Walking through the la Isla de las Muñecas, the Island of the Dolls, is a scene out of a real-life horror movie. On this isolated island, two hours from Mexico City by canal, hundreds of dolls dangle and swing from tree limbs. They are decaying and mutilated, some winking with their one remaining eye and others oozing what appears to be blood. The local say that the dolls move at night and some even claim their whispers can be heard over the wind.
Almost unbelievably, the horror at this island was not created intentionally, but instead was something that came to be over many years after the caretaker, Julian Santana Barrera, began hanging dolls. He says that he did it help to soul of a drowned girl.
In the 1950’s, Julian left his wife and children to live like a hermit. He went off into the woods and found a home on the island.
However, shortly after his arrival, he found a girl drowned in the water in a canal nearby. He claimed that he was haunted by the sounds of footsteps and tormented screams that he believed were the girl. In order to appease her, he hung up a doll that he had found, which he believed may have come from the girl herself.
Over time, living on the island alone with the doll, he came to believe that the dead girl’s spirit had taken over the doll.
To further please her, he found more dolls and hung them from surrounding trees. Most of the dolls he found were in the surrounding water or woods or pulled out of the trash. Because of this, many had already started to decay before they even made it to the tree.
Then, after 50 years of collecting the dolls, Julian was found dead in the water, in the same place where he claimed to have found the girl that started it all.
Further increasing the strangeness of the story, there are reports that state that the girl never existed at all and was created by Julian after years of isolation. Those close to him suggested he was ‘driven by some unseen force that completely changed him’.
Julian’s family states that Julian believed the story, and that his motivation was always to pacify the spirit of the girl that he believed haunted the island. His family assumed ownership of contents of the island after his death, and now run it as a tourist attraction that pulls in a few hundred people each year.
The site is known locally as the ‘chinampas’, and those who surround it maintain the claim that the dolls come alive at night. No matter what you believe, this island would be a terrifying place to be when the sun goes down.