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Fact or fiction - The urban legends of New York

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Ah, New York City, sometimes known as Gotham City. You can just imagine the hustle, the bustle, the people and the ambience. It’s all there; everything from vice to crime to just everyday people who love their city and wouldn’t trade it for the world. New York City has a very long and, at times, shady history. One of the best parts of the city is their urban legends. All across the country, and the world, New York City is famous for its legends. You ever hear about the one where Jimmy Hoffa is interred beneath Yankee Stadium? That one’s funny, but it makes you think as well. As much that has happened within the city, it would be absolutely no surprise to find out if it’s true.

 

New Yorkers are born skeptics; everyone who’s anyone knows that. They are akin to the “Show Me State” of Missouri. They’re just the “Show Me City.” Normally, that is. It has been said that there are as many urban legends as there are people, and that’s saying a lot considering there’s a couple of million people who live in the city. These legends are modern fairy tales that, more than not, convey the real concerns of the city such as crime, sexual promiscuity, and healthcare.

 

I just have to mention the most famous urban legend first. It’s fondly known as “Revenge of the Sewer Gators.” The story goes that a few decades back it was in fashion to have a pet alligator. When people got tired of them, they flushed them down the toilet. Thereafter, hundreds ended up in the sewer systems and they stayed alive feeding on raw sewage, rats, and the occasional sanitation worker (I wondered where all those sanitation workers went; thought they’d run away with their mistresses!). Anyway, surprisingly enough, there is a grain of truth in the legend. Wouldn’t you know it? A full sized alligator was actually found in 1935 and the newspapers went crazy when it had been caught and killed in an East Harlem Sewer. Relax, though, for those planning on visiting, or moving to New York City. One has not been spotted since World War II so there can’t be anymore around…or can there?

 

A rather gruesome one that is, and I believe will always be, very popular is an urban legend called “Kidney Napping.” Just the name makes you want to snicker, doesn’t it? Anyhow, the story begins when a few friends go to a bar and spy this absolutely drop-dead gorgeous woman. Somehow, one of the guys gets to take the woman to a hotel for a “night cap.” The man promptly passes out. Later, he awakens groggy and cold, very cold. He realizes that he’s naked and sitting in the hotel’s bathtub and it’s half-full of ice water. He then realizes that there are two sets of crude stitches on either side of his lower back. On his chest is written, in lipstick: CALL 911 OR YOU WILL DIE! He is dumbfounded when he finds out that his kidneys have been stolen. Another legend is kind of similar but it’s about “AIDS Mary.” She takes a guy to a hotel room, has sex with him and writes, in lipstick (Hey! Is this a pattern?) onto the mirror: WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF AIDS! It has been said that these stories originated from paranoia about the singles scene and healthcare concerns.

 

These more gruesome stories have been popularized even further when the weird or scary or horrifying ones have ended up as plot lines for shows like the Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock and the modern drama’sHomicide and CSI.

 

The Empire State Building in New York City has garnered more urban legends than there are floors. Ghosts, pennies falling from heaven, aliens buried in the basement, and the legend that the building has been sinking at least a foot a year since the building was completed are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the legends surrounding this most famous structure. One, “Pennies from Heaven,” was coined (ha, ha) during construction of the monster building. Did you get - coined? Anyway, it took off when people began to swear that they had seen coins being dropped and then, subsequently, imbedding themselves into either the concrete at the base of the building or into people’s skulls. Nope, sad to say, this one is not true. The shape of the tower creates a considerable updraft so, if a penny is thrown over the side of the observation deck, the penny will blow back up the structure. These pennies frequently land on the window ledges of the 86th floor where maintenance workers pocket the change. At least, that’s what one maintenance manager has said.

 

My favorite one, no I lied, they’re all my favorites, is about the “Whisper Station.” Grand Central Station, it is said, has acoustics that enable people to whisper to each other from across the station if they are near the Oyster Bar Restaurant. The great thing is that this one’s absolutely true! A weird part of the story though, is that renovations altered the acoustics so that it stopped working. For some reason though, not a few years later, the acoustics “turned back on” and it works again.

 

Urban legends can be cute, funny or downright horrifying but, suffice it to say, New York City has them all!



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