Welcome To Mexico's Island Of Mutilated Dolls

Nikki Vargas

Travel Editor

It’s evening on Mexico’s Isla de las Muñecas and the silhouettes of hanging dolls begin to contrast with the sunset. Some dolls have merged with the surrounding jungle — their porcelain skin mutilated by vines, their eyes perforated by insects. Others dolls are new, likely offerings of recent visitors seeking connection with the paranormal. The island is silent, with the exception of the occasional snap of a twig and creak of a swaying doll in the wind. Some believe the island is cursed, that the dolls are possessed by the spirit of a young girl who drowned in the murky waters some 50 years ago.
A photo posted by Jasper (@ekulrepsaj) on Jul 3, 2016 at 9:04am PDT
As you explore the island, the eyes of each doll seem to follow you. Their heads, according to locals, move ever so slightly. Mexico’s ‘island of nightmares’ is so creepy – so downright spooky – that it could have come straight from the imagination of Stephen King.
A photo posted by David Ikeda (@d__eye) on May 17, 2016 at 7:55am PDT
Isla del las Muñecas (Spanish for “Island of the Dolls”) wasn’t always a sinister place. In fact, the island – just 18 miles south of Mexico City in Xochimilco – was largely overlooked until a native recluse, Julian Santana Barrera, moved in. According to legend, three young girls from nearby villages were playing in the waters of Isla de las Muñecas. In their merriment, one of the girls accidentally drowned before Barrera could save her.
Guilt-ridden, Barrera hung a single doll near the spot the young girl had died to honor her life. The makeshift memorial seemed to haunt Barrera who claimed to hear screams, footsteps and other nightly disturbances on the island. Out of desperation, Barrera began to hang more and more dolls in the trees, becoming maniacal in his efforts to appease the girl’s restless spirit.
A photo posted by Haley (@haley_jicama) on May 23, 2016 at 8:26pm PDT
Whether driven mad by guilt or pushed by the paranormal, the body of Julian Santana Barrera was found in 2001 drowned in the exact same spot where the young girl had died years prior. His nephew, Don Julian, says Barrera complained of voices luring him to the water each night — a siren’s call, it would seem, he could no longer resist.
A photo posted by Paul Johnson (@camberger4) on Jul 20, 2016 at 2:55pm PDT
Today, Isla de las Muñecas has become the ultimate Halloween destination for the curious to venture into the unknown. Don Julian now oversees the island, although from a distance, choosing to remain safely in the rural countryside of Mexico. Whether you believe in ghosts or thrill at the prospect of something unexplained, Isla de las Muñecas is a place that defies logic and sidesteps rationality leaving one thing for certain: something strange did happen there.

landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article