Atlantic City Mythbusters

Atlantic City Mythbusters

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Before Atlantic City reinvented itself as a gambling mecca in 1978, this seashore resort was "America's playground." Atlantic City has played host to casinos, organized crime, novelty acts, beachcombers and musical legends, and its rich history has given birth to dozens of urban myths. But unlike most tall tales, the stories of Atlantic City feature one unique aspect that will disappoint Atlantic City mythbusters: much of the local lore is true.

1. The Absecon Lighthouse is haunted. And the Jersey Devil perched on top of the lighthouse a hundred years ago.

MAYBE. Slamming doors. Footsteps. Ghostly hands. And the sound of... parties? The Absecon Lighthouse's scary urban legends started in 1905, with a keeper claiming he saw the Jersey Devil. Unlike many ghost stories, the haunting is still frequently reported today by visitors and staff alike. Paranormal investigators have heard footsteps, seen lights and had unmanned cameras shift. So is the lighthouse haunting just another Atlantic City urban myth? No one knows. According to people who work at the lighthouse, the ghosts are real.

Absecon Lighthouse
31 S. Rhode Island Avenue
Atlantic City, NJ, 08401
Sep-Jun: Thu-Mon 11AM-4PM; Jul-Aug: daily 10AM-5PM
Adults $7, children 4-12 $4, children 3 & under free

2. Horses used to dive on Steel Pier.

TRUE. For nearly 50 years, trained horses leapt into a pool from a platform on Atlantic City's legendary showplace, Steel Pier. Women in swimsuits rode the horses in this unique novelty act, and one of them even continued to do so after she lost her sight in a diving accident. William F. "Doc" Carver is said to have invented the diving horse show when a wooden bridge collapsed under him, and his horse effortlessly turned the fall into a dive.

Steel Pier
1000 Boardwalk
Atlantic City, NJ, 08401
Jun-Aug: Mon-Fri 3PM-midnight, Sat & Sun noon-1AM; Sep-May: Fri 4PM-midnight, Sat & Sun noon-midnight
Admission free. Ride costs vary; ride specials and day passes often available

3. Monopoly was invented here.

FALSE. Atlantic City's history is full of entrepreneurs who spotted trends, took risks and invested in new ideas. But the invention of the board game Monopoly wasn't one of them. Handmade versions of the game were available on the East Coast for 25 years before Charles Darrow of Philadelphia produced and marketed the game via Parker Brothers in 1934. Atlantic City mythbusters dispute the sentimental version of Monopoly's history, which claims that Darrow placed the game in Atlantic City because he had visited the booming resort town as a kid. The setting we know today – featuring the likes of Atlantic Avenue, Boardwalk and the misspelled Marvin (Marven) Gardens – was added to the game by Atlantic City teachers in the early 1930s.

4. Frank Sinatra used to love White House Sub Shop's subs so much; he'd have them flown to him in Vegas.

PROBABLY TRUE. White House Sub Shop is a rinky-dink, sassy sandwich shop that's been dishing out submarine sandwiches since 1946. Frank Sinatra was one of hundreds of celebrities who visited over the years and adored the White House Sub Shop, and local lore has it that Sinatra would have the subs shipped to him in Vegas. This Atlantic City urban legend sounds great and has been repeated enough that it might well be true, but White House shares this legend with at least two other dining hot spots in Hoboken and Manhattan. True? Who cares? White House subs are delicious!

White House Sub Shop
9200 Atlantic Avenue
Atlantic City, NJ, 08401
Mon-Thu 10AM-10PM, Fri-Sat 10AM-11PM, Sun 11AM-10PM

5. Lucy the Elephant was used as a signaling device by rum runners during Prohibition.

FALSE. Atlantic City mythbusters are quick to dispel the rumor that Lucy the Elephant – a six-story wooden building shaped like an elephant – served as a signaling device for smugglers during Prohibition. Lucy has been a hotel, a bar and a real estate sales office, but no one has yet found any written record of Lucy having had a taste for rum. Still under discussion, however, is the rumor that Lucy is a boy elephant. After all, she does have tusks.

Lucy the Elephant
9200 Atlantic Avenue
Margate, NJ, 08402
Mon-Fri 11AM-4PM, Sat-Sun 10AM-5PM
Adults $6, children 4-12 $3, children 2 & under free

6. Saltwater taffy was invented in Atlantic City during a storm, when seawater flooded a candy store.

MAYBE. No one disputes that saltwater taffy was invented in Atlantic City. But mileage varies on the tale of a candy shop owner whose taffy stock was supposedly drenched with ocean spray during an 1883 storm. "What's this? Salt? Taffy? Mmmm... saltwater taffy!" This Atlantic City urban legend is as delicious as the airy, chewy candy, but it's possibly apocryphal. One thing we do know, however, is that by 1889 saltwater taffy had taken off and was sold up and down the boardwalk, eventually becoming a staple souvenir of visits to beaches throughout the country.
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