An Island of Decomposing Dolls

Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
June 17 2013 1:58 PM

The Hanging, Decomposing, Decapitated Dolls of La Isla De Las Munecas

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Photo by Esparta

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There is a disturbing circularity to the story of "La Isla de la Munecas," aka "The Island of the Dolls."

More than 50 years ago, Don Julian Santana left his young wife and child and moved onto an island on Teshuilo Lake in the Xochimilco canals of Mexico, where he said a young girl had drowned. Most, including his relatives, agree that Don Julian Santana merely imagined the drowned girl. Regardless, Don Julian Santana devoted his life to honoring this lost soul in a peculiar way: He collected and hung up toy dolls by the hundreds. 

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Santana began collecting lost dolls from the canals and the trash near his island home. He is also said to have traded produce he grew to locals for more dolls. Santana did not clean up the dolls or attempt to fix them, but rather strung them up with missing eyes and limbs, covered in dirt, and generally in whatever state he found them in. Even when dolls arrived in good shape, the wind and weather quickly turned them into cracked and distorted versions of themselves.

Despite the fact that most people found the isle frightening, Don Julian saw the dolls as beautiful protectors, and he welcomed visitors, whom he would show around, and charge a small fee for taking photos.

In 2001 Don Julian Santana was found drowned.

More photos of the La Isla De Las Munecas can be seen on Atlas Obscura.

More dolls from the uncanny valley:

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Photo byTroels Myrup

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Photo byLa Lupe

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