Isla de las Munecase (Island of the Dolls) sits a two hour canal ride from Mexico City. Years ago, Julian Santana Barrera lived as a recluse among the canals as the island's only inhabitant. One day, he discovered something that would change the island forever.
One day soon after moving to the island, legend has it that Barrera discovered the body of a young girl floating in the canal. She had drowned by its waters. Later, a doll also floated down the canal and was retrieved by Barrera.
Barrera was distraught when finding the girl's body and felt responsible for her death. He hung her doll from a tree near his shack in memoriam. Soon after, Barrera began to hear whispers and cries from the young girl, haunting him.
Barrera became fearful of the spirit and started hanging other dolls from the trees surrounding his house to appease the unsettled soul. Terrifying limbs and dismembered dolls hung from the wire fencing around his shack and the nearby trees.
Barrera's family has since reported that he believed the island was haunted and wished to please the young girl's spirit, keeping evil away from the island through the dolls. He retrieved the dolls from the floating canals, as well as from the trash in neighboring areas when he would travel on occasion.
Years later, in 2001, Barrera was found by his nephew; he was dead in the same canal where he'd once retrieved the girl's body. Some people believe the girl's spirit finally overtook Barrera. Others believe it was an accidental drowning and that the dolls now take care of the island in Barrera's absence.
Now a well-trafficked tourist destination, the Island of the Dolls is managed by Barrera's family and has seen a variety of television crews and shows come by to experience the eerie island for themselves.
Visitors bring their own dolls, many mangy or missing limbs, to be hung from the trees around Barrera's shack. Some dolls have resided among these trees for more than 50 years and are covered in all manner of mold, spiderwebs and other insects crawling into and out of sockets, as well as eye and nose holes.
Although traveling to the Island of the Dolls is a difficult feat involving a two hour boat ride through the canals, walking among the land of the dolls is a haunting and terrifyingly amazing experience. Overrun by insects, decrepit dolls and wild growth, Barrera's island remains mystical and magical, if not a bit eerie and unsettling.