Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Trouble in Paradise

Photo by Ronnie Robertson, CC BY-SA 2.0
Imagine an island paradise. Golden beaches, endless blue skies, a gentle breeze blowing through the wildflowers. Heaven. Or at least it looks like it. But at night this distant isle shows a different side; giant insects stalk the land, seeking to attack you, and the island itself has many secrets to discover. Even during the day, there's something eerie about this beautiful place. The music coming from your radio is a little creepy to say the least and you seem to be the only human here. Oh, and did I mention that within minutes of moving to the island you find yourself hopelessly in debt to a Tanuki in a Hawaiian shirt?
Yes, I'm talking about the latest Animal Crossing game, New Horizons. In these troubling times it has been the ultimate stress relief for a lot of people. A little bit of escapism that will, no doubt, lead to a whole new collection of creepy pastas written by it's fans. But as I toddled around my island, losing hours to the game and chasing down butterflies for the newly opened museum, a thought crossed my mind; what about real life haunted islands? There's so many of them! And that brings us to this blog post, where I'd like to introduce you to my top five haunted islands. So lets set sail on the good ship Strange Ways and take a cruise together, because these islands? These exist in real life.

Photo by Derek Simeone, CC BY 2.0
La Isla de las Muñecas, Mexico
Probably one of the most well known locations on this list and one of my top places to visit in person one day, this is the infamous Isle of the Dolls. And I'd be the first person to admit that I find old dolls a bit creepy. Tucked away in the Xochimico canals, outside of Mexico city, this island is jam packed with dolls of all shapes and sizes. Carefully placed on the ground, slowly decaying into the earth, watching you from the trees with hollow eye sockets and swaying in the breeze like grotesque wind chimes. It looks like an abandoned horror movie set, but it's history is both equal parts terrifying and tragic.
This island wasn't always as it it now, once it was home to a man by the name of Don Julian Santana Barrera and one must assume he was happy living there. But that all changed when he made the discovery of a little girls body floating just off the shore of his home. How she got there and what lead her to her heart breaking fate is unknown, but what is known is that Don Julian blamed himself for it, for not being there to save her. When a doll was washed ashore not long after, he decided that it must have belonged to the girl and he hung it from a nearby tree as an offering to her spirit. Soon after this he began to hear whispering voices, footsteps and shrill screams in the night. Convinced this was the ghost of the little girl, he began to collect more and more dolls, getting them from anywhere he could and adorning the small island with them. This was a ritual he would carry out for nearly fifty years. He hoped it would sooth the child's tortured, wandering spirit and save him from a similar fate, something he felt was beckoning him. Sadly, in 2001, Don Julian was found in the canal. Face down and lifeless in the same location that he found the little girl. Of course, some people were quick enough to blame the child's spirit, but I think it was more likely the guilt her felt for not having saved her that lead to his death. His legacy lives on in the tourists and ghost hunters who visit the island, many of them bringing dolls of their own to leave as offerings. Many report hearing the same haunting cries and footsteps that the islands late keeper heard.

Photo by Christine Olson, CC BY-ND 2.0

Nevis, the Caribbean
Sun, sea, sand and spirits; beautiful Nevis has it all! It's also home to a lot of ruined plantations and the Eden Brown Estate might just be the most notorious of them all. Back in the 1800's it was owned by the Huggins Family and the daughter of the family, Julia, was to be married to Walter Maynard, son of another rich and prosperous plantation owner. Everything was going smoothly, until the night of the wedding when a fight broke out between Walter and his best man, Julia's brother John Huggins. It's unknown what the argument was about, some say it was about a mistress one of the men had and others say it was about the Huggins constant mistreatment of their slaves, but no matter what people say the end result is the same. The fight escalates, a drink is thrown, a challenge made; a duel. Despite the protests of those around them, it was a matter of honor and both men stormed from the house to the courtyard outside. But the duel itself ended as quickly as it began. Firing their pistols, both men managed to hit their mark and killed each other instantly. Julia was heartbroken, she stopped leaving the house and eventually died a spinster. Some say she went mad in her self imposed isolation. These days Julia can still be found at the crumbling ruins of her previous home, her spirit has been sighted roaming the grounds and weeping. When not seen or heard it's said that her spirit can be felt instead, watching over those exploring her home.

