Posted by Glennis Byron on February 08, 2011 in Blog tagged with , , ,

If dolls give you the shivers, here’s a selection of places you might want to remember in planning your next holiday.

La Isla de la Munecas or the Island of the Dolls, Mexico

Located south of Mexico City in the Xochimico canals is one of the very strangest tourist attractions in the world: an island completely decorated with dolls.

There seem to be various stories about how this came to be, but basically it runs like this: a little girl drowned off the island around fifty years ago. The only inhabitant of the island, a recluse called Julian Barrera, found an old doll in the water, then another and another and finally began collecting dolls to decorate the island with, believing they somehow were vessels for spirits that kept the girl company and kept any further evil from the island.  Barrera died about ten years ago (strangely he too drowned) but the doll island is still maintained. Many of the dolls are mutilated; severed limbs and heads hang along with whole dolls, and mold has grown over many dolls while insects have taken up residence in others. This is definitely a place that makes one feel uncomfortable. Here’s a selection of images:

And a part of a youtube video:

Vent Haven Ventriloquist Museum, Fort Mitchell, Kentucky

Founded by William Shakespeare Berger, an amateur ventriloquist and Cincinnati businessman. If you fancy walking through rooms filled with silent ventriloquist dummies, this is the one for you. See the silent video of the McElroy collection on the Vent Haven website to get the best effect:

Monaco National Museum.

Automatons and Dolls of Yesteryear

Collected by Madeleine de Galea in the nineteenth century, Automatons and Dolls of Yesteryear is often referred to as one of the creepiest collections in the world. Take a tour and the guide will activate some of them, so you can see/hear the dolls breathing, sighing, reading and playing the piano.

I wonder if dolls really are inherently creepy or if context has something to do with it. There doesn’t seem to be anything particularly disturbing about this photo I took many years ago when I took  Sindy and Patti on holiday with me…

For an interesting essay on dolls and the uncanny see Simms, Eva-Maria. (1996) “Uncanny Dolls: Images of Death in Rilke and Freud.”
New Literary History 27, no.4 (Fall 1996): 663-77.

In this essay Simms discusses a very strange story by Rilke called ‘Frau Blaha’s Magd’ (1899)   You can find a translation of this story online at

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