Since first arriving to New York as a gift from the people of France, the Statue of Liberty has become one of America's most well-known and iconic symbols. Lady Liberty has undergone some updates and changes over 130-plus years she has presided over New York Harbor, but here are 10 amazing Statue of Liberty facts you may not have known.
1. THE STATUE OF LIBERTY'S DEDICATION INSPIRED ANOTHER NEW YORK CITY TRADITION.
The Statue of Liberty’s dedication inspired another uniquely New York institution: the ticker tape parade. New York office workers got the idea to unfurl financial ribbons from windows on October 29, 1886, the day President Grover Cleveland presided over the dedication ceremony.
2. A HANDFUL OF PEOPLE HAVE CALLED LIBERTY ISLAND HOME.
Up until Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, David Luchsinger and his wife were residents of a very, very exclusive neighborhood: Liberty Island. As the superintendent of the Statue of Liberty, Luchsinger is one of a select few people who have ever called the island home. The National Park Ranger selected to be the seer of the statue is provided with free housing—a small brick house, located on the other side of the island. Unfortunately, the cozy little house sustained serious damage during Hurricane Sandy and was not rebuilt, making the Luchsingers Liberty Island's last official residents.
3. THE STATUE'S PEDESTAL USED TO HOUSE MILITARY FAMILIES.
The star-shaped Fort Wood, which now serves as part of the statue’s pedestal, was home to military families from 1818 until the mid-1930s. These military families often included young children like Pete Bluhm, who, in 2012, recalled to The New York Times a Fourth of July where G.I.s bounced bottle rockets off of Lady Liberty’s posterior. Another man, James Hill, recalled that he and his younger sister would drop baseballs from Liberty’s crown to see how high they would bounce. Other Liberty Island kids said they climbed to the torch tower and made it rock back and forth.
4. VISITORS USED TO BE ABLE TO CLIMB TO THE TOP OF THE TORCH.
Once upon a time, it wasn’t just Island kids who could climb to the tip of the torch. Tourists were able to climb up to the precarious perch until 1916, when those privileges were revoked in response to the Black Tom incident. Around 2 a.m. on July 30, Black Tom—then an island in New York Harbor—was rocked by the explosion of about 2 million tons of war materials such as TNT, black powder, shrapnel, and dynamite. The blast was the equivalent of an earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale; shrapnel flew across the night sky and embedded itself in the Statue of Liberty. Windows shattered as far as 25 miles away.
It was later determined that German agents intent on stopping the munitions from getting to their English enemies had ignited the supply. The Statue of Liberty’s torch was closed, partially due to infrastructure damage from the blast and partially just out of concern for terrorism. It’s been closed ever since—but you can still appreciate the view from the top with this TorchCam, installed in 2011.
5. THE SPIKES RADIATING FROM HER CROWN AREN'T PART OF THE CROWN.
The seven spikes radiating from the Statue of Liberty's crown aren’t actually part of the crown. They’re meant to be a halo, also known as an aureole, with the spikes representing the world's seven seas and continents. The rays were temporarily removed from her crown in 1938 so their rusted supports could be replaced.
6. THE STATUE OF LIBERTY WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE A SISTER STATUE AND LIGHTHOUSE IN EGYPT.
Sculptor Frédéric Bartholdi offered to make Egypt a large piece for the entrance to the Suez Canal called “Egypt Carrying Light to Asia,” which would have featured a veiled Egyptian peasant woman holding a lantern. The Egyptian khedive declined, based on what it would cost.
7. WHEN THE STATUE FIRST ARRIVED FROM FRANCE, SHE WAS THE COLOR OF A SHINY NEW PENNY.
It took roughly 20 years for Liberty to patina to the greenish-blue hue she is today.
8. THE STATUE IS MODELED ON A REAL PERSON.
Frederic Bartholdi has trumped any Mother’s Day gift you could ever come up with: He used his mother, Charlotte, as the model for the most recognized statue in the world. This was first discovered in 1876, when Bartholdi invited French Senator Jules Bozerian to his box at the opera. When Bozerian pulled back the curtain to step into the box, he was shocked to find a real-life version of the Statue of Liberty sitting there in the box. When he said so to Bartholdi, the sculptor smiled: “But do you know who this lady is? She’s my mother,” he told the senator.
9. SHE'S GOT A LOT OF NICKNAMES.
According to The Statue of Liberty Encyclopedia, “Everybody’s Gal” has a lot of nicknames: America’s Freedom, America’s Great Lady, Aunt Liberty, Bartholdi’s Daughter, Giant Goddess, Grande Dame, Green Goddess, The Lady Higher Up, Lady of the Harbor, Lady on a Pedestal, Lady with a Torch, Mother of Exiles, Mother of Freedom, Saint Liberty, and the Spirit of American Independence.
