Cropsey; the Boogeyman of the Modern Era?

Who is Cropsey? Every kid, growing up everywhere, had that one weird house in their neighborhood they avoided. The houses range from being dilapidated, uncared for to having old weird Mr. Hermann live there.  You know the man that hated children? He was rumored to kidnap and kill children when they went near his property. I digress…. These are the things that nightmares are made from.  As you walk home from your friend’s house, and the sun has gone down sooner than you expected. You get that knot in your stomach and your heart starts to pound. You have to walk past that building surrounded by dark old trees that sway in the wind. Or that weird old man is walking toward you….  It is a common experience.  Cropsey is one such legend, harmless, right? That is until children disappeared from a Staten Island neighborhood.

The legend of Cropsey was the tale of an escaped mental patient that lived in the abandoned Willowbrook Institute on Staten Island. Cropsey kidnaps and kills little children. He is the boogeyman. In 1965 Willowbrook Institution housed people with mental disabilities. At that time, the diagnosis could range from down syndrome to full on mental disorders. People were put there with all kinds of disabilities. It had the capacity for 4000, but really housed 6000 patients. Senator Robert Kennedy called it a “snake pit”. (1) On September 17, 1987, the last children left Willowbrook and it was closed for good.

In the l970’s a string of children began disappearing from Staten Island. This made the legend of Cropsey all too real.

  • July 7, 1972 Alice Pereira was playing with her brother in the lobby of the Tyson’s Lane Apartments. He left for a moment and when he came back, Alice was gone. She was never seen again. Alice’s parents were separated, and she lived with her mother. Her father was at first suspected, but later cleared of the disappearance.
  • Holly Ann Hughes was last seen July 15, 1981. She was 7 years old. Her mother sent her to the deli 2 blocks away to buy Ivory soap. She bought the soap but was never seen again.
  • On August 14, 1983, Tiahease Tiawanna Jackson, 10 years old, disappeared from The Mariner’s Harbor Motel on Staten Island. She was living there with her 3 siblings and mother after their apartment caught fire. While her mother slept, another resident of the apartment sent her to the Crown Supermarket to buy chicken wings. She never returned. When her mother woke, and discovered her missing she called the police immediately. They were planning on moving to the south to live with relatives. (2)
  • Hank (Henry) Gafforio disappeared June 9, 1984, he was 22 years old. He was reported with an IQ of about 70 and was mentally challenged. He was last seen in a diner in the middle of night eating with Andre Rand. (3)
  • Finally, on July 9, 1987 Jennifer Schweiger went missing. She was a 12-year-old girl with down syndrome. She went out for a walk and never returned home. They searched for her 35 days and eventually found her in a shallow grave on the grounds of the former Willowbrook Institution. She was the only child that was ever recovered. (44)

The Jennifer Schweiger disappearance broke the Staten Island Missing Children case wide open…. She was last seen walking alongside a homeless man with a bike. That man was Andre Rand. Andre Rand was born Frank Rashan, and was a sex offender with a criminal record. He was arrested days after Schweiger was found.

At first, Rand was convicted to 25 years to life for the kidnapping of Jennifer. In 2004 he was also charged with the kidnapping of Holly Ann Hughes, and sentenced to another 25 years to life. He is eligible for parole in 2037 when he is 93 years old.  It is speculated by detectives he was part of a ring that abducted children for a satanic sacrifice. This conclusion was drawn by detectives in part because of the Cropsey Documentary.

Andre Rand was the boogie man that children fear, and with good reason…. Since the 1980’s the world is a different place, there are many more boogeymen. Children started being taken off the streets, and put on milk cartons. Most parents began picking up and taking their children where they needed to go. It was the beginning of the supervised playdate. Cropsey still lives in the hearts of many, and as long as there are humans, there will always be a boogeyman…..

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  1. The Praeger Handbook of Special Education – by Alberto M. Bursztyn – Praeger Publishers; 1 edition (December 30, 2006)
  2. The Charley Project, http://www.charleyproject.org/
  3. Zeman, Joshua, .“The Missing Children”Joshua Zeman. Joshua Zeman. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
  4. Missing on Staten Island: Jennifer Schweiger was Found. What about the other children? http://hubpages.com/politics/Staten-Island-Mystery
  5. Cropsey, Joshua Zeman, Antidote Films, Afterhours Productions, 2009
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