Feb 12, 2016

Posted by in Death, Hauntings, Paranormal | 0 Comments

Poveglia: Legends of the World’s Most Haunted Island

Poveglia: Legends of the World’s Most Haunted Island

poveglia plague pitIn northern Italy, located in the Venetian Lagoon between Venice and Lido, lies the small island of Poveglia. While the island itself is actually relatively small, it is home to some very big legends. However, between the paranormal enthusiast who paint Poveglia as one of the world’s most terrifying locations and the local government who tries very hard to downplay just how dark its history actually was, it is difficult to decipher which stories are really true about the island and which have been embellished over time.

The facts are pretty clear about the early days of Poveglia. It was inhabited for the first time in the year 421 when it became a refuge for people from Este and Padua who fled from invading barbarians. The population saw steady growth for centuries, then during a Genoan attack on Venice in 1379, all of the residents were displaced to the island of Giudecca. This left Poveglia completely uninhabited until 1645, at which time an octagonal fort was built by the Venetian government to protect the lagoon. It also ended up being used by English soldiers looking to ambush the French army during this time period.

Venice’s Public Health Office took over the island in 1776 and began using it as a checkpoint for people and goods traveling in and out of the city by ship. The city was known to have some of the strictest sanitation laws of its time. It is believed that a couple of ships arriving to the island in 1793 contained several passengers who were sick with the plague and thereby forced the island to be used as a quarantine area or lazaretto. Napoleon Bonaparte later made this distinction a permanent one, and it is rumored that Poveglia had been used to house Black Plague victims during prior outbreaks, as well. It has been estimated that nearly 160,000 people were left on the island to die from the disease and the body count was so overwhelming that corpses were burned and buried in mass graves called plague pits. Evidence of these mass graves has been uncovered by archeologists in recent years.

It seems that this kind of past would be enough to leave a paranormal stamp on a location and by some accounts it certainly did. Patients of a mental asylum erected on the island in 1922 often claimed to be tormented by the spirits of former plague victims. According to legend, if the ghost were not a good enough reason to be afraid, then the mad doctor who used patients for his cruel experiments would certainly suffice. He is believed to have done lobotomies and other horrible things to his helpless wards in the lighthouse that serves as an island landmark. Additionally, some accounts indicate that he even ate patients and that he eventually threw himself from the top of the lighthouse when he became too tormented by the island’s ghouls…or perhaps, his own self-conscience.

Although the exact history of the asylum is a bit blurry, the structure that housed the imprisoned mentally ill patients until 1968 still stands on the island today. Even if nothing else is true about the place, as a rule, most people would agree that a mental hospital is a pretty miserable place to be confined. When adding the suffering endured here to the lengthy history of human anguish collected over the years on Poveglia, it becomes more apparent why ghost hunters worldwide have deemed this island so worthy of attention. It is also apparent why the government keeps the island closed to tourist and locals alike for their own safety.

While the unpleasant tale of Poveglia’s dark history might seem disturbing, it is far from over. The Italian government recently sold a 99-year lease of the island for around $700,000 to a local businessman, Luigi Brugnara. Though the wealthy investor has not yet started any new development of the land and has not stated what he plans to use it for, it will be interesting to see what the future has in store for Poveglia, “the world’s most haunted island”.

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