10. "THE STATUE OF LIBERTY,” IS, IN FACT, A NICKNAME.
Bartholdi’s name for his gift was “Liberty Enlightening the World.”
Friends is a show about twentysomethings navigating life, love, and work in New York City. Ot at least that’s one theory about the beloved sitcom, which debuted on this day in 1994. Here’s another: Friends is a glimpse inside a mental ward, where six disturbed patients are working through their personality disorders. In the 14 years since it went off the air, Friends has inspired a ton of wild fan theories on Reddit and Twitter. Here are a few of the strangest (and be careful: Mr. Heckles’s murderer is still at large).
1. RACHEL DREAMED THE WHOLE THING.
In the summer of 2017, this photo of the Friends season four DVD box ignited a fan frenzy. The image on the box shows the titular pals snoozing side by side. Ross, Phoebe, Monica, Chandler, and Joey all have their eyes shut, but Rachel—resting right in the middle—is wide awake and looking directly at the camera. Why is she the only one with her eyes open? Some fans suggested Rachel was plotting something sinister, or secretly very “woke.” But plenty more insisted it was proof the whole show was Rachel’s dream. According to one Twitter fan, Rachel fell into an anxiety-fueled dream the night before her wedding to Barry and imagined her own group of hip New York friends to cope with her frustration and dread. Except she woke up to reality the next morning, as shown on the DVD cover, where she’s surrounded by her dream friends.
2. PHOEBE HALLUCINATED THE SHOW.
Another popular theory suggests the show was all in Phoebe’s head—only this take is much darker. The basic premise is that Phoebe never got off the streets. She was a lonely, homeless woman with a meth addiction who peered into the window of Central Perk one day. She noticed five friends laughing over coffee, and imagined herself as part of the gang. In this fantasy, her pals didn’t always get her weird sense of humor, but they loved her anyway. In reality, the twentysomethings in the window were wondering why that “crazy lady” was staring at them. This theory gained so much traction that a journalist asked Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman about it at a television festival. She quickly threw water on the whole thing. “That’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard,” Kauffman replied. “That’s a terrible theory. That’s insane. Someone needs a life, that’s all I’m saying."
3. IT WAS ONE LONG PROMO FOR STARBUCKS.
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According to one manic Facebook rant, Friends was not a sitcom at all. It was actually a 10-year marketing ploy, designed to make Starbucks the new go-to destination for young people. Why else do the characters spend so much time in a coffee shop? True, the shop is not called Starbucks, but the subliminal evidence lies in Rachel’s last name (Green, like the Starbucks company color) and hair (styled like the mermaid in the Starbucks logo). Then there’s Ross and Monica’s last name, Geller, which is close to the German word gellen. It means “to yell,” just like the Starbucks baristas calling out customer names. The case only gets flimsier from there, but if you really want to read about how Chandler and Moby Dick are connected, you can dive down the rabbit hole here.
4. ROSS LOST CUSTODY OF BEN BECAUSE HE WAS A BAD DAD.
Ross’s son Ben arrives in the very first season of Friends, in the aptly titled episode “The One with the Birth.” He’s a constant character for several seasons, but as the show goes on, Ross seems to spend less and less time with his kid. Ben disappears after the eighth season, and never meets his half-sister Emma onscreen. There’s one explanation for this dropoff: Ross lost custody of his son due to increasingly disturbing behavior.
The blog What Would Bale Do lays out a bunch of examples: Ross sleeps with his students, tries to hook up with his cousin, and asks a self-defense instructor for help scaring his female friends. He’s also generally pretty jealous and possessive. According to this theory, Ross’s ex-wife Carol hit a breaking point and took full custody of their son, which is why Ben stops coming around his dad’s apartment in the later seasons.
5. MR. HECKLES WAS MURDERED.
Rachel and Monica’s mean old neighbor dies of natural causes in season two—or at least that’s what they want you to think. By one Redditor’s account, Mr. Heckles was killed in cold blood. Moments before he dies, Mr. Heckles shows up at Monica and Rachel’s door, complaining that their noise is disturbing his birds. (He does not have birds.) Monica says they’ll try to keep it down and as Mr. Heckles leaves, he says he’s going to rejoin his “dinner party.” Minutes later, he’s dead. Ergo, his dinner party guest killed him. Of course, the likelier explanation is that Mr. Heckles was a crazy old man who wasn’t even having a dinner party. But where’s the fun in that?
6. THERE’S A REASON THEY ALWAYS GOT THAT TABLE AT CENTRAL PERK.
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How did the gang manage to snag the coveted center couch at Central Perk every single time? Simple: Gunther reserved it for them. It was all part of his ongoing campaign to win Rachel’s affections, and it explains why the group never had to fight for seating space. Well, except that one time.
