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Haunted destinations: Island of the Dolls (Isla de la Muenecas)

Posted by mandyf on October 6, 2012

The Island of the Dolls, Isla de la Muenecas, is a small island located on Teshuilo Lake nestled between Mexico City and Xochimilco. While no one lives on the island anymore, at least in human physical form, it is one of the scariest, creepiest, haunted destinations in the world. Travelers from around the world make their way to the Island of Dolls every year. Some may be looking to contact a spirit. Some have to take in the scene with their own eyes. Others simply cannot resist the scene that is described as many to be innocence gone macabre.

As the legend goes, three young girls were playing on the island one day when one girl drowned in a canal. It didn’t take long for superstitious locals to begin reporting visitations from the departed child, and suddenly the isle was haunted. Bit by bit, then entirely, the island was abandoned and considered terrain so haunted no one should ever set foot on it. That all changed when Don Julian Santana purchased the island nobody wanted and made it his home.

Santana cared little for the rumored haunting. Santana cared little for the living as well, and made the decision to live as a hermit on the island after cutting ties with everyone he knew including his family. Santana did however enjoy a relationship with the spirit of the departed little girl. Some believed she manifested herself to him, others said he was just crazy. What is known for sure though is that Santana wanted the spirit of the little girl to be at peace, and to do so he made offering s to her. Offerings of little girls dolls.

Santana began by leaving  a doll near the canal now and then. Eventually he began positioning them elsewhere as well. On stumps, tied to tries, hanging from tree limbs, on rocks – basically anywhere he felt needed a doll and would please the little girls’ spirit. As time marched on, the curious began spying on what Santana was doing. Being averse to people, Santana began hanging dolls with scary faces near where the curious gathered hoping to frighten them. Then he began getting more twisted. No longer was it just newer in tact dolls appearing everywhere, any old doll would suffice. Some dolls were mutilated, mangled, missing heads and limbs. Dirty dolls hung in tortured decomposing poses everywhere the eye could see.

Don Julian died in 2001. By then, he had been accepting a few visitors here and there he charged a fee to give a tour of the island to. Although he is no longer there to prevent the curious from traipsing around his island, the dead cold mutilated faces of baby dolls hang everywhere as a marker of his sweet intentions gone very the route of very disturbing. Thousands of dolls, or parts of dolls, greet visitors on a near daily basis. To add a creepy twist – as if that was necessary – when Don Julian Santana’s bodied was discovered, it was in the same canal as the little girls that died so many years earlier. He, like her, drowned to death in that canal.

The Island of the Dolls can best be reached by departing from Cuemanco Landing located near Parque Ecologico de Xochimilco. Te trip is about two hours each way, but visitors are usually advised to plan on a five hour round trip to account for delays which are at times common. It is further advised you bring plenty of bottled water with you as well as a heart snack. Although certainly not required, some say it is “good” to bring a flower as an offering to Don Julian to leave on his memorial.


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