Eerie ‘island of ghosts’ where 160,000 people died and tourists are banned

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An Island that some paranormal researchers say is “the most haunted place in the world” was used as a hospital for the elderly until the 1930s, when a director threw himself from a high tower, saying had been driven mad by ghosts.

These days, few people are allowed to visit Poveglia Island, where 160,000 are believed to have died of plague.

Fearless urban explorers Matt Nadin and Andy Thompson ventured onto Poveglia to snatch some video of the forbidden island.

Their video shows the abandoned, crumbling buildings and vast mass grave as well as several large containers that may have been used to burn bodies.

There are reminders everywhere of the island’s haunted past. In the undergrowth a Latin inscription on one headstone dating from 1793 says, “Do not dig. Those who suffered contagion in life lie here.”

40-year old Matt, a salesman from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, posted the footage to his YouTube channel, Finders Beepers History Seekers, where he can often be found exploring abandoned and historic places of interest with Andy.

He said: "It was really, really eerie. You could tell even the taxi driver was scared, not just of the police but of the place itself, he couldn't get away quick enough”.

Poveglia’s high body count stems from its time as the place where people suspected of carrying the Black Death were quarantined before they could enter Venice.

The word “quarantine” is derived from the fact that ships carrying suspected plague victims would have to remain offshore for 40 days before docking in Venice.

In practice, anyone being quarantined on Poveglia was being handed a death sentence, because the plague was endemic there.

In 1922 the island’s buildings were repurposed as asylum for the mentally ill.

Rumours abounded that doctors there performed cruel experiments on the inmates, including including crude lobotomies, before the director in charge, “driven mad by ghosts” hurled himself from the hospital’s tower.

Some say they can still sometimes hear the tolling of the bell in the tower, even though it was removed long ago.

The hand drills and other tools used in the doctor's primitive surgical procedures are still scattered around the ruined buildings.

The island was later used as a nursing home for the elderly, until its closure in 1968.

For the past 54 years Poveglia and its psychiatric hospital have been closed to all visitors, its buildings allowed to crumble and decay as the natural world slowly reclaims it.

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In 2015, there was a brief hope that the island could be redeveloped as a luxury resort.

The Italian state hoped that investors will arrive to transform the ruined hospital into a luxury hotel and there was talk of Luigi Brugnaro, an entrepreneur who owned the local professional basketball team, being interested.

But the deal fell through, and despite being just minutes from the busy tourist traps of St Mark’s Square, the island remains a forlorn and lonely spot.

  • Ghosts
  • Urban Explorers

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