Inside The Secret Italian Island Where Black Plague Sufferers Were Taken To Die

Known as one of the most illegal places one could (but really shouldn't) visit, Poveglia Island sits just off the coast of northern Italy near Venice. When most people begin planning a trip to that part of the world, images of romantic walkways and Renaissance art come to mind - haunted islands, on the other hand, generally don't rank very high on anyone's must-see list. 

But some visitors are still curious about the small, infamous Italian island that once hosted thousands of refugee black plague victims, serving as a quarantine island for those who were even suspected of harboring the bacteria. The island remains one of the most haunted places in Italy; and despite the fact that it is illegal to visit Poveglia, thrill-seekers continue to consider it a cool, albeit creepy destination; however, everyone who has taken the chance of stepping foot on the island has left with absolutely no desire to ever return. Read on to learn more about this haunted island in Italy.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY

  • It Was The Island Where Plague Sufferers Were Taken To Die

    The Italian island of Poveglia has a history chock-full of tragic events going back thousands of years. During the Roman Empire, the island was used to house victims of the plague in order to protect the rest of the country, forcing inflicted people to live and die in isolation. Then, during the medieval era, when the plague returned and killed off nearly two-thirds of Europe's population, Poveglia was again called upon to take in the sick and dying.

    Dead bodies quickly began to overcrowd the island and thousands were dumped into large, common graves. In many cases, the bodies were burned. Some overly cautious Italian communities even got into the habit of shipping away anyone who showed the slightest signs of illness. Many of those people had not actually been infected with the plague at all, and were literally dragged to Poveglia and dumped atop piles of rotting corpses.

    The terrifying, negative energy that has been left in the wake of these deaths remains, even in the island's very soil.

  • The Very Soil Has Turned Rotten

    The Very Soil Has Turned Rotten
    Photo: Berto78 / Wikimedia Commons

    Poveglia Island still happens to be home to thriving grape vineyards. Nearly the only people who dare visit the island these days are those who go to seasonally harvest the fruit. Grape vines must do well in ashy soil, because it had been said that more than 50 percent of the island's soil is composed of human ash.

    Yes - over thousands of years that is just how many people have perished and rotted on the nightmarish island.

  • A Psychiatric Hospital Was Built On Poveglia, Resulting In Even More Tortured Souls

    When a mental hospital was opened on Poveglia Island in 1922, few people were very surprised. However, the arrival of droves of mentally disturbed patients to the island only served to enrich the legend of it being a place to avoid. The isolation and privacy offered by the island also allowed for disreputable scientists and doctors to do as they pleased to their patients.

    Reports of wide spread abuse and heinous experiments began to float back to the mainland, bringing with them the screams of the tortured souls trapped there.

  • Doctors Tortured Their Patients On Poveglia

    Poveglia legend tells of a particularly demented doctor who worked at the island's mental hospital in the early 20th century. His notorious experiments on patients are still shocking when told today. For instance, he believed that lobotomies were a great way to treat and cure mental illness, so he performed lobotomies on numerous patients, usually against their will. The procedures were heinously wicked, and painful, too. He used hammers, chisels, and drills with no anesthesia or concern for sanitation.

    He supposedly saved his darkest experiments for special patients, whom he took to the hospital's bell tower. Whatever he did in there, the screams from those being tortured could be heard across the island.

    Karma eventually caught up with the wicked doctor. According to the story, the doctor began to suffer his own mental torture and was pursued by the island's multitude of ghosts. Eventually, he lost his mind and climbed to the top of the bell tower and flung himself to his death below. There are varying accounts of his death, though. Some say he may have actually been pushed, either by an angry island spirit or by some of his furious patients.

    Supposedly a nurse witnessed his fall, claiming that he initially survived, but that a ghostly mist overcame his body and choked him to death. Somehow, the mental hospital remained open until 1968.

  • Some Say Their Screams Are Still Heard Today

    Many believe that hundreds of thousands of tormented souls still remain trapped on Poveglia Island. From the massive influx of plague victims who were forced onto the island to those who were tortured at the mental hospital that was once stationed there, a sense of sorrow and suffering continues to permeate from the island to this day.

    In fact, it has even been said that you can still hear their screams.

  • Illegal Thrill Seekers Report A Frightening Presence

    Illegal Thrill Seekers Report A Frightening Presence
    Photo: Public Domain / Max Pixel

    Visitors to Poveglia have been forbidden for decades. Of course, that doesn't stop the occasional thrill seeker from taking a boat over to the island. Some look at it as a dare; others are genuinely interested in experiencing a bit of the paranormal. However, all who venture there return shaken. One thing visitors report experiencing is the sensation of being watched. Others report being scratched and pushed by invisible forces.

    Some entities have even been said to push visitors into walls or chase them down corridors.