20 Islands That Hide Strange Secrets In Their Histories

Dolls hung in Santana Barrera’s chinampa in Xochimilco. Wikimedia Commons.

19. Home to hundreds of dolls hanging from trees, the Island of Dolls in Mexico is a macabre memorial created by a local man believing he was haunted by a dead girl

Xochimilco, a borough of Mexico City, sits on the southern shore of an ancient lake. Decimated during the 13th and 14th centuries by Aztec diversions of water, the remnants of the eponymous lake have been transformed into a canal system accompanied by artificial islands known as “chinampas”. Spanning 170 kilometers of waterways, one such island, located an hour from the city, is Isla de las Muñecas or “The Island of the Dolls”. The most famous of the chinampas, Isla de las Muñecas belonged to Don Julián Santana Barrera, a highly troubled and reclusive figure.

According to local legend, a young girl went swimming and was pulled under by the current. Attempting to rescue her, by the time Santana reached the girl she had already drowned. Recovering a doll floating nearby, Santana hung it from a tree as a mark of respect. However, soon after this event, likely having gone mad, Santana claimed he began hearing footsteps and anguished wails around the island. In an attempt to appease the girl’s spirit, whom he believed was haunting him, Santana hung an ever-increasing number of dolls around his island. In 2001, Santana’s body was discovered, drowned in the exact spot he had found the girl fifty years prior.