They hang from trees and clothes lines. Bits of plastic bodies jammed onto fenceposts and nailed to cabin doors, decaying heads strewn among the island’s greenery, gazing at visitors through insect-infested eye-sockets. Welcome to Mexico‘s Isla de las Muñecas, or Island of Dolls.

Located deep in Xochimilco, a borough just 28km south of Mexico City, the Isla de las Muñecas is part of an Aztec-made network of canals and artificial islands called chinampas.

Legend has it that decades ago a little girl’s corpse washed up on the murky banks of the island. Don Julian Santana Barrera, the island’s solitary caretaker, discovered her floating facedown alongside a waterlogged doll. To commemorate her spirit, Barrera hung the doll on a nearby tree.

But the little girl’s ghost soon began to haunt him. Desperate to appease her, the caretaker hung more dolls – every bit of a Barbie or scrap of a Cabbage Patch he could lay hands on. Barrera amassed hundreds of them over a span of 50 years. Still, the ghost never left.

Barrera died in 2001. He was reportedly found floating in the same spot that he’d found the girl. Of course, official reports seem to dismiss Barrera’s discovery of the girl in the first place. But the dolls remain, and tourists who visit swear that each doll’s eerie presence speaks for itself – whispering.

Abandoned doll outdoors, Isla de las Muñecas (Island of the Dolls) in Xochimico, Mexico.

15636680830_36070f378e_kDolls welcome the island’s visitors by Kevin (CC license)

15578279327_942b52c248_k

Dolls nailed to the island’s cabin by Kevin (CC license)

15763478345_ba87dc28d1_k

Cabin interior by Kevin (CC license)
15636267558_ce884367da_kDolls on display by Kevin (CC license)

15761605861_d1e281218e_k

Shrine by Kevin (CC license)

15577556999_2c1a8e39db_kThe forest by Kevin (CC license)

15636494467_8aedf7b4c6_k

Dolls hung by metal wire by Kevin (CC license)

15761566101_9adbd29b3b_k

A pile of dolls in decay by Kevin (CC license)

15636478487_26037a983e_kRotting baby by Kevin (CC license)
15728615321_ae9937d9a1_k
Dolls lurk everywhere on the island by Kevin (CC license)

Isla de las Muñecas can be visited by ferry from Embarcadero Cuemanco or from Embarcadero Fernando Celada. Explore more of Mexico with the Rough Guide to MexicoCompare flights, find toursbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.