7. THERE’S A PARKS & RECREATION CROSSOVER.
In “The One With All the Candy,” Rachel insists she doesn’t sleep with guys on the first date, only for her friends to immediately call her out. Monica rattles off three names: Matt Wire, Mark Lynn, and Ben Wyatt. Could she be talking about the same Ben Wyatt from Parks and Recreation? According to Reddit, their ages check out. Ben would’ve been 26 at the time of the episode, making him a perfectly acceptable one-night stand for 29-year-old Rachel. But how does Leslie Knope feel about this?
8. JUDY GELLER HAD AN AFFAIR THAT PRODUCED MONICA.
Ross and Monica’s mom doesn’t even try to hide her favoritism. Judy Geller thinks Ross is a genius and Monica is, well, trying. (But could be trying harder.) One bonkers and since-deleted fan theory suggests Judy’s preference stems from a family secret: At some point in her marriage to Jack Geller, she had an affair, one she could never forget because it spawned Monica. Judy’s shame over this tryst is what causes her to lash out at Monica and praise Ross, her one 'legitimate' child.
9. THEY’RE ALL IN A PSYCH WARD.
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What if Central Perk wasn’t a coffee shop at all, but rather the cafeteria at a mental institution? As one theory goes, all six main characters are suffering from personality disorders. They’re confined to a facility for treatment, and can only shuffle between their rooms (i.e. their “apartments”) and the cafeteria (i.e. “Central Perk”). This situation also explains why the group is so hostile toward new people. They’re not actually teasing Monica’s new boyfriend; they’re attacking anyone who tries to take one of the friends out of the mental hospital.
10. JOEY REALLY WANTED SOME PANCAKES.
This very silly—but very solid—fan theory is centered on Joey’s love of food. In “The One With Ross’s Library Book,” Joey has a one-night stand with a woman named Erin. He doesn’t want to see her again, and asks Rachel to break the news to her over pancakes. Apparently Chandler used to do this when he lived in the apartment. He’d even save extra pancakes for Joey. Rachel refuses to be a part of this, but once she’s left alone with Erin, she feels bad and offers to cook. Things escalate over the episode and pretty soon, Joey is the one who’s too clingy for Erin. Rachel has to tell him and, feeling bad yet again, she offers pancakes. Reddit claims this was all just a plot for pancakes. It kind of adds up: Joey can’t cook but likes to eat, and he has enough soap opera money to pay an actor (Erin) to play a part in this conspiracy. So he cons his roommate into making pancakes, twice, in a ruse that’s both delicious and diabolical.
Between on-set injuries, extensive script changes, and one whopper of a casting process, at various points in the life of The Lord of the Rings trilogy it seemed as if director Peter Jackson might have bitten off more than he could chew. The trilogy that changed the face of fantasy films tackled a number of challenges along the way, but it all worked out in the end. In celebration of Hobbit Day, here are 20 facts about the Oscar-winning trilogy.
1. IT WENT THROUGH A TON OF SCRIPT REVISIONS.
When The Lord of the Rings started out, it was originally going to be two movies. Later, concerned about the ballooning budget, producers tried to persuade Jackson to condense the movie into a single film. At various points in the scripting process, Arwen, not Éowyn, was the one to dress up as a man, ride into the Battle of Pelennor Fields, and kill the Witch-king; and Rohan and Gondor were combined into one kingdom. Miramax also suggested that the one-movie version be presented as a flashback, with an older Frodo “covering [the entire Mines of Moria sequence in Fellowship] by saying something like, ‘So then we went on a dangerous journey through the Mines of Moria and lost Gandalf!,’” recalled Jackson.
2. SEAN CONNERY DIDN'T UNDERSTAND THE SCRIPT.
Sean Connery read for the role of Gandalf but admitted that, “I never understood it. I read the book. I read the script. I saw the movie. I still don’t understand it … I would be interested in doing something that I didn’t fully understand, but not for 18 months.” Connery’s deal, if he had taken the role, would have been for a small fee plus 15 percent of the films’ income. Incidentally, the entire trilogy went on to earn just shy of $3 billion worldwide.
3. ARAGORN WAS AN EXTREMELY DIFFICULT ROLE TO CAST.
New Line Cinema
Nicolas Cage was offered the role of Aragorn, which he turned down due to “family obligations.” Famously, the role then went to up-and-coming Irish actor Stuart Townsend, who you probably don’t remember seeing in the final trilogy: “I was there rehearsing and training for two months, then was fired the day before filming began,” the actor later recalled. In need of an older actor, Jackson went to Viggo Mortensen, who took the role at the urging of his son Henry, who was a fan of the books.
