Graveyard Shift

The Terrifying Story Behind Mexico's "Island Of The Dolls"

For supernatural enthusiasts, finding the best haunted places in Mexico isn't as difficult as it used to be. More often than not, the hardest part of fulfilling one's quest to be scared witless is figuring out the truth about what caused a location to become haunted.

Luckily, when it comes to Mexico's La Isla de las Muñecas, or The Island of the Dolls, there is no shortage of information available for those who are sticklers for details. If you're brave enough, you can take a trip south of the US border, to learn the history of the ghost of a young girl who haunts the island. 

  • The Island Of The Dolls Began With A Tragic Legend

    The Island of the Dolls did not begin as a tourist attraction. Instead, it was a passion project for the island's caretaker, Don Julián Santana Barrera. In the 1950s, Barrera withdrew from societal life to tend to the island. According to the island's website, shortly after Barrera arrived, he found the body of a young girl floating in one of the island's canals. Barrera blamed himself for not being able to save the girl, and was noticeably shaken when, soon after her death, he came upon a doll floating near the canal where her body was found. 

    Barrera hung the doll from a tree to show respect for the deceased girl. Soon after this, he began hearing mysterious noises on the island, such as screams, laughter, and footsteps. He decided that the noises were caused by the spirit of the little girl who drowned, and that the only way to make her happy was to obtain more dolls for her. Thus, The Island of the Dolls was created. While many have concluded that the story of the girl's death was concocted by Barrera, who lost his grip on reality in his isolation, the caretaker remained adamant about the girl's existence up until his death in 2001. 

  • Barrera Traded Produce For Dolls

    Barerra collected the island's vast array of dolls through various means. One of his preferred methods for acquiring dolls was to trade produce to locals. Barerra tended to a garden on the island, and he bartered his vegetables and fruits in exchange for new dolls. He also bought dolls to decorate the inside of his home, thinking they would keep him safe. Occasionally, Barrera found dolls in the canals and in dumpsters. 

  • Don Julian Barrera Died Mysteriously

    In April 2001, Anastasio — Barrera's nephew — stopped by the island to help his uncle plant pumpkins, when out of nowhere, Barrera began to sing. Anastasio claims that his uncle was singing to ward off mermaids, who had been trying to tempt him into the water. Anastasio went home, and when he returned, he found his uncle dead in the canal. Allegedly, his body was in the exact spot where he claimed the little girl had drowned. An autopsy revealed Barrera had died of heart failure.

  • The Island's Dolls Supposedly Whisper At Night

    Both the island's tour guides and visitors have allegedly experienced paranormal happenings. It is said that after dark, the dolls talk to one other. Many claim to hear whispers coming from the dolls, and locals claim that the dolls will move around and turn their heads to stare at passersby. In addition to the spirit of the little girl that is said to haunt the island, the spirit of Barrera may reside there as well.