Located in the Xochimilco canals, a few miles from the heart of Mexico City, lies La Isla de las Muñecas, the Island of Dolls, where thousands of dolls hanging from the trees create an eerie sensation in the heart of the visitors. Although the area is inhabited by thousands of people, the small island is the home of hundreds of unusual, dirty, and terrifying dolls, with their severed limbs, decapitated heads, and blank eyes decorating the trees and bushes, make-shift huts, and fences.
It is said that around fifty years ago, Don Julian Santana Barrera, a native of Xochimilco, a borough of Mexico City, left his family for unknown reasons, and moved to an island in the Xochimilco canals. During that time, one day he made a chilling discovery, as he found on the shores of his island the body of a young girl, drowned entangled among the lilies of the canal. Immediately after that, Don Julian had his second shock and experienced an inexplicable feeling when he also found a doll floating down the canal, and thought it belonged to the girl.
All alone on the desolate island, he collected the doll from the canal and hung it from a tree with the hope to appease the spirit of the unfortunate girl. This act on the part of Don Julian changed the course of his life, and consequently, the look of the island within a few years.
Although Julian started to hang more dolls in an attempt to please the departed soul or the spirit of the drowned girl, the locals thought his act and reasoning crazy, took him to be a man not necessarily of sound mind, and he merely imagined the drowning girl. However, despite the big question mark about the existence of the drowned girl, it seemed that Don Julian Santana was haunted by the thought of the girl, and he was driven by some unseen force. He devoted the rest of his life for the peace of the spirit of the girl in his own way, a unique, fascinating, and somewhat unnerving way.
For the next 50 years, Don Julian Santana Barrera collected numerous dolls, the lost and the throw-away dolls, from the canal and the trash, and hung them from the trees of the island. He did not clean up or try to fix the dolls he collected and put them up as it was, with missing eyes, or limbs, headless, torso-less, and covered in dirt.
Even, he kept his cabin filled with the dolls. Although most people found the dolls scary and chilling, to Don Julian they were beautiful. He liked to receive visitors, welcomed them, would show them around, and charge a small fee for taking photographs.
Don Julian was convinced he could hear whispers of a child’s voice at night. Probably, he became obsessed with the story of the little girl’s death and believed that he could please her spirit with the dolls as well as protect himself from the evil spirits that might also beckon him to an early watery grave.
After 50 years of collecting dolls and hanging them on the island, in 2001, the body of Don Julian was found, drowned in the canal, in the exact place where the body of the said little girl was found. Many people believe that Julian has joined the other spirits of the island, and even today, people pay tribute to both Santana Barrera and the girl, whether she was real or not, by hanging up dolls from the trees of the island.
Although the island is in no way possessed, some visitors claim soulless eyes follow them, and they had heard the dolls whispering to each other. Despite the exaggerations, La Isla de las Muñecas seem to be a very creepy and thus attractive destination for adventure lovers.