Slashers and Urban Legends: Cropsey

The Legend: The woods in Upstate New York belong to Cropsey, a madman with a passion for butchering young campers. Why Cropsey kills is unclear. Some say he was a cruel handyman disfigured by campers who fought back during one of Cropsey’s alcohol fueled rages. Others say Cropsey was a judge who lived with his family near a summer camp. When a group of campers set fire to the Cropsey house it cost the judge his family, his face, and his sanity. Or maybe Cropsey kills campers because his farmland was seized by the government and turned into camps for underprivileged city kids. The woods in Upstate New York belong to Cropsey and you better stay out if you want to live.

The Films: The Burning, Madman, Sleepaway Camp II, Sleepaway Camp III.

Folklorists blame the rise of the slasher films in the late 1970s, early 1980s as the catalyst for spreading certain urban legends across the globe. The Cropsey legend is a good example of a local urban legend gaining national prominence because of his status as a slasher icon. There are variations on the Cropsey legend in New York but slasher fans know “Cropsy” as the crispy handyman in The Burning, the first film written and produced by the Weinstein brothers. Cropsy stays true to the legend in The Burning by targeting the campers instead of the counselors, something that separates Cropsy from killers like Jason or Mrs. Voorhees.

Ironically, another film inspired by the Cropsey legend started production shortly after the Weinsteins began filming The Burning. Joe Giannone heard the Cropsey legend at summer camp and wrote The Legend Lives based on that story. During casting, Giannone and producer Gary Sales learned the Weinsteins were filming the exact same story in another part of New York. Giannone and Sales shut down production when they read the script for The Burning and completely rewrote The Legend Lives. Everything related to the legend of Cropsey was gutted and replaced with a crazy farmer named Marz. Today Madman Marz is a slasher icon in his own right thanks to the cult status of Madman.

Sleepaway Camp II transforms Angela from a confused teen into a Cropsey-like killer. The first scene in the film turns Angela into an urban legend told around campfires at summer camps. Like Cropsey, Angela has suffered a type of mutilation but her scars are harder to see. Angela also directs most of her anger at the campers. She kills the counselors when they get in the way but her main target is the campers. Sleepaway Camp III continues Angela’s journey into folklore boogeyman. Once again, Angela takes out the bad campers while pursuing the cop who arrested her in the first film.

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2 Responses to “ Slashers and Urban Legends: Cropsey ”

  1. I always thought it was strange that The Burning didn’t get any credit for building a film around an old campfire story rather than just ripping off Friday the 13th. Sure it was made because of Friday’s success and went after the same audience but at least it’s not a carbon copy.

    The Sleepaway Camp 2 comparison is a bit of a stretch though isn’t it Tom? The characters know and accept that Angela is a real person and that the Camp Arawak massacre actually happened. I think the makers just wanted to do a campfire scene. I’d say Jason is a better example since there are characters as late as part 8 who don’t believe he was ever real (wtf?). Wasn’t the grown Jason kinda based on Cropsy?

    How about a Friday timeline? If you’re really brave you can try to explain how multiple killing sprees occur a few years apart from each other and yet some locals still believe they are “just stories”!

  2. Nice read, Thomas. The legend of Cropsey definitely had a nice run, and I hope there are similar slashers to come. I’m glad those involved in the production of “Madman” went the direction that they did, though, because I would hate to imagine Marz as anything other than he turned out to be.

    And I second the “Friday the 13th” timeline! =)

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