Poveglia: Island of Terror
Poveglia is a small island located between Venice and Lido in the Venetian Lagoon, northern Italy. A small canal divides the island into two parts. It is absolutely off-limits to visitors and while some tourists make attempts to visit from time to time, most locals refuse to take them to the island. The island first came to be referenced in chronicles in 421 AD, when people from Padua and Este fled there to escape the barbaric invasions. In the 9th century the island started to be intensely populated, and in the following centuries its importance grew steadily, until it was governed by a dedicated Podestà.
In stark contrast to the beauty of its surroundings, the island is a festering blemish. The waves reluctantly lapping its darkened shores will often carry away the polished remains of human bones. When the first outbreak of bubonic plague swept through Europe, the number of dead and dying in the city of Venice became unbearable. The bodies were piling up, the stench was oppressive, and something had to be done. The local authorities decided to use Poveglia as a dumping ground for the diseased bodies.
The dead were hauled to the island and dumped in large pits or burned on huge bonfires. As the plague tightened its grip, people panicked, and those showing the slightest symptoms of the Black Death were dragged screaming from their homes. These living victims, including children and babies, were taken to the island and thrown into the pits of rotting corpses, where they were left to die in agony.
In 1379 Venice came under attack from the Genoan fleet; the people of Poveglia were moved to the Giudecca, and the Venetian government built on the island a permanent fortification, called “the Octagon,” still visible today. The island remained uninhabited in the following centuries. Despite many attempts to offer the island for no price, no one seemed to want it. Perhaps the reason that offers were turned down was that the Romans used the island as a plague station and pit – filling it with thousands of victims over the time of their reign. This was to be the first of the gruesome stories connected to Poveglia.
In the 1700s the island became a checkpoint for goods and people visiting Venice until two ships arrived with plague on board. For this purpose various edifices were built, including the hundred metre long “Tezon” that still stands. It is still possible to read the writing on the wall by people who were confined there. From that time until the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1805, the island was a confinement station for people with the plague. In the 20th century the island was again used as a quarantine station, but in 1922, the existing buildings were converted into venetian retirement homes. This went on until 1968, when the retirement homes were no longer used, and the island, after being shortly used for agriculture, was completely abandoned. Presently, the island is public property of the Italian state.
The Mad Doctor
Local legend describes a mental hospital existing on the island which was ruled by a doctor who went insane. The doctor is said to murdered a number of patients after which he took to the bell tower to commit suicide. Some versions of the legend say that the doctor was strangled by a mist that rose up from the ground at the bottom of the tower.
It is believed that as many as 160,000 tormented bodies were disposed of on the tiny island over the years.
1. Ghost Adventures visit Poveglia
2. Ghost Adventures Part 2
3. Ghost Adventures Part 3
4. Ghost Adventures Part 4
1. Some of the buildings
2. Poveglio at dusk
3. The Hospital
4. Approach from the rear
5. Inside one of the buildings
6. Another inside shot
7. The doctor’s tower
8. Inside the tower
9. Inside the hospital
10. Notice the barred windows
Filed under: Miscellaneous | 42 Comments