The Creepiest Abandoned Islands

List Rules
Vote up the haunting deserted islands that give you the creeps.

What's creepier than a deserted island in the middle of nowhere? A deserted island infested with thousands of rare, poisonous snakes? How about a deserted island where the soil consists mainly of the ashes of thousands of 14th-century Black Death victims? 

There is something inherently spooky about the idea of an abandoned island without any escape. And, of course, any abandoned island instantly becomes scarier when you add dilapidated buildings and a past full of horrifying events. Get ready to travel the world and visit some of the creepiest abandoned islands on Earth.

  • Poveglia Plague Island (Italy)
    Photo: Theodor Weyl / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    303 VOTES

    Poveglia Plague Island (Italy)

    Poveglia Island, a tiny island between Venice and Lido off the coast of Italy, has a sordid history full of death and disease. Its first inhabitants were hiding from the invasion of the barbarians in 421 CE and wound up staying there once they realized the island was too small and inconvenient for any barbaric tribe to sack.

    In 1348, the bubonic plague swept through Europe, killing a third of the continent's population. Poveglia was used as a quarantine island, and anyone showing signs of symptoms was brought there to be separated from the rest of society in an attempt to quell the spread of the plague. Once a person caught the plague and was brought to the island, they knew they were being brought to their death. The city brought the dead to the island, too, and tens of thousands of bodies from Venice were burned in a massive pyre at the island's center. The island served the same purpose when the bubonic plague struck once again in 1630.

    The next time the island was used was when Napoleon Bonaparte stored ammunition and weapons there. Because of the island's history of death, locals were afraid to visit, which Napoleon used to his advantage. Eventually, the island was discovered, and battles took place, further raising the death toll of the cursed land. 

    As if that wasn't enough, a mental asylum was opened on the island in 1922. Stories from locals claim there was a deranged doctor who would torture and kill the asylum's patients, performing horrific experiments on them. That doctor eventually died from falling off a bell tower. Whether he fell, jumped, or was pushed is unclear. 

    The mental asylum eventually shut down in the 1960s, and the island has been abandoned ever since. Greenery has overtaken the remains of the hospital and bell tower. There is no longer a bell, but locals say they can still hear its echoes. Residents steer clear of the island, some saying that over 160,000 people have died on the small bit of land and that the soil consists mainly of ashes from the centuries of burned human remains.

    303 votes
  • Ilha da Queimada Grande (Brazil)
    Photo: Prefeitura Municipal de Itanhaém / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.5
    239 VOTES

    Ilha da Queimada Grande (Brazil)

    The Ilha da Queimada Grande is a picturesque island 90 miles off the coast of São Paulo, Brazil. Although it appears to be a stunning paradise, practically everyone in Brazil avoids it at all costs. The island is infested with one of the deadliest species of snakes in the world, the golden lancehead viper - between 2,000 and 4,000 of them, to be exact. 

    The venom of the golden lancehead viper can kill a human within an hour of biting. Local lore surrounds the island with many stories of violent death by snake bite, including some of an innocent fisherman in search of bananas, and a lighthouse keeper and his entire family. Some believe pirates put the snakes there to guard their treasure, which may be buried somewhere on the island. 

    Scientists attribute the deadly snakes not to pirates but to evolution. With sea levels high enough to keep the snakes from leaving and no ground-level prey to eat, the snakes had to climb trees and strike migratory birds as they flew by. This led to the evolutionary development of stronger, deadlier venom to kill prey faster so the birds couldn't escape. 

    Because of the snakes, the Brazilian government mandated a doctor to be on site for any visits to the island. Even if a person is bitten and given the antivenom by a doctor, the bite can still cause permanent damage, such as brain hemorrhaging and muscle tissue necrosis, so the Brazilian government tries to dissuade people from visiting as much as possible. The only visitors to the island are scientists who hope to study the species and their venom for potential uses in pharmaceuticals.

    239 votes
  • 3
    168 VOTES

    Ross Island (India)

    Ross Island is the smallest island of the archipelago off the coast of India. In the 19th century, the British had occupied and colonized India, but rebel groups were popping up everywhere. To punish anyone who fought against them, the British colonizers used Ross Island to house hundreds of prisoners. 

