The world is full of allegedly haunted places which are often saturated with high strangeness and dark, morbid history. Yet how often does one get a chance to actually own such a place? For years, a quaint, pristine island in the middle of one of Europe’s hottest tourist destinations has sat on the market for a rock bottom price, left untouched and unwanted in an area frequented by some of the world’s richest and most famous people. Here one can find everything they expect in a romantic island getaway, with private beaches, gorgeous views, and a charming villa, as well as some things one might not expect, lurking under the stunning postcard perfect veneer. For this island carries with it a grim past and perhaps even ghosts. Welcome to Daksa island, a place perhaps inhabited by the dead and which you can own right now.
Located on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, in the region of Dalmatia in Croatia, there is the prosperous and historical city of Dubrovnik. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is renowned as a premiere tourist spot throughout Europe and indeed the world, a vacation spot that has played host over the years to such big name stars as Catherine Zeta Jones, Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tom Cruise, Sharon Stone, Clint Eastwood, and Steven Spielberg. Situated just 1.5 nautical miles from this resort paradise, just in front of Dubrovnik’s port Gruz, is a tiny island known as Daksa, a name derived from the Greek word deksios, meaning “right hand.” Long known as a haven for sailors seeking to take shelter from foul weather and once home to a 13th century Franciscan monastery, the island is the smallest of the Elaphite archipelago, being a mere 500 meters long and 200 meters wide for a total area of just 0.07 km2 (17 acres). Despite its picturesque cypress woodland, orange grove, quaint lighthouse, ruins, and attractive, idyllic views, Daksa could easily be mistaken for just another of Croatia’s 10,000 other Adriatic islands and islets. However, this tiny uninhabited speck of land sitting practically a stone’s throw from one of Europe’s most prestigious resort cities has a dark shadow hanging over its history, and is the scene of one of the most violent, horrific incidents the region has ever seen.
For most of World War II, the country of Croatia did not even exist, instead being a part of Yugoslavia and invaded by Nazi forces at the start of the war. The Germans went through great lengths to capitalize on the Croatians’ contempt for the Serbs, who they thought had been given too much power since Yugoslavia had been created at the end of World War I. Under Nazi control, Croatia was made an independent state and Croatian soldiers were pressured to change sides. At the same time, a vicious campaign of persecution was launched against the Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and Croatians not loyal to the fascist Ustaša regime (Croatian Revolutionary Movement) which the Nazis had put into power. Through a merciless bloodbath of violence, massacres, and the notorious Jasenovac concentration camp, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives in these dark days. This black cloud of violence hanging over the region did not lift until the Nazi backed Ustaša fell from power and Croatia became a republic within the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Considering the ruthless slaughter and suffering they had endured, it is perhaps not surprising that many of the Croatians under this new government still had a bad taste in their mouth concerning the Nazis, and were intent on getting vengeance against those who had oppressed them and their sympathizers. This seething lust for revenge boiled until 18 October 1944, when a mob of Yugoslav Partisans howling for blood descended upon the city of Dubrovnik and proceeded to start arbitrarily arresting anyone who they thought could be a Nazi or Nazi supporter. In total, more than 300 citizens of the city were rounded up, including the newly appointed mayor of Dubrovnik, Niko Koprivica, and the local parish priest, Petar Perica. 53 of them, along with the mayor and priest, were brought over to the uninhabited island of Daksa, where the prisoners awaited a horrible fate amidst its ruins and quaint seaside views.
Here on the island of Daksa, every last one of the 53 prisoners was mercilessly executed without any trial, mostly by a gunshot to the head. The bodies of the dead were more or less left to rot where they fell, being unceremoniously dumped into two shallow mass graves. When the ruthless executioners returned to the mainland after carrying out their dark work, they distributed flyers throughout Dubrovnik that announced that a number of the residents of the city had been sentenced to death by firing squad “in the name of peoples of Yugoslavia,” as well as the victims’ names. The outraged relatives of those killed, many of which staunchly denied any involvement with the Nazis, were further told that the same fate would await them if they should feel the inclination to go investigate the island where their loved ones had been gunned down in cold blood. Interestingly, at the time only the names of 35 of the victims were listed in the flyer and this would be the official number for many decades, as no one bothered to venture to Daksa to check it out.
It was not until September of 2009 that the gruesome truth would start to come into the light. It was then that an initial six bodies were uncovered on Daksa, and after that the president of the Croatian Helsinki Committee, Ivo Banac, called for an investigation. An archeological examination of the island was launched, which uncovered two separate grave sites, one of which was located within an old farmhouse basement, and anthropological examinations of the remains that were found identified a total of 53 distinct victims who were all male. Along with the remains was an assortment of various other objects such as buttons, necklaces, rosaries, a priestly collar, crosses, bullets and bullet shells. It was not until June of 2010 that many of the remains were moved back to the mainland and finally given a proper burial after rotting in their shallow graves for over 60 years. Although 53 sets of remains were found, it is believed that there could be even more buried somewhere on the island that have not been unearthed yet. Despite the ghastly nature of the findings and the callous barbarity of the massacre, not a single person has ever been arrested or tried, and the guilt or innocence of the victims has never been established.
It is perhaps this bloody, dark history and the lack of justice in no one ever answering for the crime that has made the island of Daksa unsurprisingly an allegedly intensely haunted place. Those who come here report of hearing voices whisper in their ear or a profound sense of being watched, as well as an almost palpable sense of panic and dread. Even more frightening is that disembodied voices of the unjustly murdered are said on occasion to howl at visitors to go away, and those who do venture upon the deserted island have reported all manner of ghostly activity, such as being pushed, poked, scratched, and shoved by unseen hands. Rowboats that approach the island are also sometimes said to experience being rocked or banged from the bottom by some invisible force. There are also apparently many apparitions and shadow figures that are regularly seen lurking about the island, particularly in the vicinity of the mass graves, as well as orbs and mysterious lights. These rumors of restless, vengeful ghosts are so pervasive that it is enough to keep most people from daring to venture to this otherwise pristine, romantic locale, even during peak tourist seasons. Even the current owners of the island, Nila Perica Dusilo Florshutz and Franica Dusilo Cavich, won’t live there, and they have indeed been actively seeking to sell it for years.
Daksa was actually put up for sale by the owners for an original asking price of 6 million dollars, but the persistent spooky rumors and numerous reports of ghosts on the island have long scared off potential buyers, with the price falling steadily over the years to a mere 2 million euros. With its unspoiled attractive woodland landscape, spacious villa, citrus groves, boathouse, dock, lighthouse, private beaches, and charming views of the sea, this would seem to be a steal for a whole private island, yet even in this paradise among other surrounding islets owned by the rich and famous, no buyers have ever come forward to make an offer or to even come make a viewing. It would seem that most people do not find the thought of living on an island so wrapped in a gruesome dark history to be very appealing, whether there are actually ghosts there or not. Perhaps it is better this way. Perhaps it is better to leave any shadowy denizens of the island alone amongst the picturesque scenery, where they can seethe in their eternal anger in solitude, and where the ire spurred by the anguished memories of their wicked past will not spill over and harm the living. Or, if you don’t believe in that sort of thing and have 2 million euros lying around, you could own your own island for a bargain, as well as a piece of sinister history. Just remember that as you sit out on the beach enjoying your new purchase, there is a chance that you may not be alone.