Poveglia Island's Haunted History

Filed Under: Haunted, Venice
Early History
In the South Lagoon between Venice and Lido sits the small Italian island of Poveglia that for centuries has been a refuge, stronghold, place of exile and a dumping ground for the diseased, dying and deceased. In 421, Poveglia welcomed its first inhabitants -- men, women and children who fled the barbaric invaders that had ravaged the mainland. Its relatively small size made the island defendable and not worth the trouble of invading armies. For centuries this small community lived in peace and avoided the laws and taxes of the mainland; their population dwindled however and by the 14th century, the island was once again abandoned.

In 1348 the Bubonic Plague arrived in Venice and Poveglia, like many other small islands, became a quarantine colony. The Plague killed 1 out of 3 Europeans. Fearing the unbridled spread of the disease, Venice exiled many of its symptom-bearing citizens there. It was clearly a death sentence. At the island's center the dead and those too sick to protest were burned on giant pyres. This included the tens of thousands of Venice citizens dying on the mainland. These fires would burn once more in 1630 when the Black Death again swept through the city.

Long after the fires were extinguished, Napoleon's military campaign relied on the island's ghostly legends and defendable position to protect stores of gunpowder and weapons.

The Poveglia Asylum
In the late 1800s, the area's mentally ill resided in an asylum in Poveglia. The asylum was poorly constructed and was used as a place of exile rather than rehabilitation. There are rumors that in the 1930s, a doctor performed strange experiments on the patients here; eventually, the doctor went mad and threw himself from the asylum's tall bell tower. Though the bell in the tower was removed decades ago, locals still claim to hear its chimes echo from the lonely island.

By the mid-20th century, the facility was converted into a geriatric center, which closed in 1975. Today, the entire island is abandoned; locals and tourists are prohibited from visiting, and fishermen steer clear of the accursed place. In recent years, Italian construction crews attempted to restore the former hospital building, but abruptly stopped without explanation, leaving locals to speculate that they were driven away by the island's dark forces.

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