“Not all those who wander are lost” – J.R.R. Tolkien
When I first heard about Ghosts of murder victims rumored to haunt an island in Croatia, I knew I had to go there. Croatia with its rich history dating back thousands of years has seen its share of bloodshed, ship wrecks, pirates, massacres and mystery. While there are other islands with tales of terror and gruesome history, Daksa Island drew me to her like a sea nymph calling out to her victim.
Spending summers cruising the idyllic waters off Croatia is incredible… but stopping near a haunted island makes the experience so much more epic.
Daksa Island is uninhabited and the smallest of 13 islands that make up the Elaphite Archipelago. The little island sits just outside Dubrovnik’s Port Gruz, placing the island 1.5 nautical miles from Dubrovnik. The earliest recorded history dates to the 13th century. In 1281 St. Sabina’s Franciscan Monastery was built. St. Sabina is a Martyr Catholic saint who was said to have been beheaded after converting to Christianity. Creepy coincidence considering what would happen centuries later near the Monastery.
Local records and witness testimony describe the awful events that occurred on October 18, 1944. Partisan Forces entered Dubrovnik and captured suspected Nazi collaborators and suspected members of the defeated armies of World War II. The most notable alleged sympathizers were local priest Father Petar Perica and Mayor Niko Kopririca. The captives were placed in boats and rowed out to the uninhabited island.
Details after the events occurred tell of Communist Partisan Authorities distributing flyers with pro-communist propaganda, including notices posted in local towns naming the 35 men who were killed. The Communist Authorities also posted notices discouraging locals and relatives for venturing out to the island. Anyone caught looking for relatives or loved ones were warned that they would meet the same fate on one of the Elaphite Archipelago Islands. Threats made by the Partisan Forces were followed through sometime later on another island. But that’s a story for another blog. (No,Seriously, check out my blog about Jakljan).
The bodies of the alleged collaborators murdered on Daksa would sit partially buried and undisturbed for 60 years before being discovered by an unnamed person in 2009 who stumbled upon human remains. Forensic Scientists went to the island and discovered the remains of 53 people buried in shallow graves in 2 different locations on the island. The site of an old farmhouse basement revealed skeletons that were determined as being all male. Along with the remains excavators found crosses, rosaries and collars leading them to believe that these were all priests.
Of the 53 people who have been discovered only 18 have been identified using DNA technology. What has me baffled is the number of bodies discovered, and the differing accounts of the number of people said to have been named and captured. Archives in local papers mention 35 names as having been known prior to the discovery of the bodies, as the victims on the island by the Partisan Forces, but the number of locals suspected and captured by the Communist Partisan Forces was roughly 300. The names of 35 men murdered by the Partisan Forces were identified on flyers following the events on Daksa. Wikipedia cites 48 people as having been captured and massacred but notes that 53 bodies have been discovered. Although 53 sets of remains were found, it is believed that there could be more buried on the island, yet to be discovered. Some accounts claim that the number of those buried could be twice as those discovered.
Thus began my pining for a chance to visit Daksa. Little did I know how soon my wish would become reality. Throughout history Daksa Island has provided protection to sailors caught in violent winds and restless seas. Turbulent winds and choppy seas brought our ship near the shores of Daksa. I was a few meters from an Island I could only dream about exploring and here was my chance. Our Captain was nervous and visibly uncomfortable being close to the island. The crew made many failed attempts to drop anchor farther away from the Island, stripping us from the protection that Daksa naturally provided. Defeated and exhausted they abandoned all efforts and brought us back to the raw coastline of the island.
Locals have a rule, Stay away from Daksa it’s haunted! Rumors of restless angry ghosts who haunt the land and terrify seafarers. But is there any truth to the claims of haunting’s and could a small island really be cursed?
When I asked to have the dingy lowered into the sea to go explore the island, the Captain got spooked. He told me that he didn’t want me to curse the ship, the crew or our guests. He was worried that I would bring back a ghost that would bring nothing but misfortune to our ship. Still, I managed to get his approval to deploy the dingy and head to the island only after agreeing to take One crew member to accompany me during my visit on Daksa.
