Q&A: Zak Bagans on the Island of the Dolls
Zak Bagans has built his world around paranormal investigations, understanding the world beyond what we see. It was more than a surprise when we learned that Zak has a doll phobia and that he was facing that fear head-on to film an episode of Ghost Adventures outside Mexico City at the Island of the Dolls. I asked Zak a few questions about the episode and facing his fear.
What is the Island of the Dolls? What made you decide to film an episode of Ghost Adventures there?
The Island of the Dolls is a very small man-made island situated in Xochimilco, Mexico, and it is part of an ancient canal system created by the Aztecs during the pre-Hispanic period. A man by the name of Don Julian lived on the island, and he witnessed a little girl drowning in the canal right off his island. He felt haunted by the little girl’s spirit, so he began placing dolls all over the island to appease her spirit. It was then that Don also began communicating with, playing his guitar for and singing to what he called mermaids swimming in the canal. And from our research, a very well-known psychic medium in Mexico City said that this mermaid Don was seeing was actually an evil, snakelike spirit that caused the drowning of the little girl. There are also many ancient mystical beings, creatures and goddesses that are affiliated with this very mysterious canal system, adding to the supernatural lure of the Island of the Dolls. These things give it its very haunted and scary reputation. Because of this and my phobia of dolls, I knew that I had to visit this place and investigate.
Given your fear of dolls, how were you able to film this episode?
As funny as it seems, yes, I do have a phobia of dolls, just like I have a phobia of snakes and heights. I don’t know why I have a phobia of dolls; it’s just a psychological malfunction that I have. It’s so silly, but there are so many different dolls that have very credible reports of being cursed and being possessed. You hear about many different haunted dolls across the world, from haunted “Annabelle” to haunted “Harold” and so many others. You have to remember that these dolls are everything to children, and all across the world, countless children do perish. Some die of natural causes, some are murdered, some are killed in fires, and I believe that these children’s spirits can remain attached to these dolls and, in some cases, possess the dolls. Where a child’s spirit is attached to a doll, there can also be darker types of entities that may interfere with relationships and also possess the dolls to affect whoever becomes attached to it. So my fear of dolls is a lot deeper than just of a plastic toy. My fear is basically what the Island of the Dolls is said to be — possessed dolls. So this episode was facing my phobia on steroids.
Were you able to uncover more information about Don Julian Santana, the man who found the little girl’s body?
Yes. We were able to uncover so much more information about Don Julian as we interviewed his nephew and his very dear friend. We also interviewed a well-known local Mexican psychic, who gave us chilling information. As she was contacted by the spirit of Don Julian days before we arrived, he told her things about us being there and also said that he’s very angry at what his family is now doing with the island.
Do you believe that Don Julian was drowned by an evil spirit living inside the dolls?
Well, Don Julian’s nephew actually told us that Don Julian had a heart attack and then fell into the water. I don’t believe that he was killed by an evil spirit possessing the dolls. However, I do believe that Don Julian was overexposed to a location surrounded by water, where spirits were not able to cross the flowing current and leave. And he was saturated by the pain of some of these spirits, including the little girl, who I believe drove him into an oppressive state that could have affected the way that he died.
What’s the easiest way to access the island?
By going to the town of Xochimilco and taking a rowboat called a trajinera, which is a very bright, colorful, fluorescent, wooden boat, and there are tons of them all over this little city that you take to the Island of the Dolls. It’s about an hour-long trip by taking a trajinera. It’s very beautiful in the canals; however, many of the locals are very fearful of being there. Not because of the Island of the Dolls, but because of the different wars and the dark history, including bodies being dumped in the canal and human bones being found scattered throughout the entire canal system. It is a place steeped in hauntings and mysterious phenomena.
Is the island open for tours?
Yes, it is, during the weekends.