Poveglia – The Venetian Island of the Dead

When I first saw a picture of Poveglia Island, I couldn’t help but notice how pretty it is. But then I read the story behind the place and let me tell you, there’s nothing pretty about it. For centuries, the island has attracted nothing but the worst fate, with hundreds of thousands of people suffering torturous deaths. Today the island may look uninhabited, but legend suggests otherwise…

Poveglia is located in northern Italy, in the Venetian Lagoons. It has no owners and entry to the place is strictly forbidden. The only time any visits are made is to harvest vineyards. Even fisherman won’t venture intot  the waters near the island, for fear of catching human bones in their nets. For a time, it was owned by the Italian state but was sold to a private buyer in the 1960s. The poor guy lived there for a short while, but abandoned the place after a short while. More recently, a family was known to have purchased Poveglia in an attempt to convert it into a holiday home, but again, they couldn’t spend more than one night there. Rumors say that their daughter’s face was split open and 14 stitches were needed to fix it.

Photo by Chris 73

So what exactly is it that makes the beautiful island one of the most haunted and evil locations in the world? Well, it all began during the Roman era. Poveglia was used as a dumping ground for plague victims, in order to isolate them from the general population. Centuries later, the island served the same purpose during the period of Black Death, one of the most devastating pandemics in human history. The dead were dumped into large pits on the island and burned. In a state of panic, the people who showed even the slightest signs of illness were dragged away to Poveglia and burned alive. Legend goes that over 160,000 people were burned there during this period. Even today, the soil of the island, along with the charred remains of the bodies, has created a thick layer of sticky ash that covers the entire place.

Photo by tedlum

Several centuries later, in 1922, more terrible things began to happen. A large psychiatric hospital was constructed on the island, complete with a bell tower. While the doctors and nurses noticed nothing unusual, the mentally imbalanced patients reported sightings of ghosts of the plague victims. They said that they could hear the tortured people wail and scream all through the night . But no one took them seriously, considering their mental condition. And now comes the most horrible part of all, although it sounds so much like a movie that I wonder if it has been made up. There was supposedly this evil lunatic doctor at the hospital who would torture patients in the name of finding cures for insanity. He would take them up to the bell tower and perform lobotomies on them using hammers, chisels and hand drills.

Photo by ntenny

Legend has it that after several years of torturing patients, the evil doctor was finally able to see the spirits of Poveglia himself. In a fit of madness, he ran up to the bell tower and jumped, but the fall didn’t kill him. According to witnesses, as he lay writhing in pain on the ground, a mist came up from nowhere and strangled him to death. He was then bricked up in the bell tower, according to the story, and continues to haunt the island today. Seems to me that the part about the doctor sounds totally made up, though.

Photo by ntenny

Nevertheless, the island paints a scary picture to all those who read about it. Psychics who have visited the place in order to investigate have left scared to death and unable to return. Everyone who has been there reports that a heavy, dark and evil atmosphere shrouds the place, and the tortured moans can sometimes be heard. A particularly scary account comes from a daredevil who managed to spend a night on the island. He said that as soon as he entered the abandoned asylum, he heard a strange, booming voice commanding him to, “Leave immediately and do not return.” I don’t know how he even made it out of there, if it were me, I would have died of a heart-attack right there.


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