An Island of Decomposing Dolls

Atlas Obscura
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

130617_atlas_Doll1

Photo by Esparta

Atlas Obscura on Slate is a new travel blog. Like us on FacebookTumblr, or follow us on Twitter @atlasobscura.

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. 

Advertisement

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:

130617_atlas_doll2

Photo byTroels Myrup

130617_atlas_doll3

Photo byLa Lupe

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 11:40 AM The U.S. Has Spent $7 Billion Fighting the War on Drugs in Afghanistan. It Hasn’t Worked. 
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 21 2014 11:27 AM There Is Now a Real-life Hoverboard You Can Preorder for $10,000
  Life
Quora
Oct. 21 2014 11:37 AM What Was It Like to Work at the Original Napster?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 11:34 AM Germans Really Are More Punctual. Just Ask Angela Merkel.
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 21 2014 10:43 AM Social Networking Didn’t Start at Harvard It really began at a girls’ reform school.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 21 2014 7:00 AM Watch the Moon Eat the Sun: The Partial Solar Eclipse on Thursday, Oct. 23
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.