(CNN) – The name — Serpent Island — would be enough to deter even the most adventurous tourists. And while few snakes actually reside on the Senegalese island (which was named for an 18th-century French sergeant by the name of Sarpant), locals give it a wide berth. The land, you see, is rumored to be haunted.
“The spirit doesn’t let anyone build here,” says Matta Diallo, a local Lebou guide.
He points to the ruins of an 18th-century house that a man named Lacombe had attempted to build from basalt rock. According to legend, spirits kept destroying parts of the house as he tried to build, and eventually he abandoned the project all together.
“Lacombe kept trying to build here, but the spirit would always destroy it,” says Diallo.
“Lacombe saw how tranquil and beautiful the island is. He thought he would not be disturbed here so he intended to live here. Of course, he could not live here because the spirit here does not want people living on the island,” he adds.
Though no one lives on the island today, the discovery of stone-age artifacts point to it being inhabited thousands of years ago.
Says Diallo, “According to the African Institute of Basic Research, this pottery (uncovered by archaeologists) is somewhere between two and three thousand years old, and allows us to confirm that people were on the island two to three thousand years ago.”