The Island of the Dolls — By Lydian Shipp
Mexico North America State of Mexico Trips

The Island of the Dolls — By Lydian Shipp

(NOTE: This post was written when I was 13. I edited it in 2017 for grammatical errors and other technical stuff, but maintained the content to preserve my 13-year-old perspective.)

The Island of the Dolls (Isla de las Munecas) was home to only one person, Julian Santana. He drowned in 2001 and there have been many suspicions about why exactly he drowned. The island is now run by his family members as a tourist attraction. Actually though, the island isn’t really an island at all. It’s actually one of the many floating gardens known as chinampas that are located in Xochimilco.

According to stories, Julian found a little girl mysteriously drowned in the river beside the island he was living on. They say that he was being haunted by the spirit of the girl, so when he noticed a doll floating in the canals, he hung it on a tree on the island to appease her spirit. Julian traded home grown fruits and vegetables with other locals in exchange for more dolls to hang on the island. He continued to hang dolls on the island until his death in 2001. Some people say that one of the reasons why he continued to hang the dolls on the island until his death was because he had gone insane. His spirit is now said to inhabit the island along with the spirit of the little girl.

Julian’s death was by drowning. He drowned in the same location that the little girl had drowned many years before. People speculated that the dolls had killed him, possessed by the little girl’s spirit, and possibly others. Others say that it was just an accident.

To Julian Santana, the dolls had a few different purposes. They appeased the restless spirit of the young tourist girl who had died in the canals, and kept away evil spirits. He also said that they helped him with his harvests. Because of his belief that the dolls were still ‘alive’, Julian thought that at night the dolls would walk around the island and kill animals.

For many years, people thought that the island where Julian lived was uninhabited. When people began noticing the dolls hanging from the trees on the island, there began to be more visitors to the island, including some local political figures. While he was alive, Julian would show people around the island, charging a small fee for photos.

Julian’s favorite doll goes by the name of Antonina, or La Moneca, depending. I’ve seen it both ways. Either way, this doll is housed in the small hut on the island on an altar surrounded by trinkets left by visitors, along with a picture of Julian Santana. Visitors to the island bring trinkets to this altar to ask for miracles from the doll, which are apparently often granted. Many will also bring a doll for the island’s collection.

Visitors to the island report visions of both the little girl who drowned and Julian Santana. Many people also say that they will see the dolls move, or that they will hear their whispers. Almost everybody says that they feel like the dolls’ eyes are following them.

Related Posts:

The Legend of La Llorona – By Lydian Shipp

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Santa Muerte: Saint Death — By Lydian Shipp

Calaveras de Azucar: Sugar Skulls and the Day of the Dead — By Lydian Shipp  

Cempasuchil: Marigolds and the Day of the Dead — By Lydian Shipp

Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)- Part I — By Jennifer Shipp

Haunted Guanajuato: The House of the Witches and the Public Cemetery — By Jennifer Shipp

Haunted Guanajuato: Casa De Las Brujas in Guanajuato, Mexico — By Lydian Shipp


N.A. (n.d) Isla de las Munecas – The Island of the Dolls. Retrieved 12/3/2013 from:

Delana (n.d.) Mexico’s Creepiest Tourist Destination: Island of the Dolls. Retrieved 12/3/2013 from:

Wikipedia (2013) Xochimilco. Retrieved 12/3/2013 from:

Eastwood, Debrah (2013) The Island of the Dolls. Retrieved 12/4/2013 from:

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