THE URBAN LEGEND
Legendtrippers guide to the Cropsey maniac and other modern day boogeymen.
Where did the name, and the urban legend of CROPSEY come from? No one really knows, but the name CROPSEY first starts to appear in the annals of New York history around Colonial times. Probably the most famous Cropsey is the Hudson River School Painter Jasper Cropsey who interestingly enough was born on his father’s farm in Staten Island, NY, and is now buried in The Sleepy Hollow Cemetary, (obviously the site of another famous Urban Legend)
Jasper Francis Cropsey (February 18, 1823 – April 23, 1900) was an important American landscape artist of the Hudson River School. Cropsey was born on his father Jacob Rezeau Cropsey’s farm in Rossville on Staten Island, New York, the oldest of eight children. As a young boy, Cropsey had recurring periods of poor health. While absent from school, Cropsey taught himself to draw. His early drawings included architectural sketches and landscapes drawn on notepads and in the margins of his schoolbooks. After studying architecture for five years, he turned his attention to landscape painting, under the instruction of Edward Maury…..
The Cropsey Maniac
The name CROPSEY is most commonly heard being whispered around the campfires of boy scouts, or in bunk beds of Jewish Sleepaway campers, up and down the Hudson Valley. It is the tale of the CROPSEY MANIAC, and it has been around for longer than anyone can remember, scaring children, parents, and anyone else in between, for more than a century. Folklorists have dedicated an extensive amount time reseaching this urban legend, from innocuous campfire tales to its reemergence as an overriding theme in the modern day Slasher film. It is a classic urban legend, a cautionary tale pervasive in both our oral traditions and mass media. And for some, it seems so rooted in our collective consciousness, that it must to hold some a grain of truth, if not more.
VOICES, a zine, put out by the New York Folklore society has a great article on the CROSPEY MANIAC story, highlighting the most common tale of the crazed Judge or Doctor, disfigured in a camp prank gone wrong, who stalks the woods with an axe looking to exact his revenge on young campers.
Cropsey At Camp
So where did CROPSEY come from….was our childhood boogyman based upon a real event, or person, is it just one of the most classic and pervasive cautionary tales, a warning about a crazed Maniac who lurks in the woods, brandashing a hook for a hand, or a razor sharp axe, looking to slaughter campers who wander too far from the fire. Regardless of its beginning, the CROPSEY MANIAC, has found its way into our popular culture as well. Of course the most profound emergence in the last few decades has been as the unstoppable villain of a most visceral sort, the slasher film.
One film in particular called “The Burning” has a lead character called CROPSY, a disfigured camp caretaker, burned in a prank gone wrong, who takes his revenge by way of garden sheers on oversexed camp counselers. The film made in 1981, has a unique predigree, it was produced by Harvey Weinstein.
It seems that these stories had a profound effect on many of the baby boomers of today, many of whom grew up and brought their own versions of the CROSPEY legend to popular culture. One such interpretation of the typical CROPSEY legend comes from The film, THE BURNING.
How To Ghost Hunt On Staten Island
Things You’ll Need:
• Tape recorder
Obtain a visitor’s pass and explore the College of Staten Island’s campus. Many students and faculty have reported strange sounds, feelings of uneasiness, shadowy figures, and the feeling that they’re being watched, while walking around campus. Most people attribute these ghostly sightings and experiences to the history of the college campus, which was formerly the Willowbrook State School; a children’s institution that was closed in 1987. Other people attribute the hauntings to a specific event: The death of a 12-year-old girl, who was abducted and murdered in 1987. The convicted murderer, Andre Rand, who is believed to be the only serial killer from Staten Island, buried the child’s remains (and possibly the remains of other children who have not been found) on the grounds of the once-deserted institution, which is now the campus (see Resources below for more information).
Tour the Billopp House (also known as the Conference House) in Tottenville, a Staten Island neighborhood located at the southwestern extremity of the borough. The last pre-revolution house in existence in New York City, the Billopp house is home to several ghosts, including a little boy that’s believed to be
Christopher Billopp’s grandson, a British guard that continues to stand on duty, servants that blow out
candles and rearrange furniture, and a young woman that stares intently out of a second-story window.
While touring the inside of the house, listen carefully for mysterious knocks, coughs, sneezes and footsteps.
While exiting the property, take note of the large knoll located within the vicinity of the Billop House. This
knoll once held the remains of many Native Americans. Since the remains were exhumed in 1897 by a
retired Army General, there has been an increase in paranormal activity on the property (see Resources
below for more information).
Bring flowers and a camera to Vanderbilt Tomb, located in Moravian Cemetery in New Dorp, Staten
Island. The flowers are an essential part of your ghost hunt at Vanderbilt’s tomb, because they are a display of respect–something that was very important to the Vanderbilts. Lay the flowers down and remain on your best behavior if you wish to pacify the angry ghosts that can and will appear without warning. Throughout the years, mischievous teens have reportedly been grabbed at, hit and chased away from the tomb by a ghostly figure in a gray suit. While you’re visiting Vanderbilt Tomb, remember to take a lot of pictures. Most photographs of the tomb, which are taken after dusk, reveal orbs, lights, bright lines, extra faces, blurred faces or even floating heads without bodies! This may be due to the seventy-two burial plots in the tomb, many of which are occupied. As the largest single-family tomb in the United States, Vanderbilt Tomb is quite unique and very “active.” Alarmingly, there have been documented reports of people dying while visiting the tomb. Although these deaths appear to be freak accidents, they’re still quite frightening and lead the imagination to run wild (see Resources below for more information).
Tips & Warnings
• Do not trespass on private property while you ghost hunt on Staten Island.