|Congratulations to Our Winners!
Mr. Rick and the 2010-2011 Class of Quiz Kids!!!
John Fitzparick Karen Kay Bunting
Dorothy Nagle Sandy McConathy
Daniel E. Jolley Deborah Patterson
Jim Baker Patty Kiker
Nicole Blank Carl Blessing
Charlotte Kirby Don Draper
Donna Jolley Debbie Cicarrelli
William Bruce Hillman Betty Wagonblast
Mary Tanona Molly Collins
Terry A. Hollenstain Judy Mills
Diane Burkett JoLynn Pfeiffer
Gary Sterne Caroline Pointer
Evan Hindman Arthur Hartwell
Dawn Carlile Collier Smith
Gina Espinoza Peter Norton
Jim Kiser Stan Read
Mark Goldberg Margaret Paxton
Dennis Brann Richard Wakeham
Mike Dalton Milene Rawlinson
Debbie Johnson Talea Jurrens
Robert W. Steinmann, Jr. Tom Wilson
a doctor who was very ambitious. He
decided to make a name for himself by
experimenting on his patients in a bid to
discover the cause of their insanity. The
doctors methods were crude, lobotomies
were performed using a basic hand drill or
hammer and chisel.
After several years on Poveglia, the doctor
himself began seeing the ghosts of the
plague victims. It is said they led him to
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|Answer to Quiz #269
August 22, 2010
|For more photos of Poveglia, click here.
|Comment from Quizmaster Collier Smith
|Poveglia as seen from Lido
layer of sticky ash on the land. The top
layer of ash has dried in the sun to form a
fine dust that swirls in the breeze and
catches in lungs. Part of the island core
consists of a layer of human remains.
Fishermen avoid this area, as the chances
of catching a body part or two are high.
In 1777 the island came under the
jurisdiction of the Magistrato alla Sanità
|Comments from Our Readers
Split into two segments by a petite canal,
the Poveglia Island is a small land mass
situated in the Venetian Lagoon between
the cities of Venice and Lido.
Poveglia Island was home to a small
community until it was abandoned in
1379, during the War of Chioggia between
Venice and Genoa. When 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; in 1527 the doge offered the island to the Camaldolese monks,
but they refused the offer. In 1661 the descendants of the original inhabitants were
offered to reconstruct their village on the island, but they refused to do so.
When the Bubonic plague hit Italy in 1576, thousands of dead bodies were piling up in
Venice and the stench was terrible. Something drastic had to be done. The dead were
hauled to Povelia and dumped in large pits or burned on huge bonfires. As the Black
Death tightened its grip, people panicked, and those showing the slightest symptoms of
the plague were dragged screaming from their homes. Legend says that 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. As many as 160,000 tormented
souls were disposed of during the Black Death.
The soil on Poveglia island, combined with the charred remains of the bodies, formed a
|My wife & I passed within sight of it (unknowingly) on a
cruise ship almost 4 years ago, & I have to say, I didn't
sense anything at all. No one on the cruise ship
mentioned anything about it either, that I recall. On the
other hand, everyone makes a big deal of the cemetery
island in the lagoon on the opposite side of Venice (San
Michele), and the vaporetta tours to Murano all go by it.
Not scary from this angle. Collier Smith
Cemetery island of San Michele (not Poveglia)
sworn never to return. They say the
moans and screams that reverberate
around the island are unbearable,
fishermen tell of seeing mystery lights on
the island. There is a feeling of the most
intense evil, and one misguided thrill-
seeker, upon entering the deserted
hospital, was told by a loud disembodied
voice, “Leave immediately and do not
the bell tower, where he threw himself off. According to a nurse, the fall did not kill the
doctor as he lay writhing in agony as the base of the tower; a fine mist swirled up
around him, entered his body, and choked him to death. It is rumored that he is bricked
up in the bell tower, and on a still night the bell can be heard tolling across the bay.
The hospital has since closed down, and the island is uninhabited. It is not open to
tourist, and its ashy beaches remain deserted. Most boats refuse to call at the death isle,
another of its names, but those who have landed report treading on ashes, hearing
screaming, seeing moving shadows and having the urgent desire to flee. Recently a
family sought permission to visit the island, hoping to buy it cheaply and build a
vacation home. The family left before the night was over and have refused to comment
on the reason for their abrupt departure; the only fact known is that their daughter’s
face was ripped open by “something” and needed twenty stitches.
