Friday the 13th: N.Y.C.'s 8 Craziest Urban Legends Debunked

New York City Urban Legends Like Alligators in the Sewers Debunked
Christmas in N.Y.C. and the Empire State Building, 2009
Mario Tama/Getty

updated 12/13/2013 AT 07:00 PM EST

originally published 12/12/2013 AT 06:00 PM EST

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

Friday the 13th: N.Y.C.'s 8 Craziest Urban Legends Debunked| New York, Travel

Old City Hall subway station

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.

Tourist Attraction: Still curious what's under all that concrete? Get a peek by visiting the old City Hall subway station, or take a tour of the underground trolley stations left abandoned in the Lower East Side.

3. There's a Secret Train Platform Beneath the Waldorf-Astoria

Friday the 13th: N.Y.C.'s 8 Craziest Urban Legends Debunked| New York, Travel

New York City's Waldorf-Astoria

Ben Hider / Getty

TRUE 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.

Tourist Attraction: 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. The Yankees Wear Pinstripes Because Babe Ruth Wanted to Look Slimmer

Friday the 13th: N.Y.C.'s 8 Craziest Urban Legends Debunked| New York, Travel

Babe Ruth


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.

Tourist Attraction: Baseball season is over, but it's still thriving at Chelsea Piers. Keep your swing in top shape by visiting the sports facility's batting cages. From rock climbing to ice hockey, Chelsea Piers is bound to have a sport that entices everyone in the family.

5. The Restaurant One if by Land, Two if by Sea is Haunted

Friday the 13th: N.Y.C.'s 8 Craziest Urban Legends Debunked| New York, Travel

N.Y.C. Restaurant One if by Land, Two if by Sea

One if by Land, Two if by Sea / Facebook

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!

Tourist Attraction: You can make your evening a haunted affair to remember by dining at One if by Land, Two if by Sea, followed by a show at the Belasco theater (possibly seated next to an undead audience member), then a nightcap at the Algonquin Hotel, which is rumored to have a whole gaggle of ghostly guests.

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.

Tourist Attraction: Still in the mood for a little ghost-busting? Channel your inner Slimer and visit the New York City Fire Museum. This historic firehouse isn't the one used in the film, but it is full of interesting artifacts from the FDNY's long history of saving lives.

7. The Poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas" was Inspired by N.Y.C.

Friday the 13th: N.Y.C.'s 8 Craziest Urban Legends Debunked| New York, Travel

N.Y.C.'s Washington Square Park


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.

Tourist Attraction: Greenwich Village has been an inspiration to all kinds of artists. Get an idea of the bohemian-turned-barhopping scene – and a few sparks of genius for yourself – by taking a walking tour of the neighborhood.

8. There Are Ghosts in Central Park

Friday the 13th: N.Y.C.'s 8 Craziest Urban Legends Debunked| New York, Travel

Central Park's Wollman Rink


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.

Tourist Attraction: Visit the Van der Voort sisters for yourself. Wollman Rink is just one of the many places to stop and skate in Manhattan.

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