Urban Legends of New York: You will be surprised

8:25 am  |  05.04.2021

Sewer Alligators, Liberty Island Treasure, Superrats, Cropsey and Haunted Hotel, and other New York City legends.

New York is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. And not only because of the signature of the world-famous sights (Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Ground Zero, Hudson Yards, Broadway – we can go on for a long time). It is also famous for its famous urban legends. This article is about seven urban legends in New York (ancient and not so) that will definitely surprise you.

New York legends give the city a special flavor and, at the same time, popularity. Perhaps that is why one wants to return there again and again as if checking whether they are true or just fiction. Mama America recommends that New York be included in the top list of cities for US travel. Just imagine how many impressions you can get?!

Alligators in the Sewers

This legend hails from 1935 after the newspaper “The New York Times” published the article “Alligator Found in Uptown Sewer”. It said that several people had killed an 8-foot (almost 2.5 meters) alligator, which was caught in an open hatch on 123 Street in Harlem.

Experts believe that the appearance of an alligator in the sewers may very well be real

Greg Young of the Bowery Boys believes that exotic animals were fashionable among wealthy New Yorkers in the 1920s and 40s. The appearance of alligators in the sewers was explained at that time by the fact that their young well-to-do owners were flushed into the toilets, after which they ended up in a huge network of the city’s sewage system.

This idea is supported by the author of the book “Myths and Mysteries of New York” Fran Capo, who speaks of 12 such cases.

In the early 2000s, writer Joyce Hackett found herself almost face to face with an alligator in an alley in Queens. Anyway, she told the following story to The Guardian: “He was on the wet asphalt, squatting motionless. I thought of my dog, ready to hunt, and was afraid that the alligator’s immobility was just a prelude to hitting the ankle of one of his opponents”.

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Pirate Treasure on Liberty Island

According to legend, the captain of the ship, William Kidd, buried his booty on this island. He lived for 4 years in New York on Pearl Street, from where he could observe the island. And in 1701 he was hanged in London for piracy. Experts say that the treasures may indeed end up on Liberty Island, but practice shows otherwise. Hundreds of people over the years have tried to find them – to no avail.

Another legend follows from this legend – about the ghost of a pirate. It says that 100 after his execution, several soldiers from a nearby fort went to a psychic to help them find the treasure.

On his recommendation, the soldiers began to dig on the next full moon. Their shovels reached the human skeleton, after which a ghost appeared from the pit with a saber in hand. But there was no chest.

Empire State Building and Bermuda Triangle

This legend is quite young – it was born in 2008. If the Bermuda Triangle has caused fear among sailors for centuries, incapacitating ships, then the Empire State Building made drivers nervous. In Midtown Manhattan, home to one of the most famous building structures in the world, drivers began to complain. Within 5 blocks of the Empire State Building, their cars inexplicably stalled and refused to start. Roni Jaakobovich, manager of NYC Tire and Auto Care in Hell’s Kitchen, says this happened every day. “We took these cars, drove them a few blocks, and they started working,” he recalls.

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However, there is a more rational explanation for this. Radio signals installed at the very top of the building’s spire could disable car alarm systems and prevent them from turning on.

This might be a perfectly acceptable explanation if it weren’t for the fact that the car problems disappeared one day, a few years later.

Superrats After Hurricane “Sandy”

Another legend of the XXI century. Hurricane Sandy caused billions of dollars in damage to New York. Its consequences are still felt by the residents. One of them told how he heard sounds coming from behind the wall. It was scratching and running around. Mark, as he called himself, reported that one day, entering the kitchen, he saw a rat the size of a small cat crawling along the grocery shelves. He set traps that proved ineffective. The guy could not understand how the rats got to the fifth floor of the building in which he lived.

After that, Mark read the rat reports of their migration inland, away from the coast from the flooded subway tunnels after Hurricane Sandy.

There was also a theory that weaker rats were exterminated, and the surviving rodents raised a new generation of stronger and more tenacious superrats.

However, Robert Sullivan, author of Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants, argues that the likelihood of superrats is the same as the realism of Bigfoot.


This legend was born in the 90s of the last century in one of the boroughs of New York – Staten Island. The legend is based on the story of the abandoned Willowbrook psychiatric clinic. One New Yorker recounted how in the 90s he was there and saw blood-stained walls. The unpleasant picture was complemented by horror stories about a man named Cropsey, who went crazy after the death of his son and fled into the forest, vowing to take revenge. There have been several kidnappings in the area since then, and Cropsey has become an urban legend.

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However, Cropsey may have a very real prototype. His name is Andrew Rand, the janitor at this mental hospital.

He was convicted in 1987 of the kidnapping and murder of a child on Staten Island. He is currently serving a life sentence. In theory, he could apply for parole in 2037 if he lives.

Hotel with Ghosts

Some guests at the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan believe that the tragic Sex Pistols rocker Sid Vicious is still spinning in the area, even though he died in 1979.

Ed Hamilton, the author of Legends of the Chelsea Hotel: Living With Artists and Outlaws of New York’s Rebel Mecca, says elevators stop mysteriously at random floors. Presumably, this is the ghost of Sid, who is too lazy to go up the stairs.

Mole People

Jennifer Toth, the author of the 1993 book The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City, says rumors of people living underground have been around for more. in the 1800s, when construction of the metro first began in the city.

A few years ago, visitors to a restaurant on 6th Avenue reported seeing a mole-man. He allegedly opened the sewer hatch from the inside and climbed out. Some argue that moles are getting in the way of the metro.

However, this legend has a completely logical explanation. There are no “mole” people.

People really live underground. But these are ordinary homeless people. They complicate the further construction of the metro since they are difficult to drive out of the subway. And they don’t want to go to shelters for the homeless.

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