So it began. We approached the island and noticed a concrete manmade extension jutting off the island. There was a newer lighthouse at the very tip of the island, sitting below the original unmanned and inoperable lighthouse. Near the new lighthouse was a more modern covered structure with a hinged metal door that was open. As we approached the rocks to tie off the dingy we saw a man sitting inside the covered garage. We asked permission to step onto the island, and the local man replies by saying,
“ Go ahead, but I’m not coming to your aide should something happen to you.” So much for warm welcomes.
Words cannot convey how giddy and excited I was. After a short Climb up the rough and rocky coastline, a path opened up to reveal tree lined pathways with buildings forgotten and abandoned. The main path forks taking you to either side of the island. We headed for the buildings and the original lighthouse off the right hand (Daksa is derived from the Greek word Deksios meaning right-hand) side of the path. Below are the pictures I took. After exploring thru buildings and climbing to the top of the lighthouse, I decided to walk thru what looked like old gardens used by the Franciscans when I noticed something partially buried near a stone at the base of a tree. I dug it up, brushed it off and placed it in my backpack to inspect later. It’s funny to say backpack because I don’t carry my bag on my back. I carry it in font to protect me from bugs. I took a picture of the spot where I found my new strange artifact and continued my exploration.
Behind a vail of trees a Villa appeared. I was stunned by the beauty of the building. The architectural detail and the craftsmanship of construction was still impressive. I could only imagine how magnificent it would have looked when it was built. Below are pictures of the building, although many rooms have fallen lumber and roofs that have caved in, the building still remains remarkable.
Turning the corner I discover a fenced plot of land memorializing the victims of the Daksa massacre. A second site is set up to memorialize the priests who were murdered. Below are the pictures of the mass grave site and the plaque describing the horrific events.
Walking away to circle back behind the villa, the path winds back through other stone walls that could be ruins of previous houses or gardens. I see the main tree-lined path and carefully attempt to navigate through overburden and vegetation when I walk into something. I called out to my friend to lend me a hand in unearthing this blocky obstacle. It is a piece of weather battered wood that has fallen from the building. We decided it would be considerate to clear the path should any other curious visitors come to the island. After moving the wood aside, I spot another strange artifact. It looks like petrified wood, kinda cool, so, I pick it up and toss it in my bag. (I have posted pictures of my artifacts at the bottom of this post. I have no idea what they really are). The island has paths beckoning me to venture on, but the overgrowth is too dense, and the terrain is foreign. Not knowing what else lies beneath the decay and neglect on the island, I head back down the main path.
I am trying to consume every smell, sight and sound the island as to offer, when suddenly I feel a burning sensation running across my back. I jerk backwards expecting to see my friend taunting me but he’s not there. I call to him and he appears at the main path junction waving me to hurry back to the boat. When I reach him, I ask him to inspect the back of my shirt for a bee or a spider that could have bit me. Nothing. The burning intensifies so I lift my shirt and ask my friend if I have visible bug bite. No bug bite, but three scratches. I have a picture below of the scratches that appeared on my back.
As I make my way back down to the dingy I can’t help but think of the innocence lost and the often-forgotten victim in this tragedy. The Island itself. A helpless witness to brutality and hatred, forever tainted by the bloodshed and lives lost. Guilty of only the sins of others. An Island violated and littered with the bodies of innocent victims falsely accused and labeled. An island that once was home to Christianity and today sits as the land of the living dead.
To date no one has been held accountable for the Daksa Masacre. The Communist Sympathizers of Former Yugoslavia went through extraordinary lengths to promote its propaganda for a Greater Serbia. They are the real monsters. Below are pictures courtesy of komunistickizlocini.net. The pictures show the actual excavation of the human remains. Anyone interested in seeing more visit the link
As for the ghosts of Daksa, I didn’t see any, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. After getting back on board the ship a series of misfortunate events did occur within minutes and continued for 4 days, until holy water was used to bless the vessel. If you want to learn more about the strange events that occurred check out my blog MaraMare for updates.
As promised here are my 2 artifacts. Again I have no idea what they really are but in case they end up being significant, I took pictures of the exact locations where I found them.
Anyone who thinks they might know what these 2 artifacts might be, send me a message.