Some people love museums, other – galleries; breathtaking landscapes or cities bursting with shiny skyscrapers…And I absolutely agree – those places are wonderful.
Nevertheless, I could never say, these are my favourites. I prefer spots, that are less common, less popular…The ones where regular tourists, or even backpackers, usually don’t go… Places, that have a mystery behind them, a bit creepy, and if you will keep quiet and focused for a while – you will hear the place breaths…
After my solo (epic!!!) expedition to the ABANDONED LOSHENG LEPROSY SANATORIUM in Taiwan, where after several heart attacks caused by disturbing views and sounds I left happier than a cat in a shoebox – I was obviously hungry for more.
A couple of months and semi-successful explorations (like for example Belle Creole in SXM) passed till I finally found something creepy enough – Isla Munecas – the island of the Dolls – just on the south of Mexico City, where I was freezing to death after warm beaches of Cancun.
So – the decision was made – I needed to have another reason that will cover my body in goosebumps – and it had nothing to do with the chilly November air.
The biggest drawback of a girl travelling solo in Mexico, without a driver’s license, and also, without even a basic knowledge of Spanish, is a lack of company. In other words: it can be hard sometimes, but the moment you find a bunch of lovely Mexicans – most of your problems vanish in a blink of an eye, and thanks to Couchsurfing (not Tinder this time! :D) I was lucky to find my “troupe” I could sneak into the mysterious adventure with.
The Legend of the island
As many sources – as many versions, but the core of the history stays the same: Don Julian Santana Barrera- a man who moved to the island on Teshuilo Lake in the Xochimilco canals, leaving his wife and a child behind. It is said, that his primary duty was to take care of the islet.
One day, walking around the marshy lands, he spotted something in the canal.
A body of a young girl to be more precise, floating in the cold, green water… here we lose the trace. Some sources mention Don Julian trying to save her, unfortunately, with no effect. The young girl drowned in a “mysterious circumstances”.
Shortly after the incident, devastated Julian found another body slipping along Xociminco canals; this time plastic one – a doll. He picked it up and hang on the tree, probably as a way of showing respect and support the spirit of the girl.
But, the restless spirit of a girl started haunting the island and Don Santana partly to protect himself, partly to fulfil the ghost’s demands began his lunatic mission: hanging sometimes rotten, almost always decapitated or limbless little monsters on the branches. He believed, the ghost of the girl finds his shelter in the dolls’ twisted bodies, and so he was able to appease it for the next 50 years with more than 1,5k creatures…till he died.
Before death he was said to mention hypnotic voice luring him into the water, convincing to follow whining ghost of the girl wandering around wetlands. And even though his death was officially recognised as a heart attack, the bizarre part of it was, that it happened in the exact place the little girl had drowned before.
The story still leaves many unanswered questions: why Don Julian left his family to take care of the island? Was there really a girl, because some claim he made it all up to kill the overwhelming solitude he experienced on the detached piece of land? Was there really a ghost, an unspecified energy that forced him to create the creepy doll-asylum, or maybe the shock of finding(?) the little girl’s body was so deep, that poor Don Santana simply lost his mind?
We’ll never know.
As the story got more popular and was featured by many well-known newspapers, as Daily Mail, for example, many replicas of the island has been created in Xocimincho. Deciding to go on a 4-5 hours cruise to experience what the place has to offer, you can easy find out, that even though all of the replicas are adorned with the rotten dolls just like the original one is, there’s something that differs those places extremely:
And maybe it’s just an impression, but while all the other islands look in the bright sunlight like a hanging garden of damaged dolls- the original one stays creepy, no matter the weather. Some people say they saw the dolls moving their limbs, twisting their heads, blinking their eyes.
They are still there.
(And they are watching you)
To get there:
METRO: I went to Barranca del Muerto, then – >
UBER: to EmbarcaderoCuemanco Xochimilco (around 150MXN, 20 minutes without traffic, an hour with).
AT THE PIER: you’ll see many lovely colourful boats – start asking about the price and bargaining. The regular price is 350MXN/hour, but you can easily go as low as 300 or even 250MXN/hour if you’re lucky or have more charm than I do. Tell the guy you want to go to Isla Munecas – he’ll know what to do.
WHAT WILL YOU NEED:
– good company (always! to keep you happy and to split the fare – 20pax max)
– time (2 hrs to get to the pier, 4hrs for canals + visiting the island)
Be aware of the fact, that the original one might be closed.