Salvation Islands, French Guiana
Status: Former Penal Colony; Natural Wonder (Islands)
French Guiana was actually established as a prison colony because any French attempt to colonize the area ended in death. The final attempt in 1763 had 75% of the 12,000 colonists dead within the first year. By 1852 when the prison was founded the colony was nearly extinct.
The Penal Colony operated for a century (1852-1952) although many sources say 1946 – this appears to when the last prisoner was condemned here - and officially closed in 1953.
It had a terrible reputation – operating at a 75% mortality rate in it’s worst years – with sadistic staff and a climate and ecology rife with tropical diseases.
The prison itself actually occupied multiple locations both on the mainland and in the Salvation Islands.
Ile Royale was the prison’s reception centre and where the general population lived (they roamed free because escape was virtually impossible), Ile St Joseph was the punishment island where prisoners were left in darkness and solitary confinement for attempting escape or breaking the prison rules and Devil’s Island was for the political prisoners.
The French also operated 3 administration centres on the mainland.
The most famous prisoner on Devil’s Island was Captain Alfred Dreyfus who was unjustly convicted of spying for the Germans. His trial and conviction – known as the Dreyfus Affair – nearly brought the entire French Army down. The house where he lived on the island is still standing.
In total about 80,000 prisoners were sent to the colony (very few returned to France) and almost none escaped in the water which was very deep, shark infested and prone to strong and unpredictable currents.
There once was a cable car system between Devil’s Island and Ile Royale but it has long since collapsed into the sea.
It is forbidden to land on Devil’s Island now and it can only be viewed from off shore in a charter boat or from Ile Royale.
In actuality all three islands have ruins of the former prison that carry stories of encounters of paranormal activity.
Ile St Joseph is probably the most haunted – it was used for solitary confinement and a had a number of suicides and men that just went insane – but Devil’s Island does carry the scariest name so is the most well known.
Of course, Devil’s Island is also forbidden which also ensures it’s mysterious reputation. The reason for this given is the strong currents and dangerous sharks in the waters but people can and do land there with, apparently, very little effort. It’s also been reported that the waters around the island are usually full of pleasure boats – most within 20 yards and having no issues – so what exactly is the government and the military hiding there.
Reported Activity: apparitions of former prisoners and guards; shadow figures; phantom screams coming from the jungle; disembodied voices; touches, tugs and pulls from unseen entities; unexplained mists and vortices; phantom footsteps; empathic sensations of fear, hopelessness and some have described feeling as if they losing their minds; electrical disturbances; dark masses moving in the buildings and jungles; light anomalies; unexplained noises and feelings of being watched.