A few people have dodged the light police patrol that guards the island, and all have
(Public Health Office), and became a check point for all goods and people coming to
and going from Venice by ship. In 1793, there were several cases of the plague on two
ships, and consequently the island was transformed into a temporary confinement
station for the ill (Lazzaretto); this role became permanent in 1805, under the rule of
Napoleon Bonaparte, who also had the old church of San Vitale destroyed; the old bell
tower was converted into a lighthouse. The lazzaretto was closed in 1814.
In 1922, a psychiatric hospital was built. It was an imposing building with a
magnificent bell tower. The patients immediately reported seeing the ghosts of the
plague victims and of hearing whispers echoing off the walls. Their harrowing reports
were dismissed, they were already deemed demented and mad. The hospital was run by
|The aged indigent
home that was built on
the island was
abandoned in 1968 and
the island has been
empty ever since.
Twenty years ago, work
crews hastily erected
scaffolding all along the
frontage — not to fix
them up, but merely to
delay their falling down.
|Plague and disease were huge problems in the medieval world, especially in
trading centers like Venice. But Venice had some of the strictest sanitary laws
anywhere, and even though they didn’t understand how germs and infections
worked, they knew that isolating sick travelers was an effective way to
prevent or lessen the severity of outbreaks. It was Venice that coined the
term quarantine, which is derived from the duration travelers were required to
stay at a lazaretto before they could be issued a clean bill of health and
continue on their way — forty days. Quaranta giorni.
Thanks for another great quiz. Jim Baker
From several sources, I gleaned that it is also called the Black Island or the Place of No
Return for the nearly 100,000 burials as the official burial site in the black plague of the
13th century, and probably also back in Roman times. Eventually, plague victims were
dragged from their homes in the area and dumped there alive with the bodies and
With that history, it is a prime ghost hunting spot but I understand the island is closed
to locals and tourists and the locals aren't interested in being helpful with the
sightseeing, anyway. With that history, who can blame them? Patty Kiker
Remind me to skip this part of any Italian tour...thank you, very much. Going by the
rumors, sounds almost like a real-life "House on Haunted Hill" or any other such horror
films based on hospitals. Carl Blessing
Didn't need the hint - googling "island mental hospital" brought up Poveglia as #8 on the
first page, and GoogleMaps confirmed it. Charlotte Kirby
The land area shown in the photo is Poveglia Island, located in the lagoons of Venice
Italy. I read that during the years when Bubonic or Black plaque killed thousands of
people in Europe, officials in Venice relocated affected humans, dead or alive, to the
island and dumped them in a large pit or burned them. Over 150,000 humans were
When the mental hospital was built about 1922, people felt they saw ghosts or heard
screams. I have to believe that would have been some of the workers as well as the
patients. It was interesting to do the search for “mental hospital island”. There were
several possibilities. Some were captive places for the criminally insane. Isolating or
locking up people was society’s prevalent way of dealing with the mentally ill. To a
certain extent it still is but I think we are doing better in helping people get better and
function as “normal” citizens.
The island looks like such a tidy package in photos. It was hard to realize it has such a
horrible history. It is fitting, however, that being part of Venice, it has its own canal.
N. B. Yes, let's not forget the canal. Q. Gen.
Wow...this is one unpleasant place....umm...thanks. John Fitzpatrick
I googled "tiny island" "mental hospital" and got this site: http://www.mentalfloss.
com/blogs/archives/55234 Gary Sterne
The island is now closed to all visitors, and after reading the folklore concerning the
island and its checkered past, I can see why. Caroline Pointer
Colleen... I have been doing the quiz most every week (including working on last week’
s quiz), but never seem to get the answer to all portions by the end of the week. Still,
When searching for “mental hospital island”, I found plenty of references to the movie
Shutter Island (a very enjoyable, yet disturbing movie) and to the tv show Lost (with
plenty of photos of Hurley). The island has quite the disturbing history... downright
scary stuff! My favorite site regarding the island was:
As a photographer, I would love to roam the abandoned halls of those buildings. What
an interesting location!
