N.Y.C. is full of modern myths and hidden oddities. From alligators in the sewer system to ghosts as dinner guests at fancy restaurants, the metropolis offers freaky fun for the whole family on Friday the 13th.
With over 52 million tourists visiting the Big Apple each year (and a peak during the holiday season), now’s the time to explore the city’s most prevalent urban legends– and the unique tourist attractions they uncover. Happy travels!
1. Pennies Thrown From the Top of the Empire State Building Can Kill
FALSE. Tests have shown that air resistance wouldn’t allow for a tiny, flat penny to travel beyond its max velocity, which is a non-lethal speed. The coin could give someone below a bit of a shock, but it certainly wouldn’t lead to anyone’s demise.
Tourist Attraction: The Empire State Building is a top tourist destination for a reason; the view from 102 floors up is worth the elevator ride. And you can get one degree closer to Kevin Bacon by going on the SkyRide simulator, narrated by the actor.
2. Alligators Live in the City Sewers
FALSE. According to legend, someone dumped a pet alligator into the city’s sewer system and the animal started a colony of underground reptiles. While alligators have indeed been found in the city, none have made their home in the pipes. Experts say this feat would be hard for the animals, as they thrive in warm conditions.
3. There’s a Secret Train Platform Beneath the Waldorf-AstoriaTRUE It’s not all heresy, this classic hotel used to have a private train platform and entrance for VIP guests coming through Grand Central. This feature allowed visitors like President Franklin D. Roosevelt to arrive in secret. The mysterious Track 61 is no longer in use, but the train car and elevator lie in wait for surprise passengers.
The train from this secret spot leads to to another New York oddity. Grand Central’s Whisper Gallery is situated in the middle of the bustling travel hub, but most pass right by it. The nondescript archway near the Oyster Bar is shaped to provide the perfect acoustics for amplifying whispers, allowing visitors to softly speak to their friends on the other side of the room.
4. Because Babe Ruth Wanted to Look Slimmer, the Yankees Wear Pinstripes
FALSE. Does Babe Ruth strike you as vain? This New York hero had nothing to do with the team’s signature look. True fans should know that the Yankees started sporting stripes well before the Bambino started hitting them out of the park.
5. The Restaurant One if by Land, Two if by Sea is Haunted
TRUE. Staff and patrons of the restaurant both agree that something spooky is going on here. The building is the former carriage house of Alexander Hamilton and his daughter Theodosia. New Yorkers believe this pair is responsible for the restaurant’s flickering lights– and even for stealing earrings off the ladies at the bar!
6. The City’s Gargoyles Come to Life at Night
FALSE. You may have been prepared for this one. While the TV series Gargoyles and the movie Ghostbusters show the statues springing to life, in reality, the gargoyles stay put 24/7.
7. The Poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” was Inspired by N.Y.C.
TRUE. Poet Clement Clarke Moore composed the epic poem after a nighttime sleigh ride thorough Greenwich Village. The trek, as well as Moore’s elf-like driver, inspired the wordsmith to craft the beloved poem about the night before Christmas.
8. There Are Ghosts in Central Park
PROBABLY FALSE. There are numerous tales of two Victorian-era girls floating around Central Park’s Wollman Rink. They are said to be the Van der Voort sisters of the 1800s, who adored skating in the park and haven’t lost their love for it even in death. The only problem with this tale is the first Central Park skating rink was constructed in the 1940s.