To see the trailer for "Cropsey" go to YouTube...I would have posted the code, but that has been "disabled by request"...
A flick about a series of child abductions that haunted Staten Island during the early 1980s and gave the borough its own bogeyman will hit movie theaters later this month.
Filmmakers Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio will unveil "Cropsey," their documentary about convicted child-snatcher Andre Rand, April 25 at the Tribeca Film Festival.
"Part of the allure is Rand remained a mystery to so many people," said Brancaccio, 38, a former Staten Island resident. "For a lot of people, it's a nut you can't crack."
Zeman and Brancaccio grew up in separate areas of the borough, hearing tales of "Cropsey," an ax-wielding escaped mental patient who roamed Staten Island in search of kids.
But what began as an urban legend for Zeman and Brancaccio eventually swirled into a murky reality in 1987, following the disappearance of 13-year-old Jennifer Schweiger.
After Schweiger's body was found in a shallow grave on the grounds of the former WILLOWBROOK STATE PSCHIATRIC HOSPITAL- where Cropsey was said to have lurked - a manhunt for other missing children drew more than 5,000 people.
"I went to camp not far from Willowbrook, and the counselor would take us into the woods and tell us these stories," said Zeman, 37, who now lives in Manhattan. "I don't know where it all hit, but we later found out this urban legend was real, that there actually was something out there."
The film, compiled from more than 150 interviews going back to 2000, tells the story of Rand, a drifter suspected of murdering five people, mostly mentally disabled kids.
But Rand was only convicted of kidnapping Schweiger and another girl, Holly Ann Hughes, a 7-year-old Down syndrome sufferer who disappeared 28 years ago.
Donna Cutugno, the founder of Friends of Jennifer, a group that scours the Willowbrook property and other areas on Staten Island twice a year for the bodies of other missing children, said she is certain Rand is the killer.
"I still have missing children and, hopefully, when people see this film, time will work for the best," said Cutugno, who plans to attend a Sunday matinee showing of the film. "Sometimes, people come forward with new information."
Nor but in sleep findeth a cure for care.
Incertainty that once gave scope to dream
Of laughing enterprise and glory untold,
Is now a blackness that no stars redeem.
Willowbrook State School was a state-supported institution for children with mental retardation located in central Staten Island in New York City. The school gained notoriety in the 1960s for a medical study conducted there that was criticised by some as unethical, and in the 1970s further abuses uncovered at the school were the stimulus for new civil rights legislation. The school was closed in 1987, and the former grounds were redeveloped extensively to serve as the campus of the College of Staten Island.
In 1938, plans were formulated to build a facility for children with mental retardation on a 375 acres (1.5 km²) site in the Willowbrook section of Staten Island. Construction was completed in 1942, but instead of opening for its original purpose, it was converted into a United States Army hospital and named Halloran General Hospital, after the late Colonel Paul Stacey Halloran. After the war, proposals were introduced to turn the site over to the Veterans Administration, but in October, 1947 the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene opened its facility there as originally planned, and the institution was named Willowbrook State School.
Throughout the first decade of its operation, outbreaks of hepatitis were common at the school, and this led to a highly controversial medical study being conducted there between 1963 and 1966 by medical researcher Saul Krugman, in which healthy children were intentionally inoculated, orally and by injection, with the virus that causes the disease, then monitored to gauge the effects of gamma globulin in combating it. A public outcry forced the study to be discontinued.
More Scandals and Abuses
Further problems plagued the institution: In early 1972, Geraldo Rivera, then an investigative reporter for television station WABC-TV in New York City, conducted a series of investigations at Willowbrook (on the heels of a previous series of articles in the Staten Island Advance and Staten Island Register newspapers), uncovering a host of deplorable conditions, including overcrowding, inadequate sanitary facilities, and physical and sexual abuse of residents by members of the school's staff. Rivera later appeared on the nationally televised Dick Cavett Show with film of patients at the school.
The school was originally intended to house 2000 students, but around the time the scandals at the institution gained attention there were almost 5000 residents. This resulted in a class-action lawsuit being filed against the State of New York in federal court on March 17, 1972. A settlement in the case was reached on May 5, 1975, mandating reforms at the site, but several years would elapse before all of the violations were corrected. The publicity generated by the case was a major contributing factor to the passage of a federal law, called the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act of 1980.
Closing the School
In 1975, a Willowbrook Consent Decree was signed. This committed New York State to improve community placement for the now designated "Willowbrook class".
In 1983, the State of New York announced plans to close Willowbrook, which had been renamed the Staten Island Developmental Center in 1974. By the end of March 1986, the number of residents housed there had dwindled to 250 (down from 5,000 at the height of the scandal exposed by Rivera), and the last children left the grounds on September 17, 1987.
After the developmental center closed, the site became the focus of intense local debate about what should be done with the property. In 1989 a portion of the land was acquired by the City of New York, with the intent of using it to establish a new campus for the College of Staten Island, and the new campus opened at Willowbrook in 1993 (at the same time, one of CSI's two other existing campuses, located in the island's Sunnyside neighborhood, was closed and that site became the home of a new high school, Michael Petrides). At 0.8 km² (204 acres), this campus is the largest maintained by the City University of New York.
The remaining 0.7 km² (171 acres) of the state school's original property, at the south end, is still under the administration of the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene, which maintains a research laboratory facility there called the Institute For Basic Research in Developmental Disorders.
On February 25, 1987, the Federal Court approved the Willowbrook "1987 Stipulation", which set forth guidelines for OMRDD that required OMRDD community placement for the "Willowbrook Class".