I recently saw a couple of articles shared on Facebook by the Haunted Montgomery Alabama page about some strange and creepy dolls that had been found in a swamp near Prattville, Alabama. The story immediately reminded me of a story I had heard from Mexico about the Islands of the Dolls and wondered if perhaps some of the Alabama locals had also been inspired by it. Or perhaps there is just something so creepy about porcelain dolls that they seem at home in the swamps…
The recent story came from the Ledger Enquirer just a few days ago. It recounted how an Autauga County Sherriff’s Office deputy had removed 21 dolls from a local swamp, though they were terming them mischievous as opposed to sinister.
The dolls had been impaled on bamboo stakes and placed in Bear Creek Swamp, just off County Road 3, which crossed the wetland area between Prattville and Autaugaville. Most of the dolls were porcelain and seemed to be antique in appearance but had also been covered partially in white spray paint.
Chief Deputy Joe Sedinger told the newspaper that he had seen the dolls a couple of weeks back when he was working on a stolen vehicle report but due to the time of the month, assumed they were a Halloween prank.
However, by this week, with the story spreading around social media, deputies hopped in their canoe and padded out for half an hour to reach the spot, an area owned by a timber company. Sedinger commented that the dolls ‘looked kind of creepy’ and had been taken back to the courthouse to be inventoried. No-one from the timber company has responded to calls from the sheriff’s office about the matter.
It seems the area has a bit of a reputation locally with teenagers’ often completing dares there in the middle of the night to hunt down the strange creatures that live there. There are also a number of reports of strange loud booms coming from deep in the swampland. And as one local commented, if a clown is seen putting the dolls on the stakes, she is never going near the place again.
Dolls and swamps in Mexico
The spot associated with hanging porcelain dolls in Mexico has become so well known for its creepy residents, it has even been given the name Island of the Dolls. It is one of a series of artificial islands in the borough of Xochimilco that have fallen into disrepair and are now fenced off, with some of the islands even caving in on themselves.
However, the site has gained a world heritage site, so there is hope it will be better maintained. One island in particularly gains the most attention; Chinampas or the Islands of the Dolls.
How the dolls got there is less a mystery than in the Alabama case. A man named Julian Santana Barrera used to travel around the area preach the word of Jesus Christ but because he wasn’t anointed, some took offence and this and he was even beaten.
Dismayed by the world he moved out to the swamps with his family and took up living on Chinampas. This was the spot that the body of a young girl had been found and Julian feared for her soul so set about doing what he could to protect her.
This involved travelling the area and collecting dolls to take back to the island. He didn’t worry about the condition of them either, sewing together the various parts of broken ones to make bizarre Frankenstein dolls. He then hung them from the trees and bushes around the island as well as nailing them to the remaining structures. He even used stakes to add the odd spare head or connected them on ropes and strung them like strange decorations.
The local creepy crawlies found the dolls too good to pass up so there are often spiders and insects creeping in and out of the mouths and eyes of the dolls, to add to the overall ambience of the place. Yet locals seemed to accept the strangeness and travelled to the island to trade Julian dolls for the fresh produce he grew.
When word got out about the strange precautions on the island, tourists began to visit and Julian happily showed them around his shrine, even pointing out his favourite doll called Monec.
Julian died in 2001 in as strange circumstances as he lived. He was fishing off a small pier with his nephew Anastasio when he began complaining about voices in the water calling out to him and they were hard to resist. Anastasio wasn’t too worried as Julian was often hearing voices. But when he left for a short while, he came back to find his uncle floating face down in the waters in the same spot where the little girl had been found all those years before.
Julian had fought off the evil spirits around the island for a full 50 years but many thought in the end, they had managed to get the better of him.
Whether the dolls in Alabama are a creepy prank or a local’s knowledgeable way of controlling dark spirits afoot in the swamps, time may tell. One thing’s for sure – I’m not the only one who finds porcelain dolls unbelievably creepy!