Willowbrook State School

Willowbrook State School

Willowbrook3In 1938 in a 375 acre section of Willowbrook, Staten Island, construction started on a hospital for mentally handicapped children.  When construction was completed in 1942 the buildings were converted to a United States Army Hospital named Halloren General Hospital.  In October of 1947 the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene took over the buildings renaming it the Willowbrook State School.

By 1962 the school that had been designed for 4000 became a dumping ground for mentally disabled children and swelled to over 6000.  Under staffed, the patients were locked in rooms for extended lengths of time and forced to sleep on floors covered in their own excrement.  Many of the children  were underfed and most ran the halls partial dressed or naked.  Between 1963 till 1966 medical studies were conducted on the children, infecting them with hepatitis, some by feeding them the stool of other infected patients. 

In 1971 funding to the school was cut leading to worsening conditions.  Local newspapers and media including Geraldo Rivera, reported on the overcrowding, lack of sanitary conditions and the physical and mental abuse forced upon the disabled  children.  As a result, lawsuits were filed against New York State which would lead to reforms many years later.

In 1974 the area was renamed the Staten Island Developmental Center and in 1983 a plan to close the school was announced.  The last child reportedly left the school in September of 1987.

In 1987 Andre Rand who had worked in the school, killed and buried has victim Jennifer Schweiger on the abandoned school grounds.

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The College of Staten Island took over 200 acres of the area in 1993 and a few original buildings and smokestack still stand on the campus.  The remaining area is still owned by the New York Department of Mental Hygiene  and some of the original building still lay rotting and abandoned  till this day.

Students of the College of Staten Island have reported seeing figures moving through the shadows, strange noises and calls and unsettling feelings. Having went to College of Staten Island I can say that at night walking to your car you did sometimes get the creepy feeling of something watching and following you.

Growing up on Staten Island everyone always heard the stories of satanists chasing and killing people in the woods surrounding Willowbrook.  I have also heard stories of people being pushed, yelled at and shadowy figures chasing people from the buildings.  A story told to me was of a dark figure following someone to their house, and the person watched it from their window as the thing stood in front of their home till the sun came up.

I personally believe many of the stories and feelings that came from this area can be attributed to the child killings of Andre Rand and the fear that sometimes monsters really do exist.  As for the stories of people being yelled at in the darkness or chased from the abandoned buildings that can probably be attributed to crazy homeless people. 

Post your comments...

  • Dea

    Posted at 2014-03-02 00:40:46

    I passed Willow brook many times as a young adult headed to the Korvette's and other stores out that way I'd never been inside and honestly, I hadn't a clue to the deplorable conditions. Willow Brook State School was part of the unspoken. In 2005 I moved to Iowa and became employed at their State school. Since my goal was nursing cares I gave the job a shot. Eight years later and I am still employed there. Have heard many gruesome stories, heard of staff deaths by the hands of those that cared for them. I've had a number of jobs over the years. Military, civil service, substitute teaching, nursing home direct care and on and on. All through my working years, I have never loved a job so much as caring for the intellectually disabled. When my oldest son passed unexpectedly in 2009, I was crippled by my intense grief. If not for these special people that could feel my sorrow and wanted to ease my emotional suffering, I truly believe I would have left this sometimes cruel and difficult by my own hand.15 women that sustained me during a horrific time in my life. They needed me, they wanted me and they comforted me. Sadly, they will never understand how much strength and courage they bestowed upon me with their unconditional . I can never repay them for what they unknowingly did. I realize that in the seventies, child with learning disabilities were hidden away, experimented on, lost contact with loved ones yet manage to survive and thrive. It's amazing how God leads us to where we need to be..

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  • charlie

    Posted at 2014-01-23 06:34:43

    So much emphasis is placed on an incoherant mentally ill groundskeeper with undetermined levels of guilt wether true or false. How does a society allow the leaders that are paid through tax revenues tofall from the cracks of government on a state not to mention federal level, these children were fed their own fecis and thag of others that were infected with hepatitis in the hope of profiting from a potential remedy for hepatitis and who knows how many other tortureous diseases viruses and if their is a god this history shall prove not therefore proving how many other contageous diseases have plagued the souls of the children who were lost , sent to staten island like so many others. State funded . Slaughterd disregarded as trash. As if they were a piece of humanity they may one day see in themselves. May all who turn a blind eye feel an ounce of pain for the tortured souls of willowbrook. ........

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  • patrick stewart

    Posted at 2013-11-22 21:47:39

    yes these stories are true when you have been there to see your brother then later rescue him from that fuckin place I still have a very deep dark place in my heart for that place for the people who worked ther you have my deepest thanks for what you,ve done then they have the nerve to build a student housing unit there!!! are you damn crazy no way no how ther,s got to something better you can do for the students if they know that place like some of us do I remember building 25 26 27 been down there a couple of times even as a kid believe me scary and never thought about it till I saw one of these post never forget never would love to get together with some you people and talk face to face if possible and maybe get together one day when we can go to that place and I can just try to put it behind me but it wont happen maybe one day I will come down to nyc go to staten island see willowbrook and spit on that place and turn my back and leave and look up to the sky and tell my brother it,s done and smile once again I,ve told my grown kids about what there uncle Anthony been through and the hell he faced and they know please keep in touch any body who worked there and had family there your,s truly Mr.stewart one more ? do you think we can get records from the 60,s if you can let me know I wonder what kind of lies have been told all these decades?

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    • teah

      Posted at 2014-04-07 13:07:00

      i aretrue when you have been there to see your brother then later rescue him from that fuckin place I still have a very deep dark place in my heart for that place for the people who worked ther you have my deepest thanks for what you,ve done then they have the nerve to build a student housing unit there!!! are you damn crazy no way no how ther,s got to something better you can do for the students if they know that place like some of us do I remember building 25 26 27 been down there a couple of times even as a kid believe me scary and never thought about it till I saw one of these post never forget never would love to get together with some you people and talk face to face if possible and maybe get together one day when we can go to that place and I can just try to put it behind me but it wont happen maybe one day I will come down to nyc go to staten island see willowbrook and spit on that place and turn my back and leave and look up to the sky and tell my brother it,s done and smile once again I,ve told my grown kids about what there uncle Anthony been through and the hell he faced and they know please keep in touch any body who worked there and had family there your,s truly Mr.stewart one more ? do you think we can get records from the 60,s if you can let me know I wonder what kind of lies have been told all these decades?[/quote]

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  • patrick stewart

    Posted at 2013-10-22 12:17:59

    my brother was ther from 62-67 I remember the things from out there we would come from harlem on the number 1 train to south ferry then then ferry across to staten island ten a short bus ride even as a child I remember things about that place the black and white tiled floors the smell of urine and feces other patients reaching out to hold your hand and for one and the last time he was out ther he came home one time with a pacht of hair missing from the back mom went crazy what ever she did we got my brother that day never to return still have bad thoughts about that place they should have blew it up comepleatlyno questions asked if you knew about willowbrook back in the days like I did and been there quite a few times I can still remember some of the patients faces the smell before you even get near the door if you can get in touch with me it,s personal with me cause of my brother Anthony stewart the things they could have done to him who knows? if you grew up in nyc in the days and you heard about willowbrook you know that place was a piss hole keep this going it will help some even me Patrick stewart keep in contact thank you

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