Is This Times Square Grate A Portal To Another Dimension?

Last week, I was scouting a building in Times Square. After, I was standing on that large grate on the island between 45th & 46th checking my email…


…when all of a sudden, I noticed something…


What the hell was that noise coming up from below? Here’s a recording I took with my phone:

At first, it sounded like something to do with electricity, but the more I listened, the more surreal it got. In fact, after a while, it began to drown out the noise of Times Square, and it suddenly seemed very likely that a portal was going to open up underneath my feet and transport me to, say, the island in Lost.

Except, I couldn’t see anything down there.


Sadly, no portal did open up, though it turns out that the sound is more than just an underground transformer whirring away.

The sound is actually an art installation called Times Square, by artist Max Neuhaus. First installed in 1977, Neuhaus designed the sound to be “almost plausible” – but off just enough to make you wonder where the hell it’s coming from. After being turned off in 1992 when Neuhaus moved away, it was reinstalled in 2001 and now remains going 24/7. “The whole idea,” says Neuhaus, “is that people discover it for themselves. They can’t explain it. They take possession of it as their own discovery.”


Pictures and a sound recording really don’t do it justice. Next time you’re there, go to the island between 45th St and 46th, and stand still. Let the strange drone of noise rise up and wash over you, and all of a sudden, it’ll feel like you’re enveloped in a private bubble in the middle of Times Square.

No guarantees that a portal won’t open up under your feet.


PS – As I write this, I’m having strong deja vu that a couple of readers have sent emails in the past about a “sound installation in Times Square” that I didn’t quite understand. I now get it – thanks very much for the tip, and I promise to pay closer attention in the future!

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  1. Here’s the Wikipedia article on Neuhaus:

  2. That particular island is referred to by the city as “Fence Island” for permitting purposes.

  3. Yep. I mentioned in a comment to another article of yours. I’m friends with the Transit Authority employee who handled access to it for repairs, etc., for several years. Until he told me what it was, I always assumed it was a transformer about to explode, and religiously avoided walking over that grate.

  4. I’ve avoided Times Sq for the last 8 or so years, and now I have another reason to do so– that sound is like a nightmare for someone who already has tinnitus! LOVE your blog, by the way. 🙂

  5. Here’s another recording, by sound artist GX Jupitter-Larsen –

  6. I did an Open House NY Times Square tour a few years back, and that installation was one of the things they showed us. I’d probably walked across that grate 200 times in the past and never noticed it.

    I love this town.

  7. There is a high concentration of XM anomalies in that are

  8. Could be the soundtrack for a NOVA show, illustrating how eerie and unsettling science is. 😉

  9. Off-topic, but a few steps away, is another interesting (and small) piece of New York. The once and future Knickerbocker Hotel stands grandly on the southeast corner of Broadway and 42nd Street. During its heyday a century ago, certain swanky visitors — alighting from the newly-constructed subway — would find their way to a very discreet entrance to the hotel directly from the train platform without first going to street level.

    That entrance — a doorway with the word “KNICKERBOCKER” above it — still exists (if inoperable) at the eastern end of Track 1 of the Shuttle at Times Square.

  10. A few years back I shot a sizzle reel for a game show that would take place in TS using all of the available signage. Needless to say we shot many spots but couldn’t shoot near the grates due to the noise.

  11. This has been my favorite NYC hidden gem since a friend pointed it out to me on an eerily quiet Super Bowl Sunday several years ago! In fact, I found your blog while searching for it online recently. Another great find!


  12. That’s pretty much exactly where Giselle comes out of the ground in Enchanted. So it might be a Disney portal.

  13. I love this installation. It’s so subtle that most people probably pass by without noticing. The audio is the decaying sound of a bell ringing, in reverse. Reminds you of the movie “Kate and Leopold”, right?