Just south of Mexico City there is a small island, hidden deep within the canals of Xochimico, known locally as Isla de las Munecas, The Island of the Dolls. Up until 2001 the only permanent inhabitant of the island was Don Julián Santana Barrera.
Some claim that he witnessed a little girl dying and, despite valiant efforts, was unable to rescue her. Others insist that there never was a child (none was ever named) and that Barrera hallucinated the event. Regardless, Barrera was a deeply traumatized man and whatever the trigger was, it changed his life.
The story continues, not long after his grim discovery, Julián found a doll floating nearby and presumed it had belonged to the poor girl. As a way of showing respect and in the hope of providing some comfort to the spirit of the little girl. He picked up the doll and hung it to a tree, more dolls appeared and Barrera fished those out too.
Convinced that this was a sign from an evil spirit, he began hanging the dolls to the trees around the island. Julián believed this would help protect himself from evil and would appease the spirit of the dead girl. One by one, over the years hundreds of dolls have been placed around the island, creating a shrine to the little girls spirit.
The dolls were displayed as they were found, some with missing eyes and limbs or covered in dirt. Even when dolls arrived in good condition, the wind and weather naturally decomposed them over time creating an eerie tableaux of ghoulish faces within the trees that you see today.
Local legend says that the dolls move their heads and arms and even opened their eyes. No one really knows if the island is haunted by the spirit of the young girl or if the old hermit was simply insane (eccentric definitely) but he believed only the dolls could help. Sadly, the truth died in 2001 after Julián met the same fate as the little girl he spent 50 years trying to help.