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Trip to Poveglia, Venice

By on January 15, 2010

When visiting Venice, your first wish would be to visit all the historic landmarks in the city, course through the city’s winding canals, or stay at one of the city’s charming hotels and have a whale of a time. But there is one place in Venice the faint hearted stay away from.

Located near mainland Venice is the small island of Poveglia, which the Venetians consider to be a dreaded island. Asking directions to the island will definitely get you some glares and stares from the locals, and you probably won’t be able to find a guide who would volunteer to take you to the place.

History: So what’s do dreaded about this small island? Also called as the Black Island and the Place of No Return, the island of Poveglia, though quite picturesque by day, becomes fearful and intimidating by night.

The island was the site of nearly 100000 burials in the 13th century when Europe was consumed by the bubonic plague. By 1576, the plague spread to Italy and France. Several people started dying due to the plague (also called “Black Death”), and within a week, the streets of Venice were filled with rotting corpses.

The infected were bricked together with the corpses in their own homes. Anyone who tried to escape was killed. However, the plague still spread and soon almost one third of Venice’s population was either dead or infected.

It was then that the island of Poveglia was chosen to become the official burial site for the victims who succumbed to the plague. However, with the number of deaths increasing every day, the bodies were simply thrown into large pits on the island (called Plague Pits) and torched.

The situation became so extreme that even those who were infected by the plague, but still alive were dragged from their homes and taken to Poveglia to remain with the deceased until they themselves died. Sometimes, they were torched alive along with the corpses. And this ghastly act went on till the last effects of the Black Death faded away. But the plague and the island had claimed more than 160000 lives till then.

In 1922, a mental institution was built on the island and patients soon started hearing and seeing ghostly apparitions floating around. The hospital was managed by a doctor who was as insane as the patients were. The doctor resorted to performing cruel operations on the patients with just hammers, chisels and hand drills.

The hospital housed a tower that was a torture chamber for the patients. One day, the doctor is believed to have been pushed down the tower by invincible hands. From that day onwards, the doctor’s ghost could be seen roaming around the tower and locals claim that the bell at the top of the tower can be heard tolling away on a still night.

Today, the Poveglia Island stands just off shore to the mainland and is said to be haunted by the ghosts of the people who were either torched or left there to die. Venetians regard the site as haunted and rarely step on the island, let alone visiting it for fear of infuriating the spirits. However, some are courageous enough to take visitors on a short tour of the island, but depart quickly before the sun sets.

On the Island: It is said that so many corpses were dumped on the island that the skeletal remains of human bodies can be found all over the place, including the shores of the island. The area is still covered with a thick layer of ash and visitors to the island claimed to have felt things moving around in their presence. Incidents of experiencing cold breaths on the neck, moving shadows and high pitched screams have been reported by many tourists. Many say that the atmosphere on the island is quite suffocating and tourists who have visited the place have come back scared to bits.

Don’t miss out a chance to visit this ancient graveyard. But be forewarned! If you are weak at heart, don’t even think about the place lest you end up having nightmares about the island and its dead inhabitants.

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