Photo by Jorbasa Fotografie, CC BY-ND 2.0
Jersey, UK
A little closer to home for me and a place where I've had a paranormal experience of my own; Jersey is a gorgeous place, with a rich and sometimes dark history. Home to places with names like Witches' Rock, Gorey Castle, The Well of Death and Ghost Hill, it's hard for the paranormal seeking traveler to know where to start. I could fill a whole blog post with the islands tales and, one day, I will. But for now I'll stick to telling you about Crack Ankle Lane. With a horrific story behind it and a name like that, how could I resist telling you about it?
Found not too far from St Peters is a picturesque sunken lane with a thick, over hanging canopy of trees. Even on a cloudy day it's pretty, but on a sunny day it looks like something from a fairytale. And, like all good fairy tales, this fantasy like setting has a monster. It's known only as the Vioge. A demonic spirit of unknown origins, it's said to resemble an emaciated scarecrow. The lane got it's name by the Vioge's habit of grabbing it's victims by their ankles and dragging them away to it lair, where it would proceed to butcher and devour them. There is no indication where this ghost story comes from, but with the islands history of smuggling, one has to wonder if the two may be linked. Nether the less, be careful if you visit this shady road, nobody want to be done in by a flesh eating Worzel Gummidge.

Photo by Ernie Murphy, CC BY 2.0

Oahu, Hawaii

For many, Hawaii is an idea holiday location for it's beauty, but others might find it interesting for other reasons too. It's long history, fascinating folklore and multitudes of haunted locations make it an ideal holiday location for those who are interested in the paranormal. The perfect place to work on your tan, check out some museums and do a little ghost hunting before a relaxing evening walk on the beach. But even in paradise there's danger, and it turns out there are some nights you might want to skip the romantic midnight strolls and stay in your hotel instead. Such as the night of the full or new moon. These nights are the ones when you're most likely to run afoul of the islands infamous Nightmarchers. Also known as the Huaka'i po, these are the spirits of a group of ancient Hawaiian warrior spirits. They aren't outright malevolent, they're just doing their job. In life they guarded the islands chiefs, in death they are said to continue this task well as roaming the night to protect sacred sites around the island. The real problem is their nasty habit of killing anyone who gazes upon them, although it's said that if you are a descendant of one of their number then they will leave you unharmed. Luckily their arrival is well announced, they march to the loud beat of drums and conch horns. This, combined with the distant glow of the torches they carry, is the only warning you'll get to run. If you see or hear these things then hightail it out of there as quick as you can, stay low, stay hidden and, most importantly, don't make eye contact with them. If they spot you it's said that your only way to survive is to show them the respect they deserve; bow your head and avert your eyes, and, if you have the time, strip naked and lay face down on the ground. Sure, it's uncomfortable and embarrassing, but it's a lot better than being killed and added to their number.

Photo by Kitmasterbloke, CC BY 2.0
Deadman's Island, Canada
Unlike the other islands on this list, you couldn't really consider Deadman's Island a paradise. As it's name suggests, this place has a very dark history to it. Hundreds of years ago it was the site of a terrible battle between native tribes, one which resulted in the massacre of 200 warriors. The tribe responsible for the massacre quickly abandoned the island the following day, horrified to discover that eerie, fiery flowers had sprung up where the bodies of their enemies had fallen. After this it was considered scared, but cursed, land. A island of the dead that was only to be used for burial. The Squamish people used it as such, performing tree burials until the 1800's, when the settlers barged in and took it for themselves. The settlers, rather than respecting the land, used it to quarantine and bury victims of smallpox, essentially dumping their sick people on the island to die. Not a place for the faint of heart, all of this death and misery seems to have built up and visitors to the island today have reported a lot of paranormal activity. The constant feeling of been closely watched, scuttling footsteps in the undergrowth, the rattle of chains and the heartbreaking sound of a woman sobbing. It is now a HMCS Discovery Naval Reserve, which affords it some protection and means it's the only island on this list that's off limits to the public.

So, I do hope you've enjoyed our little cruise together and, as always, if you've experienced anything at any of these locations then I'd love to hear about it! Drop a comment below or tag me on Twitter! And don't forget to follow me on Instagram for updates about what's going on at Strange Ways HQ, mini ghost stories and much, much more


  1. I've heard of Isle of the Dolls before and thought it sounded so creepy! Great post - I love anything haunted and chilling! x

  2. Really cool and creepy stories in otherwise idyllic locations. It just goes to show that every place on Earth can become the setting of a great ghost story.