A New Year’s Mystery – Revealed!

It happened in midtown Manhattan in the early afternoon on New Year’s Eve that a man walked several kilometers from West 32nd Street all the way to West 63rd Street without seeing anyone or being seen by anyone.

Times Square on New Year's Day
(pic by Flickr user undeleterious)

It was a clear sunny day. He did not use any disguise or unusual method of transportation. And even though Manhattan was swarming with people waiting for the ball to drop, not one person saw him.

How could this be possible?

I pulled this from Mindtrap, a game consisting of about 500 clever riddles and brain teasers (a really fun way to pass the 2010 nor’easter, btw).

The answer is: the man was simply walking the sewer system beneath the streets (the whole New Year’s thing is just misleading).

However, leave it to Scouting NY readers to not only figure it out, but suggest an actual route! Reader Dave T wrote:

I used to be an engineer of track for Amtrak and used to walk track from Penn Station up to Spuytin Duyvil Bridge. The artwork in the overbuild is amazing as are the resources of the people that lived there. Another piece of (what I thought was fun trivia) was that the interlocking under the GW Bridge used to be named Martha!

While Shane P. wrote:

Pretty easy. He walked onto the tracks of the west side rail tunnel from where the high line comes down to grade just south of the Javitt’s Center and walked up through the tunnel up to the construction site at 63rd st underneath the trump buildings.

But then Jane points out:

I would say that Shane is right, but both Amtrak and Metro North trains run regularly in the tunnel beneath Midtown West, so a man probably wouldn’t make it to 63rd without being seen or hit by a train. I’m guessing the new Third Water Tunnel, under 10th Ave., that is if it isn’t yet full of water.

Great work everyone! Finally, one reader gave an answer that doesn’t really work with all the New Year’s references but with a few changes, is a much better riddle:

Starting from the southern tip of Manhattan, a man walked the entire length of the island yet was not seen by a single person. How was this possible?

As reader Ben answered:

He walked across Manhattan centuries ago, when the land was only very sparsely populated by Native Americans.


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  1. So… what? Native Americans don’t count as persons? I’m pretty sure a man walking the length of Manhattan would have been seen by some Natives, even Centuries back.

  2. True, it is just a riddle but the answer is a bit insensitive; perhaps it could be worded differently. Remove the Native American and replace it with “when the land was not yet inhabited.” Not only might this be less offensive but it might be more accurate.

    • Is it not obvious that even with a sizable Native American population, an island as large as Manhattan, covered in trees, would have been easy to traverse without being seen?? According to Wikipedia, there may have been as many as 15,000 Lenape Native Americans in the NYC area in about 80 different tribes at its peak. NYC area, mind you, not Manhattan – do you have any idea how large an area the five boroughs is for 15,000 people to spread out across?

      I’ll change Ben’s answer to read “sparsely populated by Native American tribes” to be sure not to offend – but if you read that as “Well, Native Americans were seeing him but they aren’t people so they don’t count,” that’d not only be some bizarro admission of overt racism on my part (which I take offense to), it would also be the all time worst riddle answer ever.

  3. A few things. It is possible, because I’ve done it myself (I was the same dude in that Undercity video with Steve). The trains don’t run that often and there is usually just enough clearance for a person to be safe if a train passes by. Also, Metro North does NOT run through the same tunnel I speak of. Metro North runs underneath Park Avenue up to the Park Avenue Bridge, then along through the Bronx, before it meets up with the Amtrak line right around Spuyten Duvyil.

    That said, the water tunnel is another possible route, albeit a much deeper one that I’m not sure has outside access around 63rd st.

  4. Given the post 9/11 climate we live in I wouldn’t be surprised if there are now cameras along almost any route we would take. Above ground or below.

    Tho the image of walking through the sewers only manages to conjure up image of Leatherhead from the TMNT series of the late 80s.