La Isla de las Munecas
(The Island of the Dolls)
In the Xochimilco canals outside of Mexico City, there is a small island with literally hundreds of broken and dirty dolls hung on its trees. In this out-of-the-way place, dolls with missing body parts and even disembodied doll heads dangle from dark branches. Some of the dolls were once new and remained whole, but weathering eventually transformed them into warped and frightening figures.
Don Julian Santana
This disturbing doll display was created by a man named Don Julian Santana (pictured below). It was his memorial to a little girl who supposedly drowned in the canal near the island. I say supposedly because Santana’s family think that he only imagined her. It is understandable that his family might question his grasp of reality after he left his wife and child in the 1950s to live on the island and devote the rest of his life to this bizarre undertaking. Santana believed that the dolls comforted the tormented spirit of the drowned girl who supposedly haunted the island.
It seems like the dolls comforted him too. Besides stringing dolls on the trees, Atlas Obscura notes that he “also kept his cabin filled with the dolls, which he dressed in headdresses, sunglasses, and other accoutrement,” and he considered them to be “beautiful protectors.”
In 2001, Santana’s life as caretaker of The Island of the Dolls came to an eerie end. He drowned in the same canal in the same location where he found the body of the drowned little girl many years ago.
Creepy Tourist Attraction
Today, La Isla de las Munecas is a popular tourist attraction run by members of Santana’s family, and it remains the subject of local lore. For instance, here is a brief description of what the locals and Santana’s nephew say has happened at the island according to a website called theParanormal.ca:
Locals claim that his spirit now too haunts the place. A local paranormal investigator, Don Medez, who was interviewed on the ‘Destination Truth’ TV show, said that Don Julian kept saying to his nephew that he heard voices and singing coming from the water, calling to him, but he was too frighten[ed] to go. His nephew, Anastasio Valasquez, who has taken over and is now in charge of the island, said to the cameras of ‘Destination Truth’ that, in broad daylight, he has seen the head[s] of dolls turn and move up, then move back down. . . .