Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Dark History

Poveglia: The Haunted Plague Island of Italy

What happened at Poveglia has been untold for decades. It needs to be known
What happened at Poveglia has been untold for decades. It needs to be known

Poveglia Island is a remote location in the Venetian Lagoon that has long been cloaked in mystery. Geographically, Venice, Italy, is only a few miles away.

The island’s lengthy, gloomy past dates to the Roman Empire. It has performed various functions over the years, but in the end, it was abandoned and closed to visitors.

Where is Poveglia and What Happened There?

In the Venetian Lagoon of northern Italy, Poveglia is a small island halfway between Venice and Lido. The island is split into two distinct halves by a tiny waterway. The island was colonized until its inhabitants fled from conflict in 1379, when it first appeared in the historical record in 1421.

The island was utilized as a quarantine center for those with the plague and other diseases for more than 100 years, starting in 1776, and then as a mental asylum. The island has been abandoned ever since the mental asylum closed in 1968.

A closeup of Poveglia

A closeup of Poveglia

The island commonly appears on paranormal shows due to its history.

Even though trips to the island are forbidden, numerous books and articles describe visits by authors and photographers. Poveglia, according to those who believe in ghosts and spirits, is either the world’s most haunted location or the haunted island.

History of Poveglia

Poveglia Island has a lengthy and exhilarating past that dates to the Roman Empire. Even today, anybody curious about Poveglia’s dark past is drawn to this location for reasons that remain a mystery.

Italian residents sought sanctuary on the island at the beginning of the fifth century while Attila the Hun and Alaric the Goth attacked their city.

However, according to historians, the island might have been inhabited circa 2,000 BC by people going by the name of Euganei. The island’s inhabitants lived in peace until the fourteenth century BC, and its location in the lagoon close to the other islands makes it simpler to protect.

An old map of Venice and Poveglia

An old map of Venice and Poveglia

In the following centuries, the island remained uninhabited. In 1527, the doge gave the island to the Camaldolese monks, who turned him down. The Venetian government constructed five octagonal forts in 1645 to guard and regulate the lagoon gates. One of the four remaining octagons is the Poveglia octagon.

The island was placed under the control of the Magistrato alla Sanità (Public Health Office) in 1776, and it was used as a checkpoint for all commodities and people traveling by ship to and from Venice.

The island was abandoned for almost 200 years after that, but this is when the island’s genuinely horrifying history began.

The Island Becomes a Colony of the Disease

When the bubonic plague ravaged Europe in the 14th century, Poveglia Island became a plague colony. What was once intended to be a temporary fix for most affected people eventually became permanent. One in three Europeans perished during the Plague. Several of the city’s symptomatic residents were banished to Venice out of concern for the disease’s unchecked spread.

There was no doubt that it meant death.

Venice was hit by the plague several times, but after the first outbreak in 1348, the city learned more about how the disease spread and took precautions.

Half of the population at the time perished from the illness, and the survivors essentially learned how it propagated. The ruler of Venice perished when the second wave of the plague struck the nation once more.

The island has gained notoriety for being the most haunted place in the world

The island has gained notoriety for being the most haunted place in the world

They buried the sick bodies in two places beyond the municipal limits. Yet, when the enormous pits overflowed with the dead, the Venetians were forced to take more extreme measures.

The Lazaretto was subsequently created when the government banished all diseased persons to Poveglia Island and the neighboring islets.

Lazzaretto Vecchio, a smaller island that was the site of the first lazaretto, was not formally connected to Poveglia but was nonetheless a part of it.

At least 500 people died daily in Lazzaretto Vecchio, and the conditions there were so dreadful that they reminded 16th-century chronicler Rocco Benedetti of hell.

The abandoned mental asylum has been visited by urban explorers, despite warnings

The abandoned mental asylum has been visited by urban explorers, despite warnings

Infected city residents were to be dumped in Poveglia by the Venetian authority. During this time, authorities dumped big barges full of dead victims in Poveglia.

Those suspected of exhibiting plague signs were also sent to the island at the same time by government officials.

Regrettably, authorities abandoned between 100,000 and 160,000 people there, leaving the island desolate and unsettling. The plague victims were left to perish on the island in unhygienic conditions.

The “Island of Death” quickly gained notoriety.

The Horrors of What Happened at Poveglia

The diseased populace often had to wait 40 days before dying or recovering. However, this rarely happened. The government would exile citizens to Poveglia Island to live out the remainder of their days if they stole or committed other crimes.

On the island, there were so many sick, dying, and dead individuals that it was difficult to bury them all. According to history, employees at Poveglia carried and threw bodies into mounds nonstop for entire days.

At this point, the Venetians were compelled to begin burning the bodies to stop the epidemic from spreading and create a way for additional victims.

