Poveglia Island is a haunted island off the Italian coast near Venice. Its shores are filled with polished human bones because of the island’s dark past. It is supposed to be so scary that no boats make regular stops at the island. People often spread rumors that the Italian government doesn’t want any tourists to go there, but whether or not that’s true remains a mystery. What is true is that the Italian tourism board prohibits tourists and requires a lengthy application process, where you must obtain approval, before you can visit.
When the plague hit Italy in 1576, thousands of dead bodies were piling up in Venice, and the stench was terrible. Strangely, this beautiful island was chosen as the place to store the rotting corpses alongside the near-dead who were sick.
The dead were hauled off mainland Italy by the hundreds to the island and dumped in large pits. Many were burned. But as the plague became worse, people began to panic, and those who showed symptoms of the Black Death were dragged screaming from their homes to Poveglia, even if they weren’t infected with the black plague. There were few doctors, and when there were, they wore masks in the shape of a bird’s face and beak (see photo above). It’s been rumored that the masks were purposely frightening to scare away the ghosts of the dead.
The living victims on the island included children and babies. Along with the dead, they were taken to the island of Poveglia and thrown in with the rotting corpses. They were left to die in pain and agony. According to Italian legend, as many as 160,000 tormented bodies were dumped there over the years. No one seems to have an exact count–especially not the Italian government. Today, the whole island is covered in a layer of ash still, the remains of all the burned bodies that rained down after each burning.
While this was all going on, people who lived close to the island began seeing strange occurrences and hearing strange sounds coming from the haunted island. Despite the fact that the strange phenomena was widely known, in 1922, a mental hospital was built on the haunted island over the pits of dead bodies. The patients immediately reported seeing the ghosts of rotting plague victims and hearing strange whispers echoing off the walls. But nobody believed them because they were already thought to be insane.
Fittingly, the mental hospital was run by a doctor who became known for experimenting on his patients, trying to uncover the causes of insanity. Lobotomies were reguarly performed using a basic hand drill or just a hammer and chisel. The patients were taken to the hospital’s tower, where they were subjected to terrible tortures.
After years of performing these horrible experiments, it’s believed the doctor began seeing the ghosts of plague victims and his own victims. It is said that the ghosts rose from their graves, and dragged the doctor up to the top of the bell tower. There, they supposedly forced him to throw himself off the top of the tower. He survived the fall but died soon thereafter. It is also rumored that the lobotomized patients bricked up his dead body in the bell tower.
Nearby locals say the doctor’s ghost lingers in the empty tower now and for all eternity. They’ll also tell you that on quiet nights you can hear the tower’s bell across the bay–even though no one is supposedly there to ring it.