Ghosts like to haunt in all sorts of places Every city has urban legends, and our city is no different. Even ghosts like to haunt in warm places such as Grand Central when winter cold strikes. Urban stories grow over time, whispered in hushed tones in the corridors of power, retold to generations of passengers by gregarious cab drivers, or a vaguely remembered by an aging bartender at one of the city’s many watering holes. They may have been based on real events, but as they are told and retold, they become mythic, and if they are famous enough and strange enough, often become part of city history. Here is an overview of some of the most well-known urban legends to haunt our city that reflect the fears and excitement of bygone times.
A police officer convinced a ghost to migrate south to Florida for the winter to escape the winter chill. Until then platform for tracks 112 and 114 had been haunted by a ghost of unknown origin. The ghost has not been back since.
If you go around tracks 112/113 to the elevator, if you listen you may hear Fala barking! President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had his own private underground route. A tunnel entrance opened opposite the Waldorf-Astoria according to The New York Times of 9 September 1929. Guests with private railroad cars would be able to directly to the hotel from a private railroad siding beneath the hotel. This is also served as the private railroad siding for the rich but that had passed. They could park their automobiles and take an elevator up. This also served FDR who could travel safely and securely from the White House to the Waldorf-Astoria. He could also minimize any publicity about his polio.
Underneath Grand Central Terminal, there are secret networks of underground tracks, steam-pipe tunnels, and storage areas. Hidden in these underground depths is a train platform with a secret entrance and an elevator straight up to the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. President Franklin D. Roosevelt reportedly used this as his private entry into New York City – a way to get from his train to the hotel without being bothered by reporters. Unfortunately, you can’t currently see this secret passage for yourself. The door to the secret elevator is welded shut. FDR usually came with Fala whose barks announced his master’s presence. Sometimes people claim they see Fala, a sure sign, that FDR is present…
Over century ago, one night a frightened gray-haired man wearing a black hat came up to the station agent on duty at Grand Central Terminal. “The midnight train to hell is coming for me. I have committed too many crimes against man and sins against heaven.”
The station agent reassured the man as he grasped his hand in reassurance. “We have no midnight train to hell. We have the 11:58 PM from Croton-on-the Hudson and the 12:02 AM from New Haven arriving. Furthermore, we have no connection with any infernal agents or a railroad stops down below.”
Suddenly a steam whistle blew! A smoking steam locomotive could be observed even though the tracks were electrified. One could feel the rush of hot air propelled forward by the steam locomotive. A second later, the old grey-haired man disappeared. Just the black hat remained on the floor of Grand Central Terminal. And the train continued south of the terminal without stopping even though there are no tracks south of Grand Central.
Come and explore Grand Central with us. Be and warm toasty indoors! “Halloween isn’t the only time for ghosts and ghost stories. In Victorian Britain, spooky winter’s tales were part of the Christmas season, often told after dinner, over port or coffee.” Michael Dirda