The city of Xochimilco, nearby, is best known for its canals and floating gardens, remnants of a large lake and canal system that connected most of the settlements in the Valley of Mexico more than a hundred years ago.
Boat and gondola tours take visitors through the canals and the location is quite beautiful.
The Floating Gardens
Image Source: lorriegrahamblog.com
A typical tour gondola - Image Souce:
DON JULIAN SANTANA BARRERA
In the 1950s a man named Don Julian Santana Barrera, from La Asunción, Mexico, was ridiculed for spreading the word of the Lord Jesus Christ at a time when only anointed priests had the right to do so. The locals disapproved of Don Julian’s approach to his beliefs to the extent that ultimately he was beaten for his sin.
Although he was married and had a family, he withdrew to a small island in Lake Teshuilo, as either the owner of the island or the caretaker. He was the only inhabitant and chose to live there alone for the last fifty years of his life.
There are two versions of the legend of the Island of the Dolls, the name given to the island where Don Julian lived. One version of the story is that Don Julian, after he moved to the island alone, found a little girl drowned under mysterious circumstances and was sad he hadn’t been able to save her life. [There is no mention anywhere of what those mysterious circumstances were.]
Don Julian Santana Barrera
Image Source: isladelasmunecas.com/
The other story is that there were three little girls playing on a small island on Teshuilo Lake when one of them drowned. As a result, the area became known as a haunted spot and no one came there, except Don Julian, who lived there.
Whichever beginning is true ‒ if either ‒ the stories converge when, not long after the girl's death, Don Julian found a doll floating in the water close to the same place where the girl drowned. He assumed it had belonged to her, and hung it on a tree as a sign of respect, a sort of memorial. There was no sinister or weird intent.
As he found more dolls, he began hanging them on trees as protection from the evil spirit and to calm the spirit of the dead girl. He began searching for discarded dolls everywhere and brought them to his island as an offering. Don Julian had a garden and sold fresh produce to the locals. As the legend of his obsession with dolls grew, the villagers began to bring broken and discarded dolls to trade for vegetables.
Image Source: picden.blogspot.com
Locals today think of the island as an "enchanted" place, not a "haunted" place. Others believed Don Julian had gone mad and thought the dolls to be real children who he pulled from the canal and tried to revive.
The Island of the Dolls was not generally known until the 1990s when the civil authorities began a project to clean up the canals. In the process, the outside world discovered Barrera’s doll cemetery. Word spread and people began to come to see the island. Don Julian, seeing the potential for charging a fee to see his shrine, welcomed them and showed people around. Image Source: flickr.com/photos/4479387285
When Don Julian died in 2001, he was found, by his nephew, drowned in the same location as the little girl. Many people said that the dolls had taken over his role as the island’s caretaker. Others believed the tortured spirits conspired to murder the old man.
The family members, who now run the island as a tourist attraction, state that Don Julian died of natural causes [heart attack], and his nephew is now the caretaker of the island [not the dolls].
The truth is that Don Julian simply believed the island was haunted by the spirit of the little girl. For reasons only known to Don Julian himself, he believed that he could make the dead girl happy and keep evil at bay by hanging discarded dolls in all of the island’s trees.
Since his death the island has been open to the public, but you can only get there by taking a ferry or gondola from Mexico City.
Some visitors find the island terrifying, and over the past two decades the island has gained the reputation as one of the creepiest placers on earth. Others find it incredibly sad.
No one recommends going there at night.
ISLAND OF THE DOLLS
The creepiest place on earth? I don't know personally, but this is good enough for me.