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Haunted Places
The Ghostly History of Poveglia Island

The Ghostly History of Poveglia Island

When I think of going to Italy, a deserted island is the last thing on my mind. I want to eat my way across the country, take in all the scenery, admire every piece of art I can find, see where my great-grandparents were from, and stop to see a good friend in Olbia! However…this little abandoned island is said to be one of the most haunted places in the world and I one thousand percent want to go there!

Poveglia is a small island off the coast of Venice, Italy. From 1793 to 1814, the bubonic plague was spreading rapidly through Italy. In the hopes of stopping the spread, the victims were sent to Poveglia Island. Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t a place for healing and recovery. They were sent there to die. They spent their last remaining days surrounded by sickness and death. The only healthy people they saw again were the plague doctors, their faces hidden behind a  terrifying mask. The dead bodies were dumped in a pit and burned, sometimes with people that weren’t quite dead yet. It’s estimated that 160,00 people died there. Their bones and ashes are still there.  Estimates say that on parts of the island, the soil is 50% human ashes.

After that, Napoleon used it to store weapons that he wanted to hide. His weapons stash was discovered, and several battles took place there, adding more bodies to the island. It also served as a quarantine place for sick sailors. Many of them died there too. Then in 1922, a mental hospital was built on Poveglia.

Rumors started circulating that one of the doctors there was performing experiments on the patients there.  He supposedly performed unauthorized (and sometimes unnecessary) lobotomies on patients. He used hammers, drills, chisels, and no anesthesia. There was a bell tower in the building where he took patients for other experiments. No one knows what he did to them, but they say that their screams could be heard across the entire island. Bones from the island occasionally wash up on the shore.

Then the doctor started showing signs of a mental illness and thought that ghosts were after him. The story varies from there. Some people say he went to the bell tower and jumped off. Some people say that he was pushed. There’s even a story that one of the nurses saw him fall. She claimed that he didn’t die when h hit the ground. She said that he was choked to death by the mist. There is also a story of him being bricked into the wall (alive) by patients he experimented on.

The hospital closed and the island is now off-limits. That doesn’t stop people from going or at least trying to.  Many years after that, construction on the old hospital buildings started, but then suddenly stopped. Rumor says it was because of ghosts. There have been many psychics and mediums that have visited Poveglia. They all claimed to have felt such a malignant presence that they all refuse to go back.

People on the mainland say that sometimes you can hear the doctor ringing the bell in the bell tower, even though it isn’t there anymore, and that they’ve heard screams coming from the island. People that managed to get onto the island have claimed that they were pushed, chased by ghosts, felt like they were being watched, or had been scratched. There have been reports of people hearing a voice that said “Leave immediately and do not return”. 

The island was put up for sale after the hospital closed. The family who bought it stayed one night making plans for construction.  They said that their daughter was attacked by an invisible attacker and almost had her face ripped off. It’s illegal to gp to Poveglia. Although Poveglia was not the only island used to house plague victims, it is the only one with such a twisted, haunted history. Does anyone want to come with me?