Willowbrook State: Terrifying Story of the Most Haunted School In New York
The story of Willowbrook State School is a terrifying true tale depicting the tragedy of thousands of children. Built in 1938 in Willowbrook, Staten Island, the building was originally a United States Army hospital. It was later converted in 1947 to a hospital for mentally handicapped children and renamed Willowbrook State School. Throughout the years, the school faced tremendous problems including lack of funding and understaffing, leading to absolutely deplorable living conditions for the increasing population of children.
By 1962, the school that was supposed to house 4,000 now stuffed over 6,000 kids inside, under the supervision of undertrained staff who lacked the experience and numbers to care for them. Eventually, patients were locked in rooms for extended lengths of time and forced to sleep on floors covered in their own excrement. They were kept in worse-than-prison conditions; prisons allotted 80 square feet per inmate while Willowbrook provided only 35 square feet per resident. Many of the children were malnourished; most ran around the halls partially dressed or naked. Between 1963 and 1966, horrible, live medical studies were conducted on the children. Some were force-fed milkshakes laced with a live hepatitis virus; some were fed the stool of other infected patients.
Diane Buglioli, who worked at Willowbrook for over 10 years, shared her story with silive, recalling the day when she witnessed 30 children locked behind steel doors:
The story requires telling again and again and again. It was barren, it was sad, it was relentless; Some [children] were drooling, some were crying. … It was surreal and just wrong. They were denied their basic right to humanity, with no place to put a treasured item, no place to put their possessions.
In 1971, funding to the school was cut. The scandal generated national headlines when it was exposed by Geraldo Rivera, who reported on the overcrowding, lack of sanitary conditions and the physical and mental abuse forced upon the disabled children. Lawsuits were filed against New York State which led to reforms many years later. The last child reportedly left the school in September of 1987. But that didn’t stop the horror that belied Willowbrook State School.
In 1987, a man named Andre Rand, who had worked in the school, killed a young woman named Jennifer Schweiger on the abandoned school grounds. He then buried her body in the vicinity. Ever since, students of the College of Staten Island, which lies next to the old school grounds, have reported seeing figures moving through the shadows, strange noises and calls and unsettling feelings. People who live near the abandoned grounds say that dark figures sometimes follow them to their homes at night, and stand in front of the houses until the sun comes up. Rumors of satanists chasing and killing people in the surrounding woods have also spread. Could it be that the mentally handicapped children, having lived through years of torturous conditions, have come back to exact revenge? Are the spirits of these poor souls doomed to haunt the school grounds for eternity?