Because of the nature of the illness, people who were unable to communicate were frequently mistaken for being dead and burned alive. Ash descended from the sky, and the smoke from the smoldering corpses suffocated and tainted the atmosphere.

A room of bones inside the island of Poveglia.

A room of bones inside the island of Poveglia. Original image can be found here.

Future generations of Venetians heard a rumor due to the repeated burning of plague victims and the vast number of infected people. The persistent body burning on Poveglia Island is said to have turned the earth into 50% human ash.

Whether or not this is wholly false, it is still a horrifying idea. Later, 1,500 plague victims’ skeletal remains would be discovered during an archaeological dig.

Experts think there were more artifacts in the lazaretto than they initially thought. Charred human remains continue to wash up in Poveglia to this day.

Unsurprisingly, fishermen avoid Poveglia for fear of discovering human bones in their catch.

By 1777, the disease struck once more, decimating the population. This time, the only location of a checkpoint for ships traveling through Venice on business was Poveglia.

A shallow grave of the victims of the plague that was unearthed

A shallow grave of the victims of the plague that was unearthed. Original image can be accessed here

Everyone with any plague signs would be placed under quarantine on Poveglia Island, the Magistrate of Health ruled. Venice was a trade center plagued by numerous illnesses during the period.

As a result, any ship sailing to Venice had to endure stringent inspections, which frequently resulted in delays and disagreements. Poveglia earned its second moniker as the “Island of Death” in 1790 when two boats failed the tests.

Up to the hospital’s closure in 1814, the island was perpetually utilized for isolation colony purposes during Napoleon’s authority.

Poveglia is left in ruins

In 1868, the Venetian government determined it was no longer necessary to maintain a quarantine station, and the Venetians left the island.

The entrance to the bell tower

The entrance to the bell tower

The Venetians also concurred that the smell of burning bodies and the plague victims would no longer be an issue. In essence, the island was abandoned and allowed to deteriorate.

Poveglia Turns Into a Psychiatric Hospital

The island is one of the world’s most haunted locations because of its troubled past. The island is the subject of numerous ghostly lore and tales. Many people think that the ghosts of the plague victims and the exiled criminals still haunt the island today.

Although Poveglia’s past is gloomy and terrible up until the early 19th century, it appears that things may get even worse in the future.

Asylum workers of Poveglia

Asylum workers of Poveglia

Poveglia Island saw the construction of a mental institution in 1922, and it quickly gained a reputation for its cruel practices. The structures were converted into mental health facilities by the government. Some stories claim that a man named Dr. Paolo oversaw the institution.

Mental illness wasn’t as well understood back then as it is now. As a result, the hospital housed many patients who suffered from neurological issues, mental illnesses, and physical disabilities.

Also, because mental illness wasn’t precisely defined, anyone who acted differently from what was expected was frequently accused of having a mental disorder and sent to the island.

The empty hallway of the asylum. The horrors that happened here is stuff of nightmares

The empty hallway of the asylum. The horrors that happened here is stuff of nightmares

Poveglia quickly turned into a nightmare location once these patients were out of sight and out of mind.

Sadly, this doctor was known for subjecting his patients to cruel and agonizing procedures, including electric shocks, lobotomies, and force-feeding. Without regard for anesthetic or sanitation, Dr. Paolo used hammers, chisels, and drills to carry out these treatments. You can access the video in Lobotomy here. Beware, it is quite graphic and not intended for children’s viewing.

The doctor’s patients had no prospect of recovery because, as before, being transported to Poveglia constituted a death sentence. Frequently, patients were tied to their beds or confined to dimly lit rooms for days.

A patient after lobotomy

A patient after lobotomy

Under Dr. Paolo’s care, numerous patients passed away, and their bodies were interred in unmarked graves on the island. According to reports, Dr. Paolo was later found dead beside the island’s bell tower.

The hospital closed in 1968, was abandoned again, and the structures were soon left to deteriorate and disintegrate.

What is in Poveglia Today?

The island’s still-standing structures include a cabana, a church, a hospital, an asylum, a bell tower, staff housing, and administrative facilities. The bell tower, built in the 12th century, is the island’s most noticeable building. It was once a part of the San Vitale church, which was destroyed in 1806. A lighthouse was constructed out of the tower.

A sign reading “Reparto Psichiatria” (Psychiatric Department) still discernible among the abandoned structures on Poveglia, as captured by Ransom Riggs in his May 2010 photo essay chronicling his visit to Poveglia, appears to prove the presence of asylum on the island. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be any proof of the claimed prison.

Lobotomy being performed on a patient who has been restrained

Lobotomy being performed on a patient who has been restrained. Original image can be found here

The island with the buildings and the island with the meadows and trees are connected by a bridge. The third, distinct island with the octagonal fort is located near the island with the structures but is not connected. Now, all that remains of the fort is an earthen rampart with a brick exterior.

