Just across the lagoon surrounding Venice, there lies an abandoned island that is said to house the ghosts of all its forgotten victims. This place is known as Poveglia.
Poveglia was once a thriving island filled with houses and vineyards up until war broke out in 1379. The citizens were evacuated to protect them from the enemy. A fort for the Venetian navy was built and was used until the war’s end in 1381. Afterward, few people decided to return, and the land was left to the elements.
In the 15th-century, the plague fell upon the city, and the island’s dark history began.
Due to its location, Poveglia acted as a lazaretto, or quarantine station, for ships coming into the harbor. This was a 40-day process that ended with healthy people allowed entry into Venice, and sick people left behind to die. Eventually, plague victims from the city were being brought to Poveglia, which turned the place into a dumping ground for the dying. Mass hysteria quickly spread through the population, and people who did not have the plague would often wind up abandoned on the island as well. By the end, an estimated 160,000 people died on Poveglia.
According to the stories, the number of bodies was so enormous the soil is mostly composed of human ashes.
Unfortunately, the island’s dark purpose was only getting started. In 1927, an asylum was open on the property. The facility was home to a wicked doctor, who would torture the patients with twisted experiments and excruciating procedures. Supposedly, the doctor was driven mad and jumped from the asylum’s bell tower. The facility remained operational until 1968 when the island, and its ghosts, were finally left in peace.
Since then, Poveglia has been staunchly avoided by many locals and closed off to the public by authorities.
In 2016, Poveglia, along with a few other nearby islands, was put on the market. There have been no prospective buyers, and the island remains unsold as of 2020.
- The Plague Island [Atlas Obscura]
- Poveglia [The Vintage News]
- Feature Picture [Wikimedia]