Mexico’s eerie Island of the Dolls

Posted by Gabrielle Jacobs on 25 April 2019

La Isla de las Muñecas or the Island of the Dolls is a spooky haunt in Mexico shrouded in mystery and mired in a sad history.

Nearly 30 kilometres south of Mexico City in the ancient city of Xochimilco, the island is adorned with baby dolls and a few Barbie dolls. They can mainly be found nailed to the trunks or else hanging from trees, many dismembered or mutilated and looking dirty or burnt. In the 1950s, a man by the name of Don Julian Santana Barrero found a young girl who had drowned in the canal and dragged her out, but she was beyond saving. This was a trauma that was to haunt him for the rest of his life, it would seem. Santana found a doll floating near the scene of the drowning, and hung it from a tree in her memory.

What followed could well be the unravelling of Don Julian. Over the next five decades, as caretaker of the island, he appeared to be haunted by the spirit of the little girl. Some cite her helplessness as the cause of his torment, but he eventually placed more and more dolls in trees and around the island, supposedly in order to appease her spirit. The other dolls are rumoured to be inhabited by the spirits of other little girls, although many agree that the island is not haunted or possessed by a spirit of any kind. Santana died five decades after the young girl died, also from drowning, and was found floating in the same spot that he had found the drowned girl.

The locals do apparently feel that the Island of the Dolls is a ‘charmed place’, according to its website. It’s now become a popular tourist stop, with boats ferrying visitors through the canals to the somewhat disturbing island.

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