April 3, 2012

Island of the Dolls

Island of the Dolls, called La Isla de la Munecas by localsAmid the winding canals of Mexico City’s Xochimilco district, there is an island with strange inhabitants. So strange, in fact, that they are quickly becoming infamous worldwide. Hanging from the branches and trunks of almost every tree on the small island are countless mutilated dolls in various states of decay, their sightless glass eyes giving visitors the unnerving feeling of constantly being watched. The place has come to be called La Isla de la Munecas, the Island of the Dolls.

As you can probably guess, there is a story behind how these creepy occupants came to the island.

In the late 1950s, a man named Don Julian Santana became weary of his fellow man and began seeking a peaceful refuge away from other people. At some point, he found a small island south of Mexico City and made up his mind to settle there.

But his solitude was short-lived. The voice of a little girl who had drowned on the island began whispering to him, he claimed, bearing a message whose exact contents are up for debate. Soon enough, Julian began scouring the surroundings for discarded dolls and fishing them from the canals. People at first thought he was an insane old man, rescuing the dolls in the belief they were children he could nurse back to health. In truth, he was placing them all over the island and around his home to appease the spirit he believed was haunting him. He even traded home grown fruits and vegetables for old dolls.

In 2001, Julian’s nephew, Anastasio Velazquez, found him floating face down in a canal, almost at the exact same spot where the girl who had been haunting him had died. Julian’s cause of death was determined to be a heart attack, but some believe he had finally followed the instructions of the whispering voices and entered the murky waters, never to emerge again.

It is said that the dolls on the island come to life at night, moving under their own power and tempting travelers to visit their home in the dark, deadly waters. True or not, the Island of the Dolls is a peculiar and inreasingly popular tourist attraction, bringing in daily visitors and the occasional television program makers.

Image by Esparta Palma

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