The land surrounding the farm colony seems to have developed a horrific history early on. (The serial-killing Cropsey included.) The macabre story started back in the 1920’s, when a young boy went missing the same day he was seen with an elderly man in the woods around Sea View. Then famously, throughout the 1970’s and 80’s several children from Staten Island went missing; all of them presumed dead, though only one body was ever found – that of Jennifer Schweiger, a 12-year-old girl with Downs Syndrome, buried in a shallow grave in the woods surrounding the colony.
The alleged child killer was Andre Rand, who in the mid 1960’s was employed as a custodian at the Willowbrook School for the developmentally disabled, which was located in the same expanse of cursed forest. aRand himself seemed to fall outside the standards of sanity. He hasn’t yet been proven guilty of murder, but was convicted on two counts of kidnapping, and is currently serving 50 years to life in prison. In 1972, a young filmmaker named Geraldo Rivera made a documentary bringing to light the horrific conditions within the institution that Rand worked, exposing how the disabled children were mistreated and forced to live in filth.
Since the landmark designation was implemented, the remaining buildings of Sea View and Willowbrook have fallen into various states of disrepair, crumbling into a ghost town. The aura of eeriness permeates. Graffiti has spread over the interior and exterior of the buildings like a sickness. People continue to visit the grounds, amid rumors concerning séances and devil worship within the compound and surrounding forest. The homeless continue to seek shelter there, and in the underground tunnels of Willowbrook that still remain. To say that this whole New York forest is occupied by ghosts is an understatement, as it is haunted by real memories of the gross mistreatment of actual patients, mostly children.
The documentary film “Cropsey”, produced by filmmakers Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio in 2009, focuses on the legend, kidnappings and murders that took place in Staten Island in the 1970’s and 80’s. A trailer for that documentary can be seen below.