“Stare at the dark too long and you will eventually see what isn’t there.”

― Cameron Jace, Snow White Sorrow


There we are, again on the dark road of human urban legends and myths. They are everywhere and nowhere but still they are enough intriguing for us, to plot our imagination. Personally, I love the stories that are usually hidden behind the official tales It is not about me being obsessed with darkness but rather trying to bring a bit of light there where it has been for so long gone.

As a little girl, I have never been impressed with dolls. I don’t know why. Maybe their “too much human look” didn’t impress me, so I always picked up cozy toys that looked like animals. I remember that I have never had a peace when dolls were around…. something in their eyes has spoken to me, like the soul that has been caught for eternity and jailed in that little artificial body. They wrote that every girl is Barbie or Anabelle …..I only know that super beauty of Barbie doll has been my happiness, back at childhood time and I have never wanted anything but attractive barbie with her perfect smile. Once I got normal doll with those lucrative glass eyes and this one has been so sinister to me that I asked my parents to give it away to children in need. It was too much for me. Since that day, I had accepted only barbies in my room and not any other doll. Never ever.

When I found out from my friend from Mexico, about the existence of the Isla de las Munecas or the Island of the dolls, I was amazed and thrilled at the same time. You can guess immediately how much I would like to be there and witness with my eyes all of it but for now I am telling you my story, based on his Story,  that is born on the narration of his grandmother, old and good Luisa Perez.

Don Julian Santana has started the chapter of the doll book when he left his family, over 50 years ago, and moved on the the Island on Teshuilo Lake in the Xochimilco canals, not so far away from Mexico City. According to local beliefs and Luisa´s memory, Don Julian found the dead body of drowned little girl with her doll. Strong in religion and sensible for any kind of supernatural events, this island caretaker believed that girl´s soul is wandering around and haunting the Island so he decided to do something about it. He hung the found doll on the tree around the canal and not long after, he brought many others dolls in poor state and let them hang around, as the morbid celebration of life and dead. Their relatives and family members have never really believed that Don Julian has found the dead body of the little girl and they have thought that he simply lost his mind and merged with the shadows of his own madness. However, some other people like Luisa Perez and her man, Fernando, they are sure that old man had seen more than anyone else.

It is pretty much disturbing fact that this man began collecting of creepy dolls that he used to find abandoned in the canal. He used to trade his own products for broken and ugly dolls, without any intention to fix them but to let them be exposed, as they are, abandoned and forgotten from the rest of the busy world. Isn’t he like some guardian of the souls in the antic mythology? Sometimes, some beautiful doll ended up by him and his cottage but after being on the wind and rain, she would be turned into the army of the other dolls, scary and lucrative.

Poor man had met the mea culpa syndrome because he didn’t save the life of the little girl. It also may be said that he has been haunted by his own feeling of guilty and he found his salvation in collecting dolls and enabling them to hang all over, like their testimony, the balance between this and some other world. His body has been found in 2001, on the same place where the little girl drowned but his odd passion has colored the island into the terrifying and bizarre, despite fact that his intention was noble. Luisa wrote to her sister letter and she described that dolls are moving during the night and screaming. We all know that human mind has a brilliant fantasy, especially if it grounded on deep roots of supernatural beliefs and settings.

Don Julian believed that he had done the right things and he was always friendly to the visitors and showing them all around, for a small fee that he used for providing new doll as a protector of island souls. If we look from the modern perspective, this island has a great tourist potential and meaning. It is only 17 miles far away from south of the center of Mexico City and if you are there and inspired with this legend, I suggest you to go for it and give a chance to this island and its dolls. How you will do it? Very easy, from Embarcadero Cuemanco is is a 4 hours round trip and costs about 1,4000 MEX$ or about 75USD $.

I find this urban legend very tragic  since it is created on the loss of one young life and on the sadness of spirit of Don Julian, who saw the world with his own eyes and who had been haunted and cursed by abandoned doll souls. But, above all, it is the tale about empathy.  If Don Julian didnt have a good heart and such a big amount of compassion for others, the drowned girl and her ugly doll would have been forgotten as well as many other unlucky destinies. This Island is not terrifying, we are with our cold hearts. This world is very loud and that is why we don’t hear the lonely voices of those who are stuck in the darkness. We need to take care of those who are abandoned and forgotten…. Only there we may find a key for being born again as homo sapiens, as people who feel again and do good again for each other’s .


  1. Sarah’s intriguing article reminded me of Mother Shipton’s cave near Knaresborough, Yorkshire, England…

    Mother Shipton was Ursula Southeil (1488-1561). She was the illegitimate child of a girl just 15 years old and an unknown father (illegitimacy was very common then [e.g. Leonardo da Vinci was an illegitimate child]). The girl was brought before the local magistrate and told to reveal the name of the father. She did not, and was banished from the town.

    She found an empty cave in a local forest and managed to survive there with the help of a few other forest dwellers. Ursula was born in the cave.

    Eventually, a local abbot took pity on the mother and child and placed Ursula with a foster family and sent the mother away to a convent. She died there, not long after; having never seen her daughter again.

    Ursula grew up in Knaresborough, but was ostricised by town folk. This was due to her inhibited physical appearance: as an infant, she had lacked sufficient nutrition, etc., and this affected her physiological development. Adults and children ridiculed and tormented her, and so she left the town and sought refuge in the same cave she was born in.

    She studied the foliage of the forest and began to earn an income as a herbalist (i.e. then, it was more common for folk to consult a herbalist than a physician for common medical ailments). The Vatican categorized these herbalists as a threat to Church power and deemed such women as Ursula as ‘witches’.

    When she was 24 years old, Ursula met and married a young carpenter from York, but he died a few years later and they had no children. She kept his name, Shipton, and the honorific of ‘mother’ emerged in her later years.

    Close to the cave is a petrifying well (i.e. water very rich in sulphate and carbonate: this chemical combination petrifies objects). During her lifetime, Ursula may have unintentionally-discarded items (e.g. piece of cloth) that became petrified, and gossipmongers and myth makers created a tale about the well and Mother Shipton. From the late-1500s onwards, it has been a place of pilgrimage for those believing the petrification of objects (e.g. toys and dolls) protects people…


  2. What an interesting article, Sarah !

    This is a story of love, empathy, compassion, and sympathy. Don Julian definitely possesses all of the above virtues, as he cared so much about that little girl who had drowned on an island.

    As you said, Sarah, he kept that little girl’s memory alive by taking all these dolls “muñecas” to the island, where she had died, to pay homage to that little girl !

    Thank you, Sarah, for always bringing out the positive ! God bless you !


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About Sarahowlgirl1982

I am a master of Political Sciences, with special focus on Security Studies, Islamic Counter Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction. I enjoy discovering and commenting things which are " in the air" but still not spoken.I also do like science writing and planing to move myself into the pure science journalism !