There may be one or more plague pits on the island. About 100,000 people are thought to have perished on the island throughout the years and were interred in plague pits, according to a National Geographic estimate. A further source that estimates 160,000 people is Atlas Obscura.

A large machine inside the bell tower

A large machine inside the bell tower

The building and rusted artifacts were still present, according to news accounts from 2014 and 2015. The Saint. Vitale church, a hospital, an asylum, a prison, and residential and commercial structures, were all deteriorating on the island.

How to Get to Poveglia?

The little Italian island of Poveglia is located in the South Lagoon between Venice and Lido and has served as a bastion, sanctuary, place of exile, and graveyard for the sick, elderly, and deceased for many years. The first people to settle at Poveglia were men, women, and children who had fled the brutal invaders who had ravaged the mainland in 421. Due to its small size, the island was easily defendable and not worth the work of an invasion force.

Although exempted from the laws and taxes of the mainland for many years, this small settlement eventually lost its population. By the 14th century, the island had been abandoned once more.

An image of a mentally ill woman being restrained

An image of a mentally ill woman being restrained

The deceased and those too ill to protest were burned on enormous pyres in the island’s center. Tens of thousands of Venetian residents who perished on the mainland were included. These fires would rekindle when the Black Plague struck the city again in 1630.

Napoleon’s military effort relied on the island’s eerie legends and defended its position by protecting the gunpowder and weapon supplies long after the fires were put out.

The Poveglia Infirmary

The region’s mentally sick were housed in a hospital in Poveglia in the late 1800s. The facility was built shoddily and utilized more for exile than rehabilitation. Even though the bell in the tower was taken down decades ago, residents say they can still hear its chimes resonating off the deserted island.

The building transformed into a geriatric center by the middle of the 20th century, which closed in 1975. The island remains deserted; locals and visitors are forbidden to enter, and fishermen stay away from the cursed location.

Inside the haunted asylum of Poveglia

Inside the haunted asylum of Poveglia

Italian construction crews have been restoring the former hospital structure in recent years. Still, they unexpectedly stopped without explanation, leading the residents to believe the island’s evil spirits drove them off.

Private Owners Purchase the Island

Notwithstanding Poveglia’s troubled past, the government has tried to sell the island throughout time. The Venetians sold the island to a private owner in 2014 with intentions for reconstruction.

The public is very frightened about the island sale because they fear the new owner will exploit the island’s sinister background and convert it into a tourism destination. Over the years, Poveglia has developed a reputation for paranormal activity.

Poveglia Island has earned a reputation as one of the world’s most haunted locations in recent years. It’s a land cloaked in fear and mystery.

The bodies were unattended for hours after death. Then, they were buried in shallow graves

The bodies were unattended for hours after death. Then, they were buried in shallow graves. Original image can be found here

The island is frequently visited by tourists and thrill seekers who search for a glimpse of one of the ghosts that are supposed to haunt it. There are still many rumors and traditions about hauntings on the island and the lingering ghosts of the plague victims exiled there.

Television shows have frequently shown Poveglia, emphasizing the possibility of eerie behavior on the island. Television programs like Ghost Adventures and Scariest Places on Earth have featured the island.

The island nevertheless continues to entice thrill-seekers from all around the world despite its terrible reputation. As an illustration, in 2016, some US tourists were apprehended while attempting to enter the island illegally at night.

Some of the horrors that took place around the world in Mental Asylums is nightmarish

Some of the horrors that took place around the world in Mental Asylums is nightmarish. Original image can be found here

When a passing boat heard their shouts, firefighters deployed to the island to rescue them. So, it is simple to understand how Poveglia came to have the reputation that it does.

It should come as no surprise that visiting Poveglia Island without a specific permit from the government is prohibited, given the island’s gruesome past. Thus, Poveglia will remain a gloomy and eerie location until it is suitable for something different.

Next, read about the True Horror Story of Blair Adams. Then, if you’re interested in the paranormal, try the Legends of Cortijo Jurado, Spain’s Most Haunted House!



Did you like this Morbid post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

As you found this post useful...

Follow us on social media!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?

Written By

Abin Tom Sebastian, also known as Mr. Morbid in the community, is an avid fan of the paranormal and the dark history of the world. He believes that sharing these stories and histories are essential for the future generations. For god forbid, we have seen that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More? Bet!


5 (7) In the pulsating heart of Canada’s rich folklore, shrouded in the veils of a bygone era, there echoes a tale as dark...

Pop Culture

5 (2) The 1904 Olympics in St. Louis took the gold medal for being the quirkiest in history. These games, which ran alongside a...

Dark History

5 (3) First Lieutenant John R Fox wrote his name in the battle-weary pages of American heroism with his selfless act of valor during...

Dark History

5 (1) George Peter Metesky, who might as well have been called the DIY Disaster, took his hobby of bomb-making a tad too seriously....