Italians have called Poveglia everything from “The Island of Madness” to, simply “Hell.” And not without cause—the 17-acre island south of Venice just might be the spookiest place on Earth.
Poveglia is supposedly overrun with ghosts, but where did they all come from? Well, the island was a major site of Venetian-Genoese Wars, which lasted from 1256 to 1381, so lots of soldiers died there. But the island’s woes truly began in 1793, when the island became a temporary quarantine zone for victims of a Plague reoccurrence. It served this purpose, off and on, for more than a century. Local legend says that the bodies of so many Plague victims were burned on the island that half of the soil there is comprised of human ash.
Then in 1922, most of Poveglia’s buildings were converted into mental hospitals. The conditions were less than pleasant—crude lobotomies and other experiments were allegedly performed there. All of those ghosts weren’t good for morale—rumor has it one doctor was driven mad by all the paranormal activity and threw himself off of a bell tower.
Poveglia was abandoned in 1968 and has been uninhabited ever since…at least by the living. According to one estimate, no less than 100,000 people died on the island under sad or tragic circumstances. If all of these stories are true, that might explain why the place has a major problem with poltergeists. Its most famous resident is “Little Maria,” the spirit of a young Plague victim, who has been spotted crying as she looks out across a lagoon toward her former home in Venice.
Nevertheless, the Italian government remained confident that there would be no shortage of investors willing to agree to a 99-year lease on the island when they put it up for public auction this spring. They received only two bids, one from an anonymous financier and another from a charity group hoping to preserve the island as a memorial site.
Poveglia’s future remains undetermined, but the Italian government is hoping that another buyer will step in and shell out big bucks to turn it into a luxury hotel and resort. What could possibly go wrong?