Secrets of Grand Central Terminal

Discover the Hidden Corners and Shady Past of This NYC Landmark

Grand Central Station, 42nd Street, New York
••• David Clapp / Stone / Getty Images

Grand Central Terminal in New York City was built in 1913 and is the largest train station in the world, complete with a rich history—and plenty of secrets. If you're traveling to NYC for your vacation, consider exploring the hidden corners, the shady past, and the many quirks of this famous landmark.

Although simply visiting this New York City staple is worth the trip—and chances are if you're traveling by train into the city you'll come through here first—the many secrets of Grand Central Terminal can provide hours of entertainment if you find yourself stuck waiting on the next train.

From a whispering gallery to secret passages and tunnels, a kissing room to a secret hidden in plain sight, discover all there is to see in Grand Central Terminal on your next trip to New York City.

The Whispering Gallery and Secret Passages

The "whispering gallery" or "whispering wall" is located on the Grand Central Terminal dining concourse near the famous Oyster Bar & Restaurant. Here, the acoustics of the low ceramic arches can cause a whisper to sound like a shout.

To test it out, you and a friend will have to stand in opposite corners of the large arched entryway, then face the corner and whisper. Your friend should be able to hear your voice as if you were right next to them, not whispering into a faraway corner.

According to experts, this happens because the whisperer’s voice follows the curve of the domed ceiling. The Whispering Gallery is a popular spot for marriage proposals—and a unique place to whisper sweet nothings to your main squeeze.

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.

The Grand Central Kissing Room and Backward Zodiac

The Biltmore Room, located on the Grand Concourse across from Starbucks, was known as the “Kissing Room” during the golden age of train travel during the 1930s and 1940s.

The Biltmore Room was where the famous 20th Century Limited train from the West Coast used to arrive. Passengers on this service—including many celebrities and politicians—would get off the train and greet their loved ones here with kisses and hugs. Often, they would then go up the stairs into the famous Biltmore Hotel (now the Bank of America building).

Meanwhile, the ceiling over the Main Concourse, with its famous mural of the stars, is one of Grand Central Terminal’s most famous features. However, eagle-eyed visitors will notice that the zodiac on the ceiling is depicted backward.

Some have speculated that this was a mistake by the artist, Paul Helleu, but the real reason according to official documents is that the painter was inspired by a medieval manuscript that showed the heavens as they would have been seen from outside the celestial sphere.

The famous ceiling has another, more recent, secret. If you look carefully, you will see a patch of dark on the carefully restored blue of the mural. This patch shows the color of the ceiling before restoration. It was left as a reminder of how much work was done.