Willowbrook State School is a scary place in Staten Island, New York. Many years ago, it was an institution for children with mental disabilities. However, it was overcrowded, filthy and many of the patients were abused. Eventually, it was closed down and the place was abandoned. Today, the dilapidated buildings are said to be haunted by the ghosts of the children who died there.
Willowbrook State School began as a hospital for mentally handicapped children. The school had a terrible reputation and was used like a warehouse where mentally disabled children were dumped. Many of them were abandoned by their families or the foster care agencies who were supposed to care for them.
However, the school quickly became overcrowded and the employees weren’t able to control the patients. The mentally disabled children were locked in rooms for extended lengths of time and forced to sleep on floors, covered in their own pee and poop.
Many of the children were malnourished and underfed. Most of them ran through the halls dressed in ragged clothes or completely naked. Conditions became so bad that a lot of children contracted diseases and died from illness and malnutrition.
Unable to deal with the situation, some staff members began abusing the children physically. Some of the kids even wandered away from the institution and ended up dying in the surrounding woods.
Between 1963 till 1966 secret medical studies were even conducted on the children. Doctors infected them with hepatitis in order to study the disease. They were being used as human guinea pigs.
When Senator Robert Kennedy visited the mental institution in 1966, he called it a “snake pit” and declared that “Willowbrook State School is not fit for even animals to live in.” He said that the patients were “living in filth and dirt, their clothing in rags, in rooms less comfortable and cheerful than the cages in which we put animals in a zoo.”
In 1971 funding to Willowbrook State School was cut drastically, which led to worse conditions. Local newspapers and TV stations began doing reports on the overcrowding, the unsanitary conditions and the physical and mental abuse of the disabled children.
In 1972, reporter Geraldo Rivera secretly gained access to Willowbrook State School using a stolen key and managed to document the brutal and horrific living conditions with a camera crew. His report led to an immediate government inquiry and lawsuits were filed against New York State.
By the mid-1980s, Willowbrook State School closed down and many of its buildings were abandoned. Today, they lie vacant and in ruins, littered with old toys, lunch trays and broken beds. Sometimes, people claim to hear dissembodied footsteps echo in the deserted corridors. Others have heard whispered voices calling out their names and the eerie sound of children giggling in the hallways.
One employee saw the ghostly figures of two children lurking in the building. The boy and girl were dressed in ragged clothing. The woman was puzzled because she could not figure out what the children were doing there. She followed them and watched as they turned the corner, disappearing from sight. When she peeked around the corner and saw that there was nothing there but an empty hallway, she realized she had just seen two ghosts.
Teenagers who trespass on the property often tell tales of shadowy figures chasing them away from the buildings. Two boys went exploring in the school at night. They were chased around the grounds by a dark figure. Eventually, they managed to run back to their house. When they looked out the window, they realized the shadowy figure had followed them home and was standing in their garden. They watched it from their window as the thing stood in front of their home until the sun came up.
In July 1987, the body of a young girl was discovered in a shallow grave on the grounds of Willowbrook State School. She had disappeared from her home a few days before. When police investigated, they found a homeless man named Andre Rand living in a makeshift shack nearby. Years before, he had been working as an orderly in Willowbrook.
Witnesses reported seeing Rand playing with the missing girl on the day she disappeared. Police charged him with kidnapping and murder. He is a suspect in the disappearance of many other children in the area, but the police have been unable to prove it. Newspapers call him “The Hannibal Lecter of Staten Island”.