Today's entry in our ongoing series on the spookier side of urban exploration is something of a special case, as this location comes with its own very well-known haunted backstory – one which became the stuff of nightmares for kids and adults alike.
The 300-acre Farm Colony on Staten Island is one of the largest abandoned locations in New York, and has multiple layers of creepy history, each more disturbing than the next. A recent photo tour of the site, covered in the blog Atlas Obscura, revealed that the body of an unknown girl was once discovered beneath one of the decrepit colony buildings... and that she might not be the only one.
The Colony's history goes back to the late 17th century, when it was part of the town of Castleton. The land was acquired by the government a century later to build housing for the poor, who were an active part of the community until they became too old to work. By the '50s it had become an hospital for many of those aging tenants, and that's when things got scary. Workers at the facility reported sighting deceased residents wandering the corridors.
After it was fully abandoned in the 1970s, the Colony became the site of many mysterious disappearances, mostly involving children. The incidents continued through the next decade, and would eventually be linked to the century-old legend of “The Cropsey Maniac” – a popular campfire tale among Staten Island residents, meant to scare kids away from the Greeenbelt region, where the Colony is located. If the name Cropsey sounds familiar, it's because it became the inspiration for at least two slasher films: 1981's The Burning, in which the killer was actually named Cropsey, and later Madman, whose writers redubbed their monster “Madman Marz” when they learned of the earlier production. Each boogeyman had his own backstory, but was loosely based on the same legend.
But the child disappearances were quite real; most of the victims were disabled kids from the nearby Willowbrook State School, where an orderly named Andre Rand became the chief suspect. Rumors spread that Rand had a network of tunnels beneath the Colony, and apparently camped out on the site. These incidents became the subject of the 2010 documentary Cropsey, which explored the real-life events as well as the origin of the boogeyman tales.
Drop by Atlas Obscura for the complete tour and detailed history of the Colony... which even in broad daylight looks spooky as hell.