The Island of the Dolls.
Halloween wouldn’t be Halloween without a good ghost story. In the 1950s a man by the name of Don Julian Santana Barrera left his wife and family and went to live on a small Island on a lake just outside of Mexico City. The Island is known as The Island of the Dolls. The Island has a legend connected to it that began in the 1920s, three young girls were playing on the island when one of them fell into the deep dark waters and drowned. The locals believed that the young girl’s spirit was trapped on the island and it soon gained a reputation of being haunted, the local people even refused to go near the island at night. Why Santana began to believe that he was connected to this legend in some way is unknown. Perhaps he was suffering from some delusion or is it possible that the spirit of the dead child reached out to him in his dreams. We will never know.
One story suggests that Santana found the girl’s body but was unable to save her. Shortly after this event it is said that he found a doll floating just off the island, it most likely belonged to the little girl. Santana picked the doll from the water and hung it upon the branch of a nearby tree as a way of showing his respect for her spirit. It is said that he began to dream of the girl and that she began to haunt his sleep and that he then began hanging more dolls in an attempt to please her spirit. However, he soon realised that the dolls themselves were possessed by the spirits of other dead children and he started to place dolls on trees all around the island.
Another story tells us that Santana claimed that shortly after he made his home on the island the spirit of the little girl began to talk to him. She told him of her tragic death and asked him to get some dolls for her to play with. She told him that the dolls would ward off evil spirits that roamed the wetlands of the island. Santana agreed and he began to acquire dolls for her which he hung from the branches of the trees. He fished some old dolls out of the waters that ran past the island, he returned to the populated areas on the mainland where he visited rubbish dumps for discarded dolls and he even began to swap fruit and vegetables which he grew on the island with local people for old dolls they no longer wanted.
Santana never cleaned or fixed the dolls, he left them as he found them, covered in dirt or missing limbs or eyes. Even when the dolls were in good condition they soon succumbed to the effects of the weather and began to crack and distort as if suffering the stages of decomposition. He kept his cabin filled with dolls which he dressed in clothes and sunglasses and although visitors to the island found it a little frightening he would offer to show them round and take their photographs. A service for which he charged a small fee.
As the years passed Santana lived a hermit like existence. However, in 1990 the Mexican government invested over a million dollars to clean up the area around the island. This brought more traffic onto the water way and as people travelled past the island they couldn’t help noticing thousands of mutilated dolls hanging from the trees upon the island. Some people thought Santana had gone mad living as he did all alone on the island but most people just thought he was a harmless odd old man. It was at this time that the island gained the name ‘The Island of Dolls’
If anyone asked about the dolls, Santana would explain about the young girl’s spirit and how no amount of dolls seemed to satisfy her need. In April 2001, Santana told his nephew that it was becoming harder to resist the voices that called to him. He told his nephew that the voices told him that he must join them in their watery grave. That same day as his nephew was returning from doing some shopping for Santana he found him floating face down in the water. His body was in the same spot near the pier where the little girl had drowned seventy years previously. Santana’s family believe that he never got over finding the little girl’s body and his inability to save her life. It was if he was driven by some unseen force that completely changed him.
Some people who visit the island today hear the dolls whisper to them; others will tell you that the soulless eyes of the dolls glare at you as though they resent your presence. Local people will tell you not to go near the island after the sun goes down.Happy Halloween.