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How Many of Grand Central Station’s Secrets Do You Know?

When I was working on my NYC book, a cat named Wade dropped some info on me about some of the strange and unknown things in New York. One of them was that there are seven secrets about Grand Central Station. He had seen a TV program about them, but couldn’t remember what all of them were. Of course this set off my curiosity meter and I’ve spent countless hours trying to figure out what all of these secrets are. Here is what I’ve learned so far, there’s more than seven things listed, but some are not as secret as others:

* The technical name is Grand Central Terminal. Grand Central Station is the name of the nearby post office and the name of a station that used to be on this site.

* Grand Central has an amazingly successful lost and found department. Over ¾ of the things lost here are reunited with their owners. Do you think they’ve got my sense of dignity somewhere in there?

* All four faces of the clock on top of the information booth in the Main Concourse are made of opal. Because of this, it’s so valuable that no one has been able to properly appraise it. It’s been valued as high as $20 million. That’s a lot of million dollars.

* Grand Central has the most train platforms in the world. Take that Trainsylvania!

* The constellations painted on the ceiling were painted backwards. The artist said that he did it on purpose to show what it would look like if you were a celestial looking down on them. That’s almost as weak of an excuse as when Pete Townsend got caught with kiddie porn and said that he was just looking at it for research. The ceiling also used to be so covered in soot and grime that you could barely see the painting. When they cleaned it up, they realized it was mostly from indoor smoking and left one square dirty just to show how much restoration was done. They also didn’t fix the hole made by a giant rocket display, during the 1950′s.

* There’s a secret basement like 10 floors down called M-42. During WWII those who guarded it had shoot to kill orders because the generators there powered all the trains used to move soldiers around the Eastern Seaboard. These days they just rent it out to be used in German Snuff films.

* There is a special tunnel that goes directly to the Waldorf-Astoria. This was used by FDR so that he could come in from DC and go directly and safely to his hotel suite, while not having to navigate through the madness of Manhattan. It’s a tough city if your legs don’t work so good.

* The stairs of the East Staircase are one inch shorter than the ones of the West Staircase. Me thinks this was just a way to fuck with OCD people.

* The Biltmore Room used to be called The Kissing Room because the famous 20th Century Limited train would drop off rich and famous people there who would then commence smooching their loved ones. Today rich and famous people just leak sex tapes.

Whispering dirty talk over the expanse of a few dozen feet is more exhilarating than it looks.

Whispering dirty talk over the expanse of a few dozen feet is more exhilarating than it looks.

* My buddy Ben Wise told me about this one, and it might be the coolest of them all. Right outside the Grand Central Oyster Bar is the Whispering Wall. Because of something having to do with the curvature of vaulted ceiling and the Gustavo tile, two people can face into diagonally opposite corners, and whisper things to one another over a distance of a couple dozen feet. No matter how crowded the terminal is, this works; you should seriously go do it today. It’s much cooler than whatever you’re doing right now (aside from reading this site).

photos from: Top Things to Do, PlanetWare, NYC-Architecture,

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About the author

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

I've been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle , "an SF cult hero": SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York, but to those familiar with my work, I'm just "that douchebag who writes books about cheap stuff and drinks a lot".
  • zany Hanna

    sooo coool

  • http://twitter.com/ENFD240 Andrew

    Another fun fact… the stained glass clock on the front of GCT (under the statue of Mercury) has a working porthole type window where the 6 is. To get to it, you have to go thru Metro-North’s command center. There is this plain looking door, which when opened reveals only about a 3 foot opening at the bottom (the top half of the door is blocked by original stone work). You need to contort yourself into different positions to climb the stone stairs inside and a metal ladder. The view to 42nd St below is one of a kind.