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The Italian government recently announced the public auction of the island of Poveglia, situated just ten minutes by boat from St. Mark’s Square in Venice. From an aerial view, the island appears to be an ideal Italian escape from crowded Venice, but Poveglia’s history is not so picturesque. The island has been abandoned for over 50 years, and is reportedly one of the world’s most haunted addresses.
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Poveglia’s eerie past goes back to the plague, during which time the island was used as a quarantine and dumping ground for victims of the Black Death. According to legend, over 160,000 died from the plague on Poveglia. The island’s role as quarantine station for plague victims became permanent from 1805 to 1814 under Napoleon Bonaparte. Poveglia was again used as a quarantine station in the early 20th century, and in 1922 the buildings were converted into a mental asylum. Reportedly, a mental health doctor tortured and butchered many of the asylum’s patients before going insane and jumping to his death from the bell tower. The mental hospital closed its doors in 1968, after which Poveglia was shortly used for agriculture and then completely abandoned.
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The Italian government is auctioning off Poveglia, along with other state-owned properties such as a monastery in Puglia and a castle on the Slovenian border, in hopes of beginning to reduce the country’s $2.6 trillion debt. The island, set with an opening bid of $490,000, is not an easy real estate sell. Besides the allegedly haunted buildings from years of plague quarantine and mental asylum use, Poveglia is home to soil that is said to be composed of a healthy mixture of human bone and ash.