August 13, 2010
Posted: 12:11 PM ET
Staten Island natives, Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio, directors of the documentary “CROPSEY,” answer our 5 Questions about the urban legend of “Cropsey.”
A real killer or just a campfire boogey man story? They investigated! Below, read about the disturbing results.
LKL Blog: Who, or what, is “Cropsey?”
Joshua: It depends on the context of what we’re talking about. For us, “Cropsey” was the name that we assigned to the kind of urban legend that centered around the Willowbrook State School when we were growing up in Staten Island. It was a name given to the escaped mental patient who lived in the tunnels and would come after us with an ax if we wandered into the grounds. At the same time, “Cropsey’s” also a much larger, well known urban legend where a respected member of the community who goes vacationing somewhere in the woods with his wife and newborn child. Some counselors, campers, and Boy Scouts, end up burning down the cabin. His wife and child are killed and he goes mad with revenge. He ends up, a year later, on the anniversary of their death, taking revenge with an ax.
LKL Blog: So when did the urban legend of “Cropsey” become a reality?
Barbara: When Josh and I first met, we talked immediately about what happened to Jennifer Schweiger. We both remembered that time period when we were 15 or 16 years old, the summer all our neighbors and people around the island came out to look for her. We also knew the urban legend of “Cropsey.” We talked a little bit about when we were kids we would always play in the area in the woods surrounding the Willowbrook State School. Over the years from 1972, when Geraldo first broke the story, to 1987, when the institution shut down, going into the woods, playing manhunt or having these parties when we were teenagers, it was always this kind of scary, go into the woods and scare yourself. That was also, when Jennifer disappeared, the location where she was found. When we went back to go over all the kids who had disappeared off the island, and really make that connection, we were able to see “Cropsey” was an urban legend that really came true.
LKL Blog: Friday the 13th, the most superstitious day on the calendar, as you’re delving into this, and realizing what’s going on, and realizing it’s true, what’s scarier, an urban legend or a real life killer?
Joshua: It’s a combination. It’s one thing when you think of it as a child, but then as an adult, now you can put the really scary details to it, knowing that it’s true, it makes it that much more scary. When Barbara and I were making this movie, we’re adults, we may as well been 15 walking in the woods. There is nothing scarier. It’s like Scooby Doo! We’re all tiptoeing, holding on to each other, completely scared. Truth is scarier than fiction. This could happen to you or to any body you know, and I think that’s what makes it really scary.
LKL Blog: So Andre Rand, the alleged killer – are kids still scared of him or of “Cropsey?” Is it still an urban legend on Staten Island?
Barbara: I think when we went out to shoot the film, especially when we were in the woods, and trying to uncover what happened to the kids, we’d be out on Friday the 13th or Halloween night, trying to figure out what was going on in the woods, getting closer and closer. Before you know it, we’d come upon a bunch of kids, 10 or 15 years younger than us, also looking in the woods for the same answers. We learned pretty quickly that the kids in Staten Island are still haunted by the urban legend. Everyone has some memory of a haunted house or a scary place in their own small town or community. It’s one of these universal themes.
LKL Blog: Is the case closed – is it a 'closed book' for “Cropsey?”
Joshua: How can it be a closed case? There are four missing children whose bodies have never been found. It’s not closed by a long shot. All we did is find a way to tell the story and to reach people so that it wasn’t just the same old story being retold. We wanted to tell a scary story because as kids we were scared and as adults we were scared that someone was taking these children and couldn’t believe these children were never found.
All we did is create a framework to raise the larger question, where are these kids and how come we can’t find them? There’s still some unfinished business here.
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