When people think of islands, they imagine a picturesque tropical beach with a light cool breeze, rustling tall palm trees and the sun shining down on colorful umbrellas. Sounds nice, huh? Relaxing even.
Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but in this article we’ll be reviewing some of the spookiest and down-right nightmarish islands you’ll ever encounter on this planet.
1. La Isla de las Muñecas, Mexico
The name translates into ‘The Island of Dolls’, which is unnerving to say the least. And the story behind it isn’t much nicer.
In the 1950s, Don Julian Santana left his wife, child and entire life in the city, and moved to a small island on Teshuilo Lake in the Xochimilco canals. Don Julian dedicated his life to honoring the spirit of a girl that was believed to have drowned in the lake. Why? No one’s really sure, but some say he heard the voice of the girl in his head.
He decided to honor her spirit by collecting lost dolls from the canal and from the trash. Some said he also traded produce that he grew for more dolls. And what did he do with these dolls, you may ask? He hung them on trees, putting them up for display, where they watched on, like a bizarrely creepy audience. What made it worse was that Don Julian did not attempt to fix these dolls or improve their appearance in any way before hanging them, meaning many of the dolls he hung were decapitated, eyeless, without the full number of limbs, making them that bit more creepy. Even those which were in good shape quickly turned ghastly-looking after being exposed to the elements for prolonged periods of time.
To make matters worse, in 2001, Don Julian Santana was found dead, drowned in the lake, around the same spot that the girl he spent his life honouring had died all those years before.
2. Deadman’s Island, Canada
This island sits to the south of Vancouver in Canada and was home to the indigenous Squamish people. Correction — it was home to the bodies of the indigenous Squamish people. That’s right. The island was a burial ground for the indigenous people. This was discovered by one of Vancouver’s first white settlers, John Morton, who visited the island in 1862. He noticed there were hundreds and hundreds of red cedar boxes lashed to the trees, containing the bones and remains of Squamish people.
Morton liked the island, and was not discouraged by the fact that it was considered a burial ground. He wanted to acquire it, but began changing his mind when he learned that Deadman’s Island was a scene to a giant tribal war, which saw over 200 warriors lose their lives.
The settlers continued to use the island as a cemetery until 1888, where it doubled as a quarantine area for victims of the smallpox epidemic. Those who did not survive were buried there.
And if all that wasn’t enough to deter you from wanting to visit Deadman’s Island, there have been reports of hauntings for the last hundred years.
A haunted burial ground, battleground, quarantine and cemetery. Not the most ideal vacation spot.
3. Isola La Gaiola, Italy
The Island of Gaiola is one of Naples’ minor islands. It is located off the gulf of Naples in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Consisting of two small islets with a bridge connecting them, the Island of Gaiola is quite stunning, and it’s easy to understand why a number of people throughout history were keen to own it. However, people aren’t as keen nowadays, probably because they learned of the long list of tragic misfortunes that its owners have been through throughout the years.
This list begins with Hans Braun, the then Swiss owner of the villa on Isola La Gaiola, who was found murdered and wrapped in a rug. His wife drowned in the sea not long after. Tragic, but not enough to deter the next person from buying the island. The next owner of the villa was a German by the name of Otto Grunback, who had a fatal heart attack while on the island. Maurice-Yves Sandoz, a Swiss writer who, at one point owned the island, committed suicide in a mental hospital. After that, German steel industrialist Karl Paul Langheim was driven into economic ruin. Gianni Agnelli, the owner of Fiat Automobiles, also owned Isola La Gaiola for a while. His only son later committed suicide, and his grandchild was later kidnapped. The last owner of the island, Gianpasquale Grappone, is now in jail after his insurance company failed.
Eventually, people caught on and figured that this island isn’t exactly good news, and there are other Italian islands you could own that are just as nice (and that won’t ruin your life). The island is currently a property of the government of the Campania region but is pretty much abandoned.
4. Hart Island, United States of America
Off the coast of the borough of the Bronx lies a small island, with a long, gruesome history. A mile long and a quarter-mile across, Hart Island has proven to be versatile despite its small size.
The first official use of Hart Island was a training ground of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) in 1864. Things began to go downhill for Hart Island in 1865, where it served as a Prisoner of War camp for four months in the American Civil War. It housed over 3000 Confederate prisoners in this period of time, 235 of whom died in the camp.
About 5 years later, in 1870, the yellow fever epidemic broke out where Hart Island was used to quarantine victims. Throughout various points in its history, Hart Island has been home to a women’s psychiatric hospital, a home for delinquent boys, and a tubercularium.
In spite of all this, Hart Island is most famous for its cemetery. It’s nickname, ‘Island of the Dead’, comes from the fact that it contains the world’s largest tax-funded cemetery, at a staggering 131 acres. Burials in Hart Island began during the Civil War, but it wasn’t until after the Civil War that the island was sold to New York in 1868 and the public cemetery was officially opened that so many people were shipped off to the island to be buried. Since then, almost one million people have been buried on the island. The burials are performed by the inmates of the Rikers Island Prison, as it would be too expensive if every burial was performed by qualified professionals.
All in all, it’s fair to say Hart’s Island isn’t the loveliest place in the world.
5. Norfolk Island, Australia
Norfolk Island is a small island, 877 miles off the coast of Mainland Australia. Its remote and hard-to-reach location makes it the ideal place to send ‘the worst description of convicts’. This was according to the British government in 1824 – as Australia was a colony of the former. More sooner than later, thousands of convicts found themselves on the island, which many described as ‘hell on Earth’. This reputation wasn’t unfounded; stories of tortures, lashings, rape and even murders were not uncommon – the island’s guards were particularly vicious and inhumane, to say the least.
The island saw so much violence and bloodshed that it comes as no surprise to hear so many people suggest it’s haunted. Interviews conducted with Norfolk Island residents in the mid 90s, for an Australian documentary called ‘The Extraordinary’ showed that around 50% of residents had seen, heard or encountered a ghost in some way. This island has seen too much death and violence to not be haunted.
The Not So Pristine Paradise
These five are just a snippet of a long list of spooky islands – there are so many more, we haven’t even scratched the surface. This just goes to show that beneath the promise of a beautiful haven is a morbid backstory worth knowing.