There is a floating island south of Mexico City, between the canals of Xochimilco, which translates as “a place of flowers” (incredibly ironic as it turns out). The only inhabitants of this island are dolls. Hundreds of them: hanging from trees, pinned across vines, sitting on the ground, some missing clumps of hair, others a few limbs, all staring straight ahead, unseeing as you walk in their midst. Welcome to the Isla de la Muñecas, popularly known as the haunted Island of Dolls.
The Island of Dolls is actually a floating garden that belonged to Don Julián Santana Barrera, who lived here alone. The garden was discovered only in 1990, when the local council showed up to clean the canal.
The island is now a tourist destination for those inclined towards the morbid. Photo: Creative Commons (bit.ly/1jxQJMa)
Don Julián Santana Barrera has created a legacy of haunting memories on the Island of the Dolls. Photo: Zen Skillicorn/ Flickr/Creative Commons (bit.ly/1jxQJMa)
The legend, if true, is quite unfortunate. Barrera found the drowned body of a little girl in the canal, and believed her spirit haunted the island in the form of a doll that was found floating in the same spot a few days later. He hung it up as a sign of respect for her passing, but when he realised it was possessed by her spirit, he started to hang up more dolls to appease it. He claimed that the other dolls started to host spirits of other dead children as well. More than 50 years and hundreds of dolls later, the island looks like an unkempt and morbid graveyard for discarded dolls. In a chilling twist, Barrera was found dead in 2001, at the same spot that the girl lost her life. Many believed that he made these stories up, driven mad by isolation, and died a very sick man.
After his death, his brother opened the island to tourists, who could walk through this outlandish creation for a small fee. The place looks fairly disturbing in the day so it would be fair to assume it would seem downright menacing at night, so visits after dark are discouraged. Stories about the haunted dolls blinking, moving their heads and limbs are all over the Internet but those aren’t the only contributions to the legend. Tourists have started to bring their own dolls to the island, pinning them up to keep Barrera’s eccentric legacy alive.
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