S T A T E N   I S L A N D   M O N A S T E R Y

The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of mystery --Mary B. Yates

Staten Island Monastery

St. Augustine's, Staten Island, New York

explored & photographed by: Shady

We proceeded slowly, cautiously into the gloom-laden belly of the Monastery. There was a sinister silence ringing in our ears, punctuated by mundane yet somehow unsettling sounds... the drip-drip of water ringing against concrete, the echo of wind whistling through empty halls, the far-off warning caws of blackbirds.

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

We soon saw the very real danger lurking just beneath our feet- enormous, gaping holes in the floor that opened like hungry mouths waiting to swallow us whole, and we could not even see them until we were right on them. One misstep could send us plummeting through the unknown number of underground levels below to certain painful death, and we had no light to guide us. We had to walk very slowly and carefully to avoid them. I had to wonder- what would we do if we had to get out of here in a hurry? Running pell-mell through this place would be akin to playing Russian Roulette.

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

We found a winding stairway and decided to venture up to the second floor; each step creaked ominously under our feet and I hoped that we wouldn't plunge through the floor. Once upstairs, things were a little better lit by the un-boarded windows and the gigantic holes in the roof that allowed dusty shafts of light to penetrate the enormous tangle of rooms and hallways. We marveled at the rainbow-colored panorama of graffiti that covers nearly every square inch of the interior walls, realizing that some of it must have been here for decades.

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

Our explorations led us up to the top floor, where most of the roof is caved in and dangling precariously over the floor below. We moved slowly, quietly, wary of causing any movement that might send the roof crashing down onto us or possibly even send us keeling through the fragile floor beneath us. I couldn't help but remember the stories I had heard about this place- rumors say that in addition to the three floors aboveground, there are as many as ten floors underground! However, I do not know of anyone who has ever made it down that far to substantiate these claims.

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

We could see the ancient old bell tower through the gaping holes in the ceiling; and we also spotted a door high above that opened onto thin air. Urban legend states that on some lightless nights, an eerie unexplained ringing from the long-disused bell tower echoes over Grymes Hill. Some even say that there have heard other fearful noises from inside the Monastery- phantom footsteps, terrifying screams, banging doors, jangling chains, and disembodied voices have been reportedly heard from inside these lonely walls. We found a cavernous chapel room at one point, and a rickety old ladder that led up to the bell tower. Next to it were inscribed the words "Faustus Upstairs Up Ladder In Tower." Faustus is a German word for Devil. We did not go up the ladder.

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

The story of the "mad monk" of St. Augustine was racing through my mind as we walked it's shadowed halls. I have no idea where this story originated, but the legend states that about 60 years ago, one of the monks went crazy and began to systematically butcher the other monks one by one, dragging them down to the sub-level floors where the monk's living quarters were located so that he could mutilate their bodies undisturbed and undiscovered, until he was ready to go up and drag down yet another victim. Eventually his evil deeds were discovered, and he was caught and imprisoned in a cell at one of the lowest levels of the Monastery, where he spent the rest of his days tearing at the walls and wailing like a wounded animal...

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

Staten Island Monastery

The story continues to say that if you make it all the way down to the very last level at night, you will see the ghosts of all the murdered monks, as well as hear the screams of the mad monk in his cell spiraling through the halls. I don't know of anyone who has ever ventured that far down, but I spoke to one person who claimed to have made it three levels down only to find a cell-like room whose walls were covered with long, gouged scratch marks and bloody handprints; the overwhelming sense of terror that gripped this person upon seeing this cell caused him to flee, panic-stricken, up and out of the Monastery. He says he will never set foot near the place again.

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