    The tiny island became the British administrative headquarters during this time because its size and location kept it safe from attack. From Ross Island, the cruelty spread to the surrounding islands as the British struggled to maintain order. 

    The prisoners were forced to labor in the humid jungle of the islands, clearing space and building luxurious mansions, churches, and verandas for the British colonizers. While the British lived in comfort and opulence, the prisoners were forced to live in squalor. Many died from malaria, cholera, and dysentery. The British even conducted experimental trials of medications on the prisoners. 

    The horrors of Ross Island went on until 1937 when the prison was closed down, but the island had more tragedy in its future. In 1941, a magnitude 8.1 earthquake hit the island and killed over 3,000 civilians. Soon after that, the Japanese used the island during WWII, building bunkers and storing supplies. 

    In 1945, India reclaimed the island, and since then, it has been abandoned. The fauna has overtaken the structures on the island, leaving only dilapidated ruins behind.

    168 votes
  • Disney’s Discovery Island (Florida)
    Photo: Best of WDW from USA / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0
    176 VOTES

    Disney’s Discovery Island (Florida)

    Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL, once had a separate, fifth park in addition to the famous four we know today: Magic Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot. The fifth park was called Discovery Island, and it was themed around exotic birds. The park was on an island off the coast of Florida, and it closed its doors in 1999. It's been abandoned ever since. 

    Disney World purchased the island and first opened it as Treasure Island in 1974, inspired by the pirates from the Disney film Treasure Island. In 1976, the park reopened as Discovery Island and boasted over 150 species of rare birds. Visitors would get to the island by boat, which, of course, was part of the magic. 

    Once Animal Kingdom opened in 1999, attendance on the island dropped drastically, and Discovery Island relocated the birds to Animal Kingdom before shutting its doors. Since then, the island has been unattended and abandoned. The buildings were never demolished, so the island's fauna has grown over and through them. Hurricanes and storms have left the structures in shambles, aside from a few of the largest ones, including the animal hospital, which still contains fridges full of medications and incubators. 

    Disney now employs guards to keep watch and stop intruders from entering the derelict island. Rumors abound concerning what Disney will do with the island - and why it's so well-guarded.

    176 votes
  • 5
    115 VOTES

    Hashima Island (Japan)

    Hashima Island, also known as Gunkanjima (which means "Battleship Island" for its resemblance to a Japanese battleship), is located 9 miles outside of Nagasaki. 

    The island served most famously as a coal facility, beginning in 1887 after the island was purchased by the Mitsubishi Group. Apartment buildings and businesses were built to support the coal miners and their families. The island was, at one point, a small, booming metropolis with over 5,000 citizens. 

    Hashima Island has a much more sinister past than coal mining. Throughout WWII, Japan used the island to keep prisoners of war, mostly Korean and Chinese civilians. They were exploited for labor under extreme conditions, and over 1,000 people died on the island during the war. 

    As the years went on, coal was replaced with petroleum and natural gas. In addition, the island's natural source of coal was depleted, and the island was abandoned. The greenery began to take over, growing through the industrial concrete structures.

    115 votes
  • McNabs Island (Nova Scotia)
    Photo: Stephanie Clay / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0
    121 VOTES

    McNabs Island (Nova Scotia)

    McNabs Island is a small island in the Halifax Harbor off the coast of Canada. It was used as a fishing island until it was occupied by Peter McNab in the 1780s. He and his family began a settlement that existed until 1934. 

    The island was used for a variety of things, and after it was abandoned, many of the structures fell into disrepair. Visit the abandoned island and you'll discover the remains of a motley array of historical artifacts, including multiple shipwrecks, a bootleg soda pop factory from the Prohibition era, a potter's field full of the bodies of cholera victims, military forts, and dilapidated Victorian homes. 

    Today, the island is often overlooked. There are no tours or museums, but if you ask around, you might get the contact information for a nearby fisherman, Captain Mike, who is said to offer trips to the island for $20.

    121 votes