Poveglia Island: Mystery or Misrepresentation?

Image of Poveglia Island canal
Courtesy of Chris 73
Poveglia Island is a very small island that is located in Italy’s Venetian Lagoon. The island itself is rather run-of-the-mill. It is covered with a smattering of foliage, as well as some run down buildings, a water tower and a bell tower that appear to be going back to nature. Poveglia Island is split in two by a small canal that runs straight through it. The canal has walkways over it. On one side, there are the deteriorating buildings, on the other, nothing but greenery and grass. However, there is a more interesting aspect of the island that one wouldn’t suspect by looking at it, though some say you can tell when you are there, and that is the island’s supposedly sinister history.

Poveglia Island was once inhabited by a small community. However the island was abandoned around 1380, during the War of Chioggia. Later, as the Bubonic Plague spread through Europe and inevitably into Venice, Poveglia Island was reportedly used as a dump for bodies and as a lazaretto. Even worse, there are rumors that live victims of the Bubonic Plague were also brought to the island and left there. Some of the rumors say that the live victims were burned with the dead or left in mass graves full of dead bodies. There seem to be no official records of this, though. If it were true, the best fate for the live victims may very well have been fire. Bubonic Plague is a horrible bacterial infection that affects the lymph nodes. Without modern treatment, a painful death is nearly inevitable. If the victims didn’t die, they would surely have starved to death on the island.

The next phase of Poveglia Island’s history supposedly began in the early 1920's. At this time, either a menacing insane asylum or a harmless retirement community was built there. The story behind this supposed asylum makes the retirement community seem to be the more likely of the two. Lovers of the paranormal claim that evil experiments were conducted on patients of the asylum by a crazed doctor. The patients were also supposedly haunted by the plague victims who were buried on Poveglia Island. The doctor himself reportedly fell victim to these hauntings and threw himself out of the island’s bell tower. The legend goes on to say that his suicide was witnessed by an asylum worker, who said that the doctor survived the fall and was then suffocated by a mysterious mist. The asylum or retirement community on Poveglia Island was closed sometime in the 1960's.

Whether you believe any of the stories surrounding Poveglia Island or not, there is certainly something mysterious about the place. Many people have claimed to sense a presence or worse while they were visiting the island. Today, it is owned by the government and closed to the public. It is currently being used for vineyards. Whether or not the grapes that are grown there are fertilized by the bodies of the more than 150,000 people who have reportedly died there is a matter of speculation. Nonetheless, you may want to check the label of your Italian wine very closely.


shezab, Poveglia Island, retrieved 2/27/10, khirak.net/poveglia-island-004933

Poveglia Island of Horror, retrieved 2/27/10, technoccult.net/archives/2008/03/04/poveglia-island-of-horror