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Weird History: Island of the Dolls

It sounds like a 1970s B-movie: Island of the Dolls. Only, this is a real place you can visit. Seriously. Just remember though that dolls are involved, so you can bet that it's super haunted. Maybe. Probably. I mean, it's an island full of old dolls!

Isla de las Muñecas is located south of Mexico city in the channels of Xochimilco. As the name indicates, it is an island, and a boat is required to reach it. Today, you can see dolls old and new strung up across trees and abandoned structures all over the island.

Now, I know at the top I said this island is "super haunted" but that isn't my fear of creepy dolls talking. According to, the island's history is tied to a local man named Don Julian Santana Barrera who left his family to live a solitary life on the island sometime during the mid-20th century. The story goes that while he was living on this island, the body of a drowned girl washed up on shore, followed by a doll floating in the canals. Santana Barrera took this doll and hung it from a tree in the hope that it would satisfy the spirit of the girl. But he did not stop there. For years he collected more and more dolls.

In 2001, Santana Barrera drowned in the canal. Only, the island's story does not end there. The legend of Santana Barrera and the dolls circulated and soon people began to visit the island. It is unclear whether the girl Santana Barrera claimed to have found ever really existed, but the dolls he collected are very much real and remain on the island to this day. As of 2022, there is said to be about four thousand dolls there and only one of these dolls has a name. Agustinita was reportedly Santana Barrera's favorite of the dolls and can be recognized by her glasses and turquoise dress. "Agustinita has become the most important doll of the collection, the one he spent time with, his companion, the one he talked to, his protector," tour guide González Franco said to ABC News. "Since it is believed that Agustina has gifts, at night she walked around, she even had the gift to cure him and protect him. That is the reason why there are plates to leave little offerings for her."

Isla de las Muñecas remains a popular tourist attraction. In 2016 Buzzfeed Unsolved visited the island in an episode called "3 Horrifying Cases Of Ghosts And Demons". The episode also covers the Winchester House in San Jose, California and the Sally House in Atchison, Kansas. You can watch the full episode online here (the Isla de las Muñecas portion starts a little after the 14 minute mark).

[Image Credit: photo via Wikimedia Commons]

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