Inside creepy Island of the Dolls where hermit was ‘haunted by drowned girl’

In Mexico City lies a location so haunting, it will send shivers down your spine.

On an old chinampa deep in the heart of Xochimilco, there are a few small huts – but these are vastly outnumbered by thousands of mutilated, decaying dolls.

The aptly named Island of the Dolls, or La Isla de las Muñecas, is home to the world’s largest collection of haunted toys.

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A chinampa is an old Aztec method of agriculture where small sections of land are used to grow crops on the shallow lake beds in the Valley of Mexico.

The artificial islands are usually surrounded by water but are easily accessible by boat.

And here lies Island of the Dolls, with the dolls being placed here by the chinampa’s former owner Julián Santana Barrera.

Julián was a hermit haunted by the spirit of a girl who became entangled in the canal’s water lilies and tragically drowned there.

The girl was found floating in the canal with her doll and Julián blamed himself for not being able to rescue her.

He hung the toy in a tree as a sign of respect and retreated into the woods soon after, claiming he could hear her tormented screams and footsteps in the darkness.

When his crops continued to fail, he kept hanging dolls around the woodland to appease her spirit.

Legend says Julián also believed the hanging plastic dolls absorbed the sounds of her tormented screams.

The end product is a creepy collection of partially dismembered dolls with glassy eyes and filthy faces.

Julián developed an infatuation with this macabre shrine and spent every waking hour searching garbage dumps and the canals seeking old, abandoned dolls.

Sadly Julián died in 2001, close to the spot where the young girl drowned.

Some believe he met the same fate as the poor girl while others say he had a heart attack.

Whichever way it was, many believe his death was caused by the girl’s spirit, which is said to still haunt the island to this day.

More than two decades after his death, Island of the Dolls is now a popular tourist attraction as the scary tribute remains untouched.

Visitors claim to hear murmurs in the night and sense the dolls' eyes following them through the trees, and it is thought that the young girl’s ghost still roams the dark woods.

No matter how scary the site may seem, photographers and tourists still flock to it, despite the fact that it’s a two-hour canal ride from Mexico City.

To visit the Island of the Dolls you should expect to pay around 2,000 pesos per boat and then an additional 40 pesos entrance fee. That’s around £82 and £1.65 respectively.


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