AT first glance, there is nothing remarkable about the house on Richmond Avenue. Encased in gray vinyl siding and surrounded by the kind of suburban sprawl that covers much of Staten Island these days — a Perkins restaurant and a Wendy’s across the street, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Expressway a stone’s throw away — it could easily pass as just another 20th-century addition to this north shore neighborhood.
But under the vinyl siding is a very old house with a haunting past: it was here, over 150 years ago, that Polly Bodine lived with her parents.
The name may not ring many bells these days, but in her time, Polly Bodine was as infamous as Lizzie Borden, as reviled as O. J. Simpson. She was, in the words of P. T. Barnum, ”the Witch of Staten Island.”