Friday, November 22, 2013

The Legends that Surround Proveglia Part ll

Photo: Ransom Riggs

In Part l of this post I discussed the darker history of Proveglia Island located in the lagoon near the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy and why it is most likely haunted. In part, this history has resulted in several traditional legends being connected to the island for centuries. But in more recent years several television shows have sensationalized the island’s story into almost mythical proportions.

These stories have gotten so out of hand tourists are no longer allowed to visit Proveglia. Another result is the locals these days deny the islands history *--the only thing they mention is that in the 1960s the island was used as an “elderly home.” Actually these residents were indigents or homeless. In 1968 this institution was closed and it was the last time the island was inhabited.

It is true that the island in the 20th century housed a mental institution. A traditional legend recounts the story of a “mad” doctor at this hospital who tortured his patients with the hopes of becoming famous. More recently, it has been stated he performed lobotomies using crude tools, such as, hand drills, chisels and hammers. It is also stated this doctor went insane when the spirits of the patients he killed started to haunt him. He then climbed the islands’ bell tower and jumped. He did not die but as he lay on the ground a white mist engulfed him and choked him to death.

This mad doctor’s ghost is said to still haunt the island--specifically the bell tower.

Photo: Ransom Riggs
One part of the traditional legend is that the mental patients who were confined on Proveglia often reported hearing what they felt were the spirits of plague victims moaning and screaming at night. This was brushed off until staff members also heard these strange sounds. The islands’ bell tower, which is the only section that still stands of an old church, is also heard ringing at night.

As mentioned in Part l of this post--hundreds of thousands of plague victims died on the island and were hastily buried. This story is dark enough but recent myths have exaggerated it. It is stated that the ashes of the plague victims who were burned still cover the island’s ground. This is not true.

Vineyards grow on the island today and one writer even stated that these human ashes help the grapes to grow. Taking this legend to the next level it was mentioned that it should make people think twice before drinking wine made from these grapes. The more traditional lore just states that the islands food supply was once grown near some of these graves.

Photo: Ransom Riggs
A recent legend is that fishermen do not fish near the island afraid they will catch “human bones” in their nets. In reality modern day fisherman fish the beautiful teal waters near the island-- their nets can be seen flung off one of the islands’ canal docks

The Venetian government today owns Proveglia but at one point it was in the hands of a private owner. Another recent story states that one family who intended to buy the island as a holiday home decided to visit. But it is stated they left in the middle of the night. They would not talk about why they left in such a hurry but their daughter had to have fourteen stitches on her face.

People who have had the opportunity to visit the island state that there is a strong air of sadness. The recent legend ramps this up and states that evil lurks in every corner. One group of visitors supposedly upon entering the old hospital heard a loud voice order them “to get out.”

Another story is that a group of psychics upon visiting the island announced that the activity they felt was so dark they would never return. Similar stories circulate about people who have snuck on the island--they state they will never return.

Photo: Ransom Riggs

As a result many Venetians believe these myths so it is actually hard to find local boat owners that are willing to travel to the island--this is especially true with the ban that has been put in place.

Many feel the island is haunted--after all it experienced incredible human suffering but this real activity is low key in comparison to the legends that are told.

* The bars that covered the mental hospital's windows can still be found stacked on the ground near this rotting building. 

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