Island of the Dolls

Welcome to the Island of the Dolls, the Creepiest Place in Mexico

This is not a nightmare. It’s a real place outside of Mexico City, which for decades has been home to hundreds of decaying dolls

XOCHIMILCO, MEXICO—They’re in the trees and on the ground, bunched together on wooden fence posts and hanging from clotheslines like laundry left to dry. Their dead eyes stare at you from half-empty sockets, their dirty hair hangs like cobwebs. Their skin is scabbed and peeling away, and their plump limbs are scattered everywhere—arms and legs strewn about haphazardly, decapitated heads impaled on stakes.

Tweet to us: Do you think dolls are creepy?

(Vocativ/Jan-Albert Hootsen)

This is not a nightmare. It’s La Isla de las Muñecas, a real place located in a southern borough of Mexico City on a man-made island that for decades has been home to hundreds of dilapidated dolls.

(Vocativ/Jan-Albert Hootsen)

The island was once the property of Don Julián Santana, a local farmer. Legend has it that in 1950 he saw a little girl drown in the canal and her spirit began haunting the place. Terrified, Don Julián started collecting dolls to protect himself from her ghost. He gathered them from trash heaps and hung them around the island like creepy Christmas ornaments. Over half a century, he collected more than 1,500 of these little horrors. The oldest is still there, hanging in a shed by the entrance. From afar, it looks like the decaying corpse of a child.

Santana's first doll
(Vocativ/Jan-Albert Hootsen)

Santana died of a heart attack in 2001, and a small white cross near the water marks his grave. His cousin Anastasio now lives on the island, running it as a tourist attraction. “The spirit of the little girl is still here,” he says. “It’s important not to remove the dolls.”

At night, he says, they come alive. “They will move their heads and whisper to each other. It’s very spooky, but I have gotten used to it.”

(Vocativ/Jan-Albert Hootsen)

Xochimilco is best known for its chinampas, artificial islands created by the Aztecs to serve as floating gardens where food was grown for the ancient city of Tenochtitlan. Tourists now flock to the islands, using gondolas to traverse the waters, eating, drinking and listening to mariachi music along the way.

(Vocativ/Jan-Albert Hootsen)

A trip to the Island of the Dolls takes about two hours by boat and leads you through quiet green pastures where birds and farm animals graze. It’s a far cry from the smog and frenzy of Mexico City, a sprawling capital that’s home to roughly 9 million people.

Ghost stories and tales of the supernatural are part of the local lore here in Xochimilco. At Cuemanco, one of the docks from where the gondolas embark, there are numerous crosses and plaques dedicated to La Llorona, the “Weeping Woman.” Locals say she killed her children to be with the man she loved. When he rejected her, she drowned herself. When the islands are covered in fog, many claim the Weeping Woman haunts the area, crying out for her kids.

(Vocativ/Jan-Albert Hootsen)

“Ghosts are very real,” Anastasio says. “Some of them are old, like La Llorona, others more recent, like my uncle’s dolls. It’s important to pay tribute to them.”

That tribute also makes for a nice tourist attraction—albeit one that will haunt you in your dreams.

(Vocativ/Jan-Albert Hootsen)
Respond Now
  • this is the creepiest store i have ever heard in my entire life.biaches

    • Oh my i would not like to go there
  • Lástima que en el país ya no sólo vemos muñecas decapitadas…

  • What’s even more creepy and makes tons of money is the human desire to wear a cross/crucifix on a necklace. If Jesus had been killed by a hand gun would you cherish and wear a gun around your neck?

    6 Replies - Reply Now
    • That’s exactly what I’ve always said!!!! I don’t get it either. I love God and worship him but that’s the last thing I’d want to wear on my neck as jewelry! I don’t think God approves either.

      1 Reply - Reply Now
      • We Christians wear the crucifix around our necks because it’s a reminder of the ultimate sacrifice that the son of God made for all of us. Nothing creepy about it at all and yes God very much approves of it.

        2 Replies - Reply Now
      • Really did God tell you personally of her approval????

        3 Replies - Reply Now
      • +
      • Her??? Have you ever seen a picture of or read anything anywhere that portrays God as a woman?

      • Sandra,Jesus said Get the F### back in the kitchen and make me a sandwich.

      • and how is God a her or a he? i’d believe God is greater the labels or even genders. i dont believe God would be angry if we wear something to remind us of God’s glory. God is above that. God is above pettiness. 

        1 Reply - Reply Now
      • I was being sarcastic. God doesn’t exist. Have a nice day :-)

      • I see a connection between the dolls and the crucifix also. I see them as ways to tell stories of suffering and loss. mythological collective reasoing of sorts. Although I must say, the crucifx also stands for a more positive victory over evil in a sense that the dolls do not seem to.

    • OK, Bill Hicks.

    • +
    • paraphrased from Bill Hicks

    • The cross is worn to commerate Jesus’ sacrifice on behalf of humanity’s collective salvation; a deed which perfectly exemplifies God’s love for us.

    • Erica Rick..The crucifix is just a reminder that Jesus died for our sins & we will have a chance for forgiveness & salvation. Many tend to forget about Jesus (GoD)even having the crucifix as a symbol.Imagine it would be even worst if there is no symbol of savation at all.                        The Santa Muerte (the Skull) is a reminder & symbol of death.The ugly SKULL symbol is plastered everywhere. It is seen more than the Jesus crucifix.I see it in clothing, shower curtains, baby cloths, cars, dog cloths, underwear & even on toilet seats &  Hello Kitty. Teens & young adults have the ugly skull tatooed on their body like if “DEATH” it was a beauty mark. I rather wear the Jesus crucifix any time than the symbol of a ugly death Halloween SKULL!                  Please help defend Human Rights. Google-Justice for Ray Martinez.Link..https: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Justice-For-Ray-Martinez/150028745042974

    • The Cross is a global symbol of death.Lots died on the cross before Christ. It’s just the era’s way to execute someone.So basicaly i wear the cross because i know death will come.

  • kurt cobain would have loved this!

  • This is the creepiest way to make money by far..It would be hilarious if the dolls actually did come to life and kill people for making a profit off of their spirits.

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • I’m from Mexico and there’s an anecdote when a teenage girl took a doll from there and she said that very same doll was haunting because of her transgression. Desperate to find relief, the girl go back to the island and put the doll exactly where she took it. That was a shocking news on that moment.

  • Show More
  • Is Chucky there,too?

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • If he was on that accursed island, I’m fairly certain that he wouldn’t stand out amid thousands of his mangled, gruesomely decayed relatives. 

      1 Reply - Reply Now
      • OMG that’s so creepy

        1 Reply - Reply Now
      • Omg thats scary 

  • What a way to make money.  Creepy yes, but brilliant as a tourist trap!

  • BS!!! If u believe this then u need to become one of these dolls.  Haha!

  • Creepy~

  • “Ghosts are very real.”   LOL

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • I dare you to spend a night at the Island of the Dolls! I double dare you! I triple dare you!

      1 Reply - Reply Now
      • I triple dog dare you.

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