The Urban Legend of Cropsey

In Staten Island, New York, the urban legend of “Cropsey” has always kept children close to home and inside at night. A common myth, Cropsey was said to be an escaped mental patient with homicidal tendencies and a hook for a hand. Rumor was that if you strayed too far from home or wandered off on your own, Cropsey would get you from the shadows and drag you into the mangled ruins of the abandoned Seaview Hospital, where you would never be seen again.

Parents always told their children about Cropsey in hopes that they would be frightened enough to stay close to home. In reality, Cropsey was just a harmless story, but in the 1970’s and 80’s, Cropsey turned out to be terrifyingly real. A real homicidal madman was terrorizing the children of Staten Island, eventually found out to be a local drifter named Andre Rand.

Andre Rand

Rand, born Frank Rushan, was not a very peculiar child. He lived a seemingly normal life growing up in Staten Island. Contrary to popular belief, he apparently had no instances of childhood trauma, according to his sister. His father had died when he was 14-years-old, and his mother was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, where he and his sister would commonly visit her. 

As an adult, Rand started seeming more peculiar and strange, becoming a drifter of sorts. He began to commit strange crimes, at one point getting an unlawful imprisonment charge in a situation. He had picked up a bus of 11 children from a local YMCA, where he then purchased a meal for them. After this, he drove them to the Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, where he was apprehended by law enforcement. None of the children were harmed, although he was sent to jail.

This occurred after his sexual assault against a child charge in 1969, and his suspected involvement in 5-year-old Alice Pereira’s disappearance in 1972. He was already becoming a notorious suspect in the NYC borough, but more information would soon come to light. 

Involved Crimes

In 1981, Rand abducted Holly Ann Hughes on the way to the store. She was never seen again. Several eye-witnesses reported seeing them together, and he was a prime suspect in the investigation.

In 1983, Tiahease Jackson’s parents reported her as missing after not returning home from running an errand. 

Things started escalating further when Rand was accused of the disappearance of 22-year-old Hank Gafforio in 1984. Gafforio, a local resident, was seen as slow and easily manipulated. He was last seen in a diner with Rand.

Rand’s string of criminal activity came to an end with the kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Jennifer Schweiger. Schweiger, a local child diagnosed with down syndrome, had been reported as missing on Jul. 9th, 1987. Eyewitnesses spotted Schweiger walking with Rand just before her disappearance.

After a police investigation, Schweiger’s body was recovered buried underground after a 35-day search for her. While searching for clues near the crime scene, Police discovered a makeshift campsite occupied by Rand, where he was detained. 

In 1988, Rand was charged with the 1st-degree kidnapping of Jennifer Schweiger, although prosecutors couldn’t secure a murder charge. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. In 2004, he was brought to trial once again and charged with the kidnapping of Holly Ann Hughes. He was sentenced to another 25 years in prison. He will be eligible for parole in 2037, at the age of 93. 

During interviews, Rand commonly compared himself to Ted Bundy. Many know him as the “Boogeyman of Staten Island”, or just as “Cropsey”. To this day, he leaves a legacy of terror on an entire community. He has become somewhat of an urban legend himself in Staten Island’s history.

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By Matt Clement

Matt (He/Him) is a Junior and first year reporter for the Timber Creek Talon.