Even as a young boy growing up in the rural swamps of east central North Carolina, Floyd Cranston’s behavior offered warning signs of his disturbing future. It was rumored that when he was five Floyd witnessed the death of his father. Though Floyd’s mother was never charged in Zed Cranston’s suspicious and bloody demise, authorities were convinced that it was her handy work. When investigators sought out Floyd to discuss his father’s death, they found him in the woods behind the family home dismembering the family dog with a hatchet.
Mother Cranston remained Floyd’s sole caregiver despite serious concerns expressed by the department of social services. Floyd’s school teachers described a sullen boy who exhibited strange behavior and frequently showed up at school dirty and bruised. He attended the Pitt County Primary School through the 4th grade and then simply disappeared from public view.
Reports filed by truant officers and the local sheriff, made public at trial, painted a disturbing picture of Floyd as both victim and abuser throughout his pre-teen years. One incident, when Floyd was eight, resulted in his removal from Mother Cranston’s custody. Authorities discovered young Floyd sleeping in a blood-soaked shed surrounded by caged animals and mutilated carcasses. Eventually, Floyd was placed in foster care.
Nine foster homes later, at age eleven, Floyd was returned to the care of Mother Cranston. Her abuse became increasingly violent in a failed attempt to control his bizarre behavior. By the time Floyd was thirteen, the few people who had contact, described a hulking figure that spent most days sitting on a stump behind the foul-smelling shed at the back of the property.
A deeply disturbed Floyd rocked back and forth, for hours at a time, mumbling incoherently as if he was having a tortured conversation with an unseen companion. Several social workers were assigned to Floyd during his early teenage years, but the state suspended the visits when one of them, a newly-hired case worker, turned up missing on the day she was scheduled to visit the Cranston homestead.
The social worker’s body was never found, but her abandoned car turned up on a narrow dirt road that crosses the swamp adjoining the Cranston property. While abandoned cars weren’t unheard of on the road, just a stone’s throw off Highway 64, the shattered driver’s side window and clumps of hair encrusted on the door frame, led investigators to conclude that she was dead.
Through the remainder of his teen years, Floyd was rarely seen. Even during occasional visits by the sheriff investigating the disappearances of tourists, he was nowhere to be found. Floyd’s mother insisted that Floyd had left the area years earlier, but sightings by local hunters contradicted that claim. In fact, in 1979, when Floyd would have been 17, a pair of locals hunting raccoon near the Cranston property reported seeing someone dragging a body through the swamp.
If there was a doubt about Floyd’s whereabouts, it was all but erased during the early 1980’s when motorists began disappearing after breaking down or running out of gas on Highway 64 near the Cranston property. After the daughter of a state legislator vanished on her way home for spring break, the problem finally received some real attention. The state police brought in bloodhounds to comb the area.
Two days into the search, investigators made a horrific discovery deep in the swamp. Scattered across more than an acre were the dismembered and decomposing remains of more than 30 poor souls. A few days later, swat teams cornered Floyd not far from the gruesome scene, wearing the face of one of his victims as a mask. It took jurors just two hours to return a guilty verdict and commit Floyd to North Carolina’s notorious “Psycho Ward” Correctional Institution. Unfortunately, authorities had no idea just how “at home” Floyd would be at the facility.
By his second year in confinement, Floyd not only intimidated the guards and staff, but actually ran much of the institution through his control of the most disturbed inmates. Most of the other prisoners either were terrified of Floyd or revered him. By his fifth year at the Psycho Ward, Floyd had assembled a small army of depraved lunatics capable of anything. When Floyd’s conviction was overturned in 1986, everyone who knew of his past accurately predicted the bloodbath that would occur once he was released.