La Isla de la Munecas (Island of the Dolls) is located in the borough of Xochimilco, a two hour boat ride from Mexico City, on Teshuilo Lake. Xochimilco 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. The island itself is a floating garden.
The only inhabitant of this small island was Don Julian Santana Barrera, a man from La Asunción. He was either the owner of the island or the caretaker. Either way, he was definitely a hermit. Although he was married and had a family, he chose to live alone on this island for the last fifty years of his life.
One version of the story is that Don Julian found a little girl drowned under mysterious circumstances and was not able to save her life. (There is no mention anywhere of what those mysterious circumstances might have been.)
The other version 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, the stories converges 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 memorial. There was no sinister or weird intent.
After this, however, it's said he began to find one doll after another in the canals, and that he heard footsteps, whispers and wailings even though he lived in the wilderness far from any other inhabitants. He believed it was the dead girl's spirit or, in some references, an evil spirit.
He began hanging more dolls on trees as protection from the evil spirit and to calm the spirit of the dead girl. He would search for discarded dolls everywhere and brought them to his island as an offering. It's also said that Julian had a garden and sold fresh produce to the locals. They began bringing him broken and discarded dolls to trade for vegetables.
Julian didn't clean or mend the dolls, just hung them up. Over fifty years, he collected hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dolls in varying degree of decay and dismemberment. Even dolls in good shape when they were hung, have suffered from exposure to sun, wind, and rains over many years. He made the entire island into a shrine. It is said that the locals today think of the island as an "enchanted" place, not a "haunted" place.
ONE OF THE MOST CREEPY PLACES ON EARTH
When Don Julian died in 2001, he was found drowned in the same location as the little girl. 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.
The end result is one of the creepiest sights you will ever see.