For the third installment of my urban legend series I’ve chosen to introduce you (or maybe even RE-introduce) everyone to Cropsey. What or who is Cropsey exactly? Cropsey is basically the boogeyman of Staten Island, lurking in the shadows waiting to grab children who aren’t safely tucked away in their beds by evening. An insane man with a rusty old hook for a hand frightening neighborhood boys and girls, then proceeding to drag them with his hook into the ruins of what once was Staten Island’s Seaview Hospital. Others thought of Cropsey as an escaped mental patient who lived in the old abandoned Willowbrook building. He too came out late at night and would snatch children off the street. Either way Cropsey would always be waiting for them. At least that’s what parents and grandparents used to tell their children to make sure they were back home for dinner on time. That’s what the legend has become… but with this urban legend it actually became a terrible reality with the disappearances of multiple children. This is one of the urban legends I’ll be writing about that became a real life nightmare for Staten Island and some innocent children and their families.
Cropsey became very real in the 1970s when a local drifter named Andre Rand supposedly began attacking the children of Staten Island. He was a janitor at the Willowbrook State School when it was in service, which was an institution for mentally disabled children not far from the ruins of Seaview. While Willowbrook was in operation they were constantly scrutinized for the mistreatment and horrible sanitary conditions for patients, fortunately when Geraldo Rivera exposed these conditions in a news cast series about the school (titled suffer the children) was then closed for good in 1987. However, Andre Rand left Willowbrook long before it closed. But many who believe in his guilt also believe the time he spent working at the facility notorious for abuse later influenced his crimes against children.
The first child that went missing during this strange period of time was a 5 year old girl named Alice, she reportedly vanished in 1972 after she was out playing with her brother in the park and also at the abandoned ruins. The second was 7 year old Holly Ann, who according to witnesses, was spotted with Andre Rand on the day of her disappearance in 1981 after she did not return home after going to the store to get a bar of soap with her friend. Andre Rand pulled up to Holly and her friend and hastily pulled Holly into his Volkswagen and drove off with her, she was never seen again. In 1983, 11 year old Tiahease was reported missing after her mother had sent her to the grocery store and she too never returned home. This also happened coincidentally after Rand had just been released from prison on charges of unlawful imprisonment, when he picked up a group of 11 children from the YMCA, reportedly bought them all a meal, then drove them to a library in New Jersey without any parental consent given. Andre was later questioned by the police but no charges were brought upon him at the time. The fourth was Hank, a 22 year old with a low IQ who was last seen with Rand at a diner in 1984. His body was also never found. The last child disappearance was Jennifer who had down syndrome in 1987. Witnesses said they saw Jennifer walking with Rand, with no obvious destination. After she was reported missing there was a 35 day search ending tragically when they uncovered her body underground by Willowbrook. Later Police searched the grounds for any evidence and found one of Rand’s small makeshift campsites close to where they had discovered Jennifer’s remains.
The police hunted down and found Rand, then arrested him. The case was pretty much an open-close situation where they ultimately charged him with kidnapping in the first degree and he was then sentenced to 25 years imprisonment to life, for some reason the jury was unable to come to an agreement on his murder charges, so it fell through the cracks.
In 2004 however, prosecutors presented new evidence in the case of Holly Ann so Rand was put on trial once more before the judge and jury. Rand was put on trial once more. He was sentenced to another 25 years. This coming only 4 years until he would have been up for parole.
Unfortunately, for the cases that were never solved the children became the victims that will always remain lost youths of the Cropsey urban legend turned reality.
There is currently a documentary that was made on the urban legend and the Cropsey case too which can be found on Hulu since it is no longer available on Netflix.
Such a sad but true story I wish I could say was false.