Historical Sites

The Island Of The Dolls Presents: A Toy’s Horror Story

When you hear a term like “The Island Of The Dolls” what exactly comes to mind? It may seem like heaven for some of you, especially for children. Dolls, after all, are ubiquitous toy that has accompanied the world’s children since the dawn of history. To the ordinary person, they symbolize joy, play, and innocence. The dolls develop essential skills, such as imagination and motor skills, and allow children to get to know the world we live in. All is well and good, as will be evidenced by the fact that the writer of these lines also has about 500 dolls scattered in every good part of the house (and this includes a Mickey Mouse doll that somehow ends up in the refrigerator or a Simba doll in the washing machine, believe it or not).

Despite this, and perhaps because of this, dolls can also be terrifying. These do not necessarily have to be cursed dolls or those that starred in horror movies, such as Annabelle or Chucky, which are an integral part of the collectible catalog of many horror fans. In Mexico, a few hours by boat from the Mexico City area, you will find a place resembling hell than heaven. That’s how it is when hundreds of disintegrating and creepy dolls hang from trees and clotheslines around an artificial island, surrounded by ghost stories and horror. But is this an authentic and haunted place, or a tourist trap in its worst sense? You are welcome to read and decide for yourself.

Even Ghost Girls Play With Dolls

The Island Of The Dolls (or La Isla de las Muñecas) is an artificial island located in Suchimilco, one of the districts of Mexico City, about 28 kilometers south of the capital of Mexico. This highly sought-after tourist area offers, among other things, the “Chinampas,” or loosely translated “floating gardens.” It is a network of artificial canals around small islands, named a world heritage site by the UNESCO organization. Within the boundaries of Xochimilco, you will find the Dolores Olmedo Museum of Art, which offers an impressive collection of details by the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, and the artificial island of dolls, which was opened to tourists in the 90s of the last century.

The story of Island Of The Dead Dolls began several decades earlier. In the 1950s or 1920s (depending on who you ask), a farmer named Don Julián Santana Barrera decided to leave his family and seclude himself on a small island. According to the legend, one day, he noticed the body of a little girl with a doll beside her. This poor girl drowned. It is not clear how, but at some point, he began to be haunted by the spirit of that girl. Some say that he was mentally disturbed, others that the discovery of the body traumatized him, and cynics that this story of Doll Island creation is mostly fake.

Even if they testify that there is no doubt that Julian Santana collected a great many dolls, they will argue that he made up the story in his heart to explain his unusual habit. Today we see that many people suffering from compulsive hoarding disorder – and yes, according to the American psychiatric diagnosis book DSM-5 it is a mental disorder for all intents and purposes – tell themselves and others a specific story to explain their habit. Of course, we are not here to claim Santana himself was a compulsive hoarder with a mental disorder. Instead, we present a theory you will find in various articles online about The Island Of The Dolls.

The Island Of The Dolls
by Esparta Palma – flickr, CC BY 2.0

Tourists Discover The Island Of The Dolls

According to the local story, Julián Santana decided to take the most logical step in these situations, the same action we know from countless horror movies: to fulfill the desire of the girl chasing him, whose territory he allegedly invaded. He decided to make peace with her and other spirits as living children with dolls’ help cause children can’t say “no” to dolls, even if they are dead. He hung that girl’s doll on a tree, perhaps hoping that the girl would get her to wish, play with the doll for hours and hours, and stop chasing him.

The thing with girls is that one doll isn’t enough for them, and the same may be true for ghosts. That doll was just the beginning. Santana collected dolls from all around, even obsessively, and hung them around the island. He didn’t make a rough selection of the dolls, either for financial reasons or due to the assumption that a ghost wouldn’t be too picky about the dolls she plays with.

Thus the island began to be filled with old dolls from various places: dolls Santana found in the canals after being thrown or fallen while playing, others that rested in the garbage piles because they were no longer helpful. Santana sold his products, mainly fruits, and vegetables, in the local markets in exchange for other old dolls.

