The Raggedy Man is a zombie and the main antagonist of Stephen King's novel Cell and the 2016 film adaption of the same name.
He is one of the zombies which are created due to the virus which is known to the survivors of humanity as ``the Pulse.`` The Raggedy Man often shows up with an army of zombies at his tail; he seems to be a sort of spokesman for the zombie hordes. He is one of the more complicated zombies in the novel, retaining many of his human characteristics and bordering on near-human to absolutely insane.
He possesses a vast amount of near-supernatural powers; reputed to be the sealed-off areas of the human brain which the Pulse unlocked. His main power of choice seems to be telepathy. Unlike the other zombies seen in the novel, he does not levitate. He is first encountered by the human survivors at Gaiten Academy in New England and is seen following them several times towards the end of the novel.
The main agenda of the Raggedy Man is to spread his army of zombies around the planet and convert as many humans as he possibly can to his hordes to swell his increasing army of Undead. After the novel's protagonists Clay, Tom, Alice, Jordan and Gaiten's Headmaster destroy a sleeping flock of Undead which are in the campus grounds, the Raggedy Man labels the protagonists as "insane" and warns other zombies and humans generally not to touch them. Ironically, the Raggedy Man ultimately perishes when Jordan sets off a bomb installed on a school bus in the Kashwak Carnival; the very same base which the Raggedy Man has been using to convert humans into zombies.
When four of the survivors of the Pulse Virus, Clay, Alice, Jordan, Tom and Headmaster Charles Ardai take refuge at Gaiten Academy somewhere in rural New England, Jordan and Alice become worried about the close proximity of the zombie flock which have decided to spend the night on the campus grounds. Headmaster Ardai tells them that they are holding the zombies prisoner, because the zombies will not awaken unless their surrounding boomboxes stop playing music. Alice and Jordan want to wipe the zombies out for good because they feel disturbed at having a horde within the grounds, and that night, Tom, Clay and Jordan all set out to rig up a bomb which will obliterate the flock. As soon as the bomb explodes and kills the entire campus flock, Tom and Clay hear wails of lamentation coming from up north, and the Head suggests that, as the zombies are now developing telepathy, the other zombies have felt what has just happened to their fellows.
That morning, Clay gets a nightmarish vision: Zombies and normal humans are seated together in an auditorium, much like an ampitheatre, and he, Alice, the Head, Tom and Jordan are in cages. Standing right before them is a middle-aged black man who points at them, then at the audience of zombies and humans, and tells them all that the Gaiten survivors are "insane," and are "not to be touched." Initially this message has no reprecussions, but Clay is alarmed at the supposed nightmare and, using his artistic skills, decides to sketch out the elements of the "dream." He finds himself sketching the face of the black man who has labelled him and his friends as insane. All he remembers of the man's face was that his lip was split open, and he wore a red Harvard sweater with a hood. Soon afterwards, the others awake and Clay discovers that they all had exactly the same dream as he did.
The Raggedy Man himself shows up in person, and tells the Gaiten survivors that they must leave, otherwise they will be hunted down and killed (Or so the Raggedy Man wants them to think). Clay and Tom refuse to the Raggedy Man's threat, but then feel obliged to comply when they discover the gruesome botched suicide attempt of the Headmaster, who was going to swallow pills for a clean way out but instead was forced to write the word insane in fourteen different languages and then shove his pen right into his brain, causing him to bleed rapidly to death.
Clay gets the Raggedy Man's message, and after he, Tom, Alice and Jordan bury the Head, the Raggedy Man tells them that the road is theirs, and directs them north to the small town of Kashwak, which they have just heard is an area with no phone signal. The Raggedy Man speaks to them by seeming possession, by forcing his intended human spokesman to forcibly open their mouths and say what he intends them to say, a process which is painful for the human speaker. Clay, Tom, Alice and Jordan make their way down the road.
On the road, Clay discovers that the Raggedy Man, when he labelled them as "insane," he was not speaking only to his zombie flock, but also to regular humans as well, because many humans ignore them and label them as insane, referencing the Raggedy Man as the being who told them this. Whilst the Gaiten survivors call him "the Raggedy Man" the other human survivors call him "the President of Harvard," referencing the man's red Harvard hoodie. Not far into their journey, Alice is brutally murdered by two psychotic humans, and then just before she dies, the Raggedy Man possesses her and tells Clay that her murderers will be punished for touching an "insane" human, and then has the last laugh: He tells Clay that he has Clay's son. Clay vows that this is a lie, but if it isn't, then the Raggedy Man will get a bloody comeuppance.
After Alice's death, the Raggedy Man appears to be universally conducting the hordes of American zombies, because he is often spoken of by other "insane" human survivors. The Raggedy Man has formed a hive mind with his groups and he shows up to confront Clay at various points. The Raggedy Man appears in another nightmare-telepathic vision which he himself instals in Clay's mind, this time directing a horde of normal humans into Kashwak's Carnival in a gross parody of carnival ticket-sellers, but instead of tickets for sale it is mobile phones for free which each zombie attendant gives the human visitor, and once the human answers, then he or she joins the ranks of the growing zombie army. When Clay, Tom and Jordan finally reach Kashwak, their way is blocked by no less than eight thousand zombies, amongst them Clay's own divorced wife. Things make it easier because they have a bus to catch, and the Raggedy Man hitches a lift aboard and enters the carnival with them, suspicious about Clay because Clay has a mobile in his pocket which, if rigged to a bomb, could blow up every zombie within Kashwak and cause the zombie hordes to lose their hive mind mentality. The Raggedy Man reveals that he really did convert Clay's son into one of the horde, and he chuckles before leaving, showing no revulsion even though a survivor named Denise spat in his face. That afternoon, Clay sets the bomb off, hidden in a bus in the carnival. Exactly as predicted, every single zombie is obliterated and amidst the burning chaos, a tattered Harvard hoodie gently falls down to the ground, indicating that the Raggedy Man was simply vaporized. As the hoodie lands, the Raggedy Man seems to have the last laugh: His fading hoodie spells "HAR".
Powers and Abilities
The Raggedy Man was one of the very first humans to be converted into a zombie; it is radical to suggest that he was a student of Harvard University before being converted, as shown by his hoodie. Like Sharon, Clay's wife, he does not "look as bad as some," meaning that he became a zombie without bearing any physical damage - His only injury is a torn-open lip. The Raggedy Man does not utilize any of the supernatural powers seen by later zombies; e.g. he does not levitate, but simply walks, or occasionally floats. He is implied to be only one of thousands of zombie spokesmen scattered across the planet, as each zombie flock needs one individual zombie to address the remnants of humanity. The Raggedy Man hereby represents the basest killer instincts of humanity, as when he answered his phone at the time of the Pulse (three p.m. on October the First) he was immediately infected with the virus and thus reduced him to a psychotic killer. It is implied early in the novel before the Raggedy Man's appearence that this is what the Pulse gave to every human who answered their cell phones at three p.m.
The main power of the Raggedy Man seems to be simply telepathy. Using his telekinetic powers, he was able to force Headmaster Charles Ardai to write out the word insane in fourteen different languages and shove his pen into his eye socket to convince the others to leave Gaiten Academy. The Raggedy Man also expresses levitation in a very minor manner, as he no more than glides an inch above the ground.