Now that summer is essentially over (I took my son back to college last week and my
daughters are back in high school), I’ll have a little more time to work the weekly quiz!
I had trouble with this one, assuming first that it was located near NYC; just a gut
feeling. WRONG! Finally resorted to the hint, and of course, found it right away on
Google Maps. Collier Smith
After fooling around for half an hour or so looking for island mental hospitals, I finally
decided that if this in fact was an island, rather than two (or three) islands, divided by a
canal, it might be related to Venice. I knew that the lagoon is full of strange little
islands, and when I started snooping around it didn't take long to identify that rough
I got to spend all of about twelve hours in Venice as part of a singing tour four years
ago, and have been fascinated by the city and its environs since. It tends to remain near
the surface of my consciousness. Always glad of an excuse to explore maps and
images of the region. Peter Norton
This one took a while. I immediately dismissed it as an island in a river as I thought
bridges would be to it. I then started looking at oceans that might have islands like Ellis
Island near to shore. Eventually I looked at the hint Lido and narrowed it down to
Venice. Verified with the Google map. It does have a scary history and even locals stay
away. Jim Kiser
Ok, this one is really spooky (not just the island, but also the quiz itself). It is hitting
way too close to home. I live in Venice (FL) and the whole place could be considered a
'rest' home...just kidding fellow Venetians!
Also having been a Middle school and High school teacher for many year, I qualify as a
viable candidate for a persom who should-be-in-a-mental-hospital.
Anyway, this island of Povencia is located in the lagoons of the other Venice. It has
had many uses including a checkpoint for goods and people going to and coming from
Venice and it was used as a quarantine station or lazaretto at one point. Most recently it
served as a retirement home (mostly former math teachers!). Now the island is off
limits. The place understandably downright frightening! Dennis Brann
Without the hint, I would have been stuck in New York. Islands appear to be where
people were at one time were isolated, quarantined, exiled, imprisoned or committed.
What came to mind was the poem by John Donne: "no man is an island" and the scifi
movie "This Island Earth." Mike Dalton
I agree about the aura of certain places. I've experienced that "feeling" several times in
my life. Once was the catacombs beneath the Vatican and another was at a WWI
cemetary in France.. Jim Kiser
2. In the Venitian Lagoon, Italy
3. A quarantine station, a dumping ground for plague victims,
a monestary, and a place for retirement condos.
|During the worst outbreaks, the
islands were quickly overrun with the
dead and dying, who were hastily
shoveled into grave pits, and when
those were full, burned. Work crews
on nearby Lazaretto Vecchio were
digging the foundation for a new
museum when they came across one
such grave pit, filled with the remains
of more than 1,500 plague victims
"But hey saw a fat, dead person, full of blood and with a hole in the shroud, so they
would say: ‘This guy is alive, he’s drinking blood and eating his shroud.’”
Modern forensic science shows the bloating is caused by a buildup of gases, while fluid
seeping from the mouth is pushed up by decomposing organs, Borrini said. The shroud
would have been consumed by bacteria found in the mouth area, he said. At the time
however, what passed for scientific texts taught that “shroud-eaters” were vampires
who fed on the cloth and cast a spell that would spread the plague in order to increase
To kill the undead creatures, the stake-in-the-heart method popularized by later literature
was not enough: A stone or brick had to be forced into the vampire’s mouth so that it
would starve to death, Borrini said.
According to an MSNBC article, during
epidemics, mass graves were often
reopened to bury fresh corpses and
diggers would chance upon older bodies
that were bloated, with blood seeping out
of their mouth and with an inexplicable
hole in the shroud used to cover their face.
“These characteristics are all tied to the
decomposition of bodies,” Borrini said.
|Once the location of a mental hospital.
1. What is the name of the island?
2. Where is it located?
3. Name one other use the island has had in its history.
Click here for hint.
|This quiz was subbmitted by long-time Quizmaster Debbie Sterbinsky.
|Moored near the hospital,
with the octagon on the left.
|This photo puts to rest another rumor:
that fishermen won’t go near Poveglia.
Those sticks placed at intervals along
the concrete below — those are fishing
nets. The octagon is on the right, and
the boat is docked on the left in the