During my many years of travel, I was presented opportunities to visit sights off the beaten path. Did you know that just south of Mexico City, between the urban sprawl and the farming region known as Xochimilco lie an ancient lake and canals. A semi-popular tourist attraction, the only way to travel through the canals is by trajinera, like the gondolas of Venice. There is much to be seen on a trip through the canals: swamps, islands covered with exotic plants and trees, and wildlife. There is one place on the canals, however, that is not on the regular route of the trajinera. You can hire one to take you there for about $100.
There is a small, isolated island in the vast, complicated maze of the canals. As your boat approaches the island, across the deathly still water, you cannot help but feel a sense of dread. Twisted, old trees with gnarled branches line the shore, but there is something very sinister about them. As you move closer, you notice that there are faces…hundreds of faces among the branches, staring back at you with dead eyes. Closer, and you see that they are children’s faces, infants with missing limbs, blistered faces, covered in cobwebs, nailed or lashed to the trees with rusted wire. Welcome to La Isla de Las Munecas: The Island of the Dolls.
Some of the dolls have decomposed over time. Damage from the sun has left many covered in blotches and blisters. The wind and rain have eroded any painted surfaces, and left their hair in ragged tufts. Many are missing limbs, or have been given limbs that are not their own. Some are headless. Some are only heads. Some have become the home to spiders and insects that inhabit the island. They are nailed to trees, wired to branches, hung from clothes lines, and jammed into knotholes and between branches. Some of them have smiles, melted by the tropical heat, into grimaces. Some have lost their eyes, or, even more disturbing, have eyes that flutter open in the breeze.
Some days there are visitors to the island, an average of about 20 per day. Some days there are none. All are greeted by one of the relatives of Don Julian, who act as caretakers of the island. There are some, however, who are convinced that the dolls themselves come to life at night to take care of their island home, since Don Julian passed away in 2001. Some even believe that Don Julian has joined the little drowned girl as a permanent resident of the island. Whatever they say, and whatever you believe, it’s hard not to agree with those who claim that La Isla de Las Munecas, The Island of the Dolls, is the Creepiest Place on the Planet.