Santana decided to hang the hundreds of dolls he had collected on trees, clotheslines, and everything else around the island. He doesn’t invest in repairing or cleaning the dolls. He hoped that this offering would appease the ghost haunting him and cause it to find rest finally.

Take a look on this short video, describing the story of Mexico Doll Island:

Dolls Cemetery, The Mexican Version

The years passed, time took its toll, and the condition of the dolls in La Isla De Las Muñecas worsened. The fickle weather did not help them, of course, nor did the insects that started to take over some of them. Tourists began to visit Doll Island, attracted by the bizarre sight, and many searched for any vacant lot on the island to hang their dolls.

Today, According to estimations, there are over 1,500 dolls in Island Of The Dead Dolls. Most of the dolls are different from the ones you want to find in the window of your favorite toy store or the online store’s home page. These thousand dolls are tattered, crumbling, broken, or with vital organs amputated.

In the meantime, horror stories began to emerge about something seems wrong on this island: dolls that move or open their eyes at night, strange voices and mysterious whispers you can hear in the heart of the silence, ghosts that visit the place every night and other stories that are sometimes told to turn a particular area into a tourist destination for The fans of the mysterious places. There are theories that Santana himself was mentally ill and believed the dolls he collected were actually “real” children he rescued from the canals. However, his relatives denied this story.

It seems Santana believed that the dolls were watching over him and happily embraced the stories that allowed him and later his family to organize tours around the island. In 2001 he died, according to official publications, from a heart attack. Of course, other rumors soon surfaced. Some have claimed that Santana drowned in the lake, like the girl who allegedly started our horror story. Others were sure he committed suicide to reunite with the girl who had been with him for decades. Since then, his relatives have continued to run the place, with efforts to preserve it or brand it as a legitimate tourist site. Julián’s nephew, Javier Romero Santana, is one of the people who give tours on Doll Island. “At night, we tour the place, I go inside, with another workmate, waiting for the people and we hear a young lady cry or a moan,” he said in an interview.

Mexico Island of the Dolls
By Amrith Raj – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0or

Doll Island Mexico: A Haunted Island Or A Tourist Trap?

The Island of the Dolls in Mexico has gained considerable publicity, and today you will find it in almost every list of scary and bizarre tourist sites around the world (and, of course, also on the site you are visiting, which offers, among other things, frightening and odd tourist sites around the world). Despite its tempting name, this is only the place to go with the children if you wish to expose them to sights that may be too disturbing for them at a young age.

Undoubtedly, fans of “Dark Tourism” or artistic photographs can spend a few hours here. The Island Of The Dolls is a disturbing location, even scary, that can satisfy those attracted to this type of place. But can you bring a doll to the island of the dolls as a gift? We don’t know the “official” rules, but the truth is clear: Many visitors arrive on the island with at least one doll they thought to throw in the trash. Perhaps as part of a “weaning” ceremony for their children from the doll, roughly similar to the pacifier trees found in many public parks and gardens today.

Things To Do In Island Of The Dead Dolls

The point is that getting to the island of dolls is complex, and the question is how advisable it is to go on this journey. To visit the Island of the Dolls, you must take at least a two-hour cruise each way, depending on where you are coming from, and the costs are pretty high. You visit the island with locals, who are not necessarily willing to see a “cursed” place. According to the stories we read, some operators take advantage of the visitors’ lack of knowledge or helplessness. They charge them exorbitant amounts upon arrival to the island or demand extras with different claims. We’ve heard stories of people being taken to an artificial island with a few dozen dolls or even of the local mafia taking over tourism to the island. Others suggest treating the island as it is in its direct meaning: a manufactured island with dolls other people brought.

We will probably never know what exactly happened on The Island Of The Dolls in Mexico, how it developed, and whether it is a place with a natural dark story or a fictional plot intended mainly for touristic purposes. We have not yet visited here, and it isn’t very likely we will in the coming years. After all, we have several hundred dolls to care for at home. Some are already dilapidated, and the girls sometimes put them in strange places.

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