New York’s Staten Island is well known for its museums, landmarks, beaches, and parks. Many visitors travel to New York each year to take the Staten Island Ferry to participate in sightseeing adventures. People watch baseball at Richmond County Bank Ballpark, visit the historic Richmond Town, or explore local maritime heritage at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden.
One part of Staten Island’s history that is not as celebrated is the story of the Cropsey Maniac. An escaped mental institution patient caused quite the stir after being caught sneaking around at night to kidnap and murder local children. Many campfire or ghost stories were filled with the terrifying tales of the man who appeared before children, wielding an axe or a knife.
The stories unfortunately, while some details may have been added or exaggerated, are based off of true stories. Over five children fell victim to the Cropsey maniac. Speculation of locals is that the man likely dragged the children away into the ruins of the Staten Island Seaview Hospital, where they were never seen again. All but one of their bodies were never found.
The Staten Island Seaview Hospital was an early tuberculosis sanatorium. However, after reports surfaced about the facility, public outcry quickly caused researchers and reporters to publicly broadcast conditions. It was ordered closed after reports surfaced about operating at nearly double the allotted capacity, about patients living in filth and rags, people being housed in cages or abandoned, the severe cases of negligent treatment, inadequate sanitary facilities, and the widespread physical and sexual abuse. Many credit these conditions as part if what caused Cropsey to commit his heinous crimes.
The first victim was a five year old girl. She disappeared in 1972, after last being seen on her front lawn, playing with her brother. Her body was never recovered, and her murder was never officially solved. The second girl, a seven year old, disappeared in 1981. Just like the first missing child, her body was never found and her horrendous murdered was never officially charged. Just two years later, in 1983, an eleven year old girl was seen getting into Cropsey’s van. She was never seen again. Again, just like the others, no one was charged for her crime and her body was never recovered.
Although Cropsey had an existing record for a 1969 rape and the kidnapping of eleven kids in 1983, he could never be tied to the murders. While police worked, a twenty two year old a developmentally challenged man was the next to come up missing in 1984. Again, his body was never found and his murderer was never charged. It wasn’t until the fifth child, a twelve year old girl, came up missing that the missing links seemed to be connected.
When the girl came up missing in 1987, her friends and family participated in neighborhood searches and sweeps, desperately fighting time in an effort to find the girl alive. Unfortunately, after combing lots and wooded parks, her tiny foot was found sticking out of a shallow grave, near the very hospital that likely created or exploited the dangerous characteristics of Cropsey.
In the area of the abandoned hospital, people report feelings of uneasiness, hearing strange sounds, seeing shadowy figures, and feelings of being watched. The College of Staten Island is now housed over some of the familiar grounds and people indicate having furniture moved, candles blowing out, seeing ghosts, and hearing sneezes or coughs. They also hear footsteps and screaming. People have said they were grabbed, hit, or even chased. They have seen orbs, faces, headless bodies, and even stumbled across dead bodies, reminding them that Cropsey’s continue, well into current times.