Unusual Place of the Month: The Island of Dolls

dolls on the island of dolls in mexicoKnown as “La Isla de la Munecas” in Spanish, the ‘Island of the Dolls’ is perhaps one of the creepiest tourist attractions in the world. You half expect Chucky to come out and slash you. It reminds me of those horror movies like “The Hills Have Eyes” where someone searches inside the house and it looks like no one has been there for years and there are lots of ruined dolls on the floor. Yes, this is a creepy place filled with superstition.

The story of this begins when a hermit named Don Julian Santana moved here. For some unknown reason, he left his wife and decided to spend the last 50 years of his life living alone. I suspect it’s because his wife kept stealing the covers while they were sleeping.

dolls on the island of dolls in mexico

The “haunted” aspect of this story begins when supposedly three girls once visited here and while playing in the water, one of the girls drowned. As a result, her restless spirit haunted the island. Julian initially put up one doll to ward off this paranormal menace and help put the girls soul to rest so she could pass on to the next life. However, the “activity “of the ghost only increased and more and more dolls were placed in the trees in an attempt to appease the girl’s spirit. The only time Julian left the island was to get more dolls. He even used to trade food for dolls. It is also said that each doll holds a portion of the girl’s spirit.

Sadly, Don Julian Santana was found dead in 2001 by his nephew, in the same canal where he said the little girl drowned! (Freaky huh?) The island was on the Syfy Channel show “Destination Truth”, where a paranormal investigation team spent the night. They apparently saw apparitions and heard voices.

dolls on the island of dolls in mexico

This is a strange tourist attraction. Many visitors are overwhelmed by the dead childish faces of dolls that appear to haunt this place. It’s as though they are following you as you wander around, checking you out. It is as though they are what haunts this island not the spirit of the little girl.

This super eerie tourist attraction is located south of Mexico City. It’s on private property but the nephew now runs tours there so it’s easy to get to. Simply ask your hotel or hostel when you get there and they can point you in the right direction. If you go to the Xochimilco canal, take a trajinera from the Cuemanco Pier to the island.

    • Dave


      It’s the original “Happiest Place on Earth”…

      How great would it be if there was a dude there making balloon animals…

  1. Dan

    If you’re ever at N 34° 25.263 W 118° 25.850, just outside of Canyon Country, CA, there’s an old 1800s cemetery with tons of kids toys and trinkets left at a headstone with just the title, “Mexican Baby.” Dolls + Cemetery + Midnight + Flashlights = One Creepy Adventure.

  2. It’s a fantastic place – but what you’re missing here is that the Xochimilco canals are one of the most interesting and beautiful sites themselves in Mexico City – before the Spanish arrived, the area covered by the city now was a shallow lake, and the Aztecs created articifical islands in the Xochimilco area, for agricultural purposes, with canals in between – they’ve survived for hundreds of years, and are now a world heritage site for their historical significance and the fact that they contain some unusual and rare animal and plantlife. These days they make a great day out from the city, partly to see the island, but also to travel around in the beautifully coloured (all hand-painted) boats called Trajineras that travel around the canal system. It’s not just a popular place for tourists, while we were they we saw lots of Mexican families and groups of friends having huge floating picnics and parties on the boats, sailing around the canals. The whole area is well worth a visit!

  3. Sarah

    Thank you, thank you, thank you – you just explained something i’ve been wondering for years!!
    About 4 years ago I was in Portugal, in a place called Sintra! I’m sure you’ve heard of it or been there, but while walking around Quinta da Regaleira, I saw some hanging dolls from trees, I had no one to ask what this was all about and I managed to get some really freaky looking photos in black and white with the Quinta da Regaleira castle behind!! They look so scary!! Anyway people keep asking me what it means when they see the photos and I guess this has to be the most likely explanation! :)

  4. Ooh, I’ve heard of this place, but I think I’ll be skipping it the next time my travels take me to Mexico City. On another note, since this is going to be a monthly thing, have you visited the Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic?

  5. Dave

    WOW!!!!!!!!! I am so glad I read this blog……

    Next time my pain in the ass nephews want to go on vacation with me….. You guess it… WE ARE HEADING SOUTH OF MEXICO CITY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    That should put a lil fear into them

  6. paulette

    Ahhhhh….Mexico! How about Las Momias ( mummies) in Guanajuato, Mexico— you’ve got to go there!!!!!

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