways to prevent the living from becoming undead in movies and video games, most commonly done through vaccinations, such medication is yet to be found in the real world! 

Are the Undead Immortal?

Answering this question is hard, since most undead are immortal, yet they can be banished from this world, and some even killed. 

This means that the immortality most undead possess prevents them from dying of age or illness, this form of immortality is called biological immortality.

This is not to say that there aren’t undead that possess immortality, eternal life, which allows them to have a never-ending existence, regardless of whether or not their body dies.

One undead that possesses such immortality is the lich, a human who gave up its mortal form to achieve eternal life. The only known way of stopping a lich is by banishing it into another realm, since true death, destroying their soul, is impossible.

Ways of Killing the Undead 

There have been a lot of different methods that have been used to kill the undead, however not every undead can be killed by the same method. For example, the things you’d need to kill a vampire aren’t helpful when it comes to killing a zombie or a banshee.

Let’s take a look at the most common methods that have been used in the past.

First, let’s take a look at ways to kill a vampire.

Everyone knows that garlic is one way to ward off and even kill a vampire, but not a lot know why that is the case. Well, garlic is often called a purifier, especially because of its blood purification ability, and since vampires are seen as impure, garlic manages to burn the vampires.

Another method that everyone gets wrong is with a special bullet, however, contrary to popular belief we are not talking about a silver bullet. The bullet that can harm or kill vampires is a blessed, or sacred, bullet.

The last known method is by stabbing the vampire with a wooden stake, which doesn’t have to go through the heart as long as you stab it in the chest.

On the other hand, killing a zombie is much easier.

an undead horde under moonlight
A horde of the Undead

Since zombies are usually mindless corpses that are in a state of undeath with the help of a pathogen, the best way to kill a zombie is by decapitation or a severe injury to the corpse’s head.

Just like the zombies, ghouls can be killed by decapitation or destruction of the head.

As there are two main types of banshees, that being the Malevolent and the Ghost banshees, let’s have a look at how we can get rid of these evil spirits.

The only known way to kill a malevolent banshee without any magic is by using pure gold, be it a golden bullet, sword, or even a knife. However, the ghost banshees can be killed with salt, or, just like with any other ghost, you can kill the ghost banshee by burning her remains.

Wights are another form of undead that possess biological immortality, yet one can kill them either by using precious metals or fire.

Make sure to keep in mind that fire and sunlight are the greatest enemies of almost all undead, as if the previous methods don’t work, these two will make sure to give you more time to sort out a plan! 

Ways of Dealing with the True Immortal Undead

As previously mentioned, a lich has achieved eternal life, which means that killing it is impossible. This trope is called Nigh-Invulnerability, which is a result of an undead not needing their internal organs to be able to move.

Such invulnerability is also possessed by skeletons, that have been known to reassemble their bones in order to keep going.

One way of dealing with Nigh-Invulnerable undead is by either banishing them into a different reality or burying them deep in the ground so they won’t be able to come back.

Common Misconceptions

With the rise of fantasy TV shows, movies, and video games, we’ve started to encounter a lot of misconceptions about how we can deal with the undead.

One of these misconceptions is that the previously mentioned methods work for every type of vampire, however, this is not the case. Even though vampires are damaged by the sun, this isn’t always the case as there are more than a few types of vampires that are called day walkers.

Another misconception is that skeletons can be killed if you destroy the skull, but more often than not, people tend to forget that skeletons are a raised army, which means they can find a different skull to keep going.

Although vitamins and antibiotics will slow down the infection of a zombie bite, they won’t stop the process of turning into an undead flesh-eater.


How to Kill a vampire , Accessed 9 August 2021
Zombies: Can you Kill the Undead? , Accessed 9 August 2021
Nigh-Invulnerability , Accessed 9 August
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