Tucked away in a pocket of Mexico City’s Parque Ecológico de Xochimilco is a small promontory known as the Island of the Dead Dolls. However, it is not really an island. It’s a bulbous peninsula that juts out into Lake Huetzalin, near many of Mexico City’s canals. But the doll part? That is dead-on.
What is the island of dead dolls?
Also known as the Island of the Dolls (as if This is less menacing), it’s one of the most unsettling places you’re likely to visit. It’s a nightmarish, overgrown landscape where countless dolls in various states of decay are pinned, tied, and nailed to trees and to the few buildings that dot the area. They stare, lifeless and haunting. And if the rumors are to be believed tracked.
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Now of course we know that ghosts and spirits are not real. Today the island is a tourist attraction, not a place to be found Is correct paranormal activity. But after looking through pictures of the island of the dead dolls, you’re wondering if you want to be there alone. After dark. The answer is probably an emphatic one noeven if you don’t believe in ghosts for a second.
To save you a fact-finding trip to the Island of the Dolls in Mexico City (or as trip inspiration for some), let’s take a look at why all those dolls are there in the first place.
Don Julian Santana Barrera, the hapless owner of the island
The origin of the Island of the Dolls in Mexico City (or Island of the Dead Dolls, or Isla de las Munecas, make your choice) goes something like this. Don Julian Santana Barrera, who owned the property, spotted a young girl in the water and pulled her out of the canal, only to find that she was dead. Then he found a doll floating near the drowned girl.
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Assuming the toy belonged to the child, Barrera attached the doll to a nearby tree for use as a memorial. Instead, so the story goes, it served as an invitation to haunt. Soon Barrera heard footsteps and whispers in the night. Fearful of being pursued by the girl’s ghost, Barrera began leaving more dolls hanging around the island in hopes of calming the restless ghost and ending the haunting.
Apparently it never ended. Barrera died of a heart attack, his body was found not far from where he had pulled the dead girl from the canal. It’s not old folklore either. Don Julian Santana Barrera lived on the island for decades, beginning in the 1950s. He died relatively recently, in 2001.
What do the dolls represent?
The first doll hung by Don Julian Santana Barrera was intended as a token of respect for the drowned girl. And as previously mentioned, he reportedly began hanging other dolls to pacify what he believed to be a restless spirit. But soon Barrera was reported to have been hanging dolls in awe of other young women who tragically perished.
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In his eyes, the island was a place of homage to many girls who had died before their time. However, in the eyes of others, Barrera had lost touch with reality and was exhibiting worrisome behaviors.
To be fair, however, Barrera wasn’t entirely sane even before he found the dead girl, according to Discovery. His decision to move to the overgrown island is in question. Many have doubted his story over the years. Barrera sometimes claimed that at least some of the dolls appeared of their own accord and that he had no part in hanging them. It’s also questionable if it ever will was a drowned girl who inspired the hanging doll.
The recent history of the island of the dolls
The claim that puppets magically materialized is clearly false. This also applies to dolls that whisper and move at night. However, Don Julian Santana Barrera is known to have placed dozens (if not hundreds) of dolls around the island during his lifetime.
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In the years since his death, many others have snuck into the Isle of Dolls to make their own contributions. The property’s caretakers have reported seeing movement on the island at night, but haunted dolls are not to blame.
In fact, the activity has spread to nearby locations where dolls have been hung from trees to mimic the original Island of the Dolls. But nothing quite matches the original in the sheer number of dolls – or in the haunting emotion they evoke.
How to visit the island of the dolls
If you plan to visit this spooky and potentially haunted tourist attraction, you must do so by boat. You can pay for a ride on one of the many trajineras – Gondola-style boats – cruising the canals of Mexico City.
Just note that some of the men who operate these boats refuse to visit the Isle of the Dolls. So announce your destination before boarding.
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