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Five ridiculous rumors about New York City

Rebecca Fontana

Listen, it’s not that we hate tourists in NYC. Hell, there’s a whole slew of tourist attractions that we secretly love. But whether they’re strolling through Times Square at a glacial pace, falling over on the subway or pulling a massive map out of their fanny pack, it’s pretty easy to spot a tourist in the city. And now that there are more than ever in NYC, we couldn’t help messing with them. Here are five completely fictional lies to tell tourists to repeat with a straight face. Sorry not sorry.


1. NYC's real-life superhero

Everybody knows the fictional X-Men character Storm, but few know about the real-life woman who inspired the character. In 1973, new NYC resident Stephanie Stern was at the top of the Empire State Building waiting for her boyfriend, for whom she’d moved across the country and who was running late to their date. Famously, the tower—and Stephanie—was struck by lightning. She was just fine but later developed slight magnetization in her hands (she could draw small items, like paper clips, toward her). The character Storm was first drawn in 1975 as an homage to Stern’s wild story.


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2. Times Square turns into Gotham

If you find yourself in Times Square at 2am, you’re in for a special treat. Every night, the Bat-Signal lights up the sky for exactly one minute as an homage to Gotham’s original hero: Batman. On clear evenings, look to the right of the Coca-Cola billboard to spot the cheeky tribute, first instituted by one of New York’s most provocative mayors, Ed Koch. You probably hated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but don’t let that hold you back.

3. Hydrant Henry strikes again

During summer, you’ll often see fire hydrants bursting with water and kids happily frolicking in the cool droplets. But who, exactly, opens them up? Well, one man has made it his personal mission to cool off the masses, sometimes opening up dozens of hydrants in different boroughs in a single day. The police know him as Hydrant Henry, and he’s been arrested 37 times for illegally opening water pumps since 1999. On a hot day, head to Williamsburg, and look for a man wearing all white, including a single white glove. He’s said to live in the area and always hits the nabe’s hydrants first. 

4. Police horses = race horses

One of former Mayor Bloomberg’s top priorities upon taking office was to reduce crime. His plan revolved around increasing the size of the NYPD’s mounted division as a show of force, but the plan wasn’t able to secure funding. Unwilling to accept this defeat, the billionaire mayor donated a dozen of his personal horses to the NYPD. As a result, the department now has the most valuable stable of horses in the world; it consists of numerous Arabian steeds and even the sire to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

5. There's a monster in Central Park

The Lake in Central Park, between West 72nd and 77th Streets, used to be called The Loch due to reports of a sealike creature dwelling within. The Lake was created in 1857 from the remnants of a swamp, and many locals believed that something large and prehistoric lived in the murky waters. Before the waterway opened to the public for boating and ice-skating in 1858, a group of brave New Yorkers combed the waters and were able to coax the creature into the northwest corner, which is currently called Bank Rock Bay. To this day, rowboats are forbidden to enter the area.


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