4. RUSSELL CROWE WAS A POTENTIAL BACKUP FOR ARAGORN.
Had Mortensen turned down the role of Aragorn, there were two other actors Jackson had in mind as replacements: Jason Patric and Russell Crowe. “We sent [Crowe] a script and he did read it and was fascinated,” said Jackson. “I remember getting the phone call from his agent and being told that he had just finished another film which involved him having to have a sword and armor—Gladiator! Russell was flattered by the approach, but he had other films he was committed to and it obviously wasn’t going to work out.”
5. VIGGO MORTENSEN TOOK SEVERAL BEATINGS.
A variety of injuries beset the cast during production, but Mortensen had it particularly hard: in The Two Towers, that scream he let out upon kicking a helmet after discovering the burnt corpses of the Orcs who abducted Merry and Pippin might have something to do with the fact that he had just broken two of his toes. “Normally, an actor would yell ‘Ow!’ if they hurt themselves,” noted Jackson. “Viggo turned a broken toe into a performance.” Elijah Wood remembered Mortensen “getting half of his tooth knocked out during a fight sequence, and his insistence on applying superglue to put it back in to keep working.”
6. JAKE GYLLENHAAL AUDITIONED TO PLAY FRODO.
Jake Gyllenhaal had a less-than-successful audition for the role of Frodo. “I remember auditioning for The Lord of the Rings and going in and not being told that I needed a British accent. I really do remember Peter Jackson saying to me, ‘You know that you have to do this in a British accent?’” Gyllenhaal later recalled. “We heard back it was literally one of the worst auditions.”
7. VIN DIESEL, LIAM NEESON, AND UMA THURMAN WERE UP FOR ROLES.
Among other could-have-beens in the casting department: Vin Diesel auditioned for Aragorn; Jackson called his performance “very compelling” but said that it didn’t “feel like Aragorn.” Jackson approached Richard O’Brien, best known as Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror Picture Show(which he also wrote), for the role of Gríma Wormtongue, but his agents turned it down, believing the films would be unsuccessful. Liam Neeson passed on the role of Boromir.
There were also “discussions,” recalls Jackson, about then-married couple Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman playing Faramir and Éowyn; “Ethan was a huge fan of the books and was very keen to be involved. Uma was less sure and rightly so, because we were revising how we saw Éowyn’s character literally as we went. In the end, Ethan let it go—with some reluctance.”
8. IAN HOLM HAD PLAYED FRODO BAGGINS YEARS EARLIER.
New Line Cinema
The Lord of the Rings trilogy marked a return to the Shire for Bilbo actor Ian Holm, who played Frodo in a 1981 radio dramatization of The Lord of the Rings, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4. His performance in that factored into Jackson’s decision to offer him the Bilbo role.
9. CHRISTOPHER LEE WANTED TO PLAY GANDALF.
The late Christopher Lee was a Lord of the Rings superfan who actually met J.R.R. Tolkien (“I was very much in awe of him, as you can imagine,” he toldCinefantastique) and wanted to robe up as Gandalf, a role that eventually went to Sir Ian McKellen. (Lee himself admitted that, by the time the movies came around, he was “too old” for the action-heavy role.) Lee even played a wizard in the TV series The New Adventures of Robin Hood specifically “to show anyone who was watching that I could play a wizard and that I would be ideal casting for The Lord of the Rings.” He sent Jackson a picture of himself in wizard duds, though “it was more in the nature of a joke, really. It wasn’t me putting myself forward at all, because I think Peter had already made up his mind” to cast him as the wizard Saruman.
10. THE PRODUCER REALLY WANTED TO KILL A HOBBIT.
Early on in the development process, before it found its eventual home at New Line Cinema, The Lord of the Rings trilogy was being made at Miramax. As Peter Jackson would later recall, Bob Weinstein really, really thought one of the four main Hobbits should die: “‘Well, we can’t have [all of them surviving],’ he said, ‘we’ve got to kill a Hobbit! I don’t care which one; you can pick—I’m not telling you who it should be: you pick out who you want to kill, but we’ve really got to kill one of those Hobbits!’ In situations like that, you just nod and smile and say, ‘Well, that’s something we can consider.’”
11. SEAN BEAN TREKKED UP A MOUNTAIN IN COSTUME.
Sean Bean typically opted against taking a helicopter up to some of The Fellowship of the Ring’s mountain filming locations, instead climbing to sets himself in full Boromir gear. “I used to be a bit terrified of flying,” he said, so “I had to walk the whole way, really. I was two hours behind everybody else on top of this mountain because I just didn’t want to get into any helicopters.”
12. FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS’S BRET MCKENZIE MADE A CAMEO.
New Line Cinema
Flight of the Conchords’s Bret McKenzie makes a brief appearance in The Fellowship of the Ring, playing an unnamed Elf during the Council of Elrond scene. Fan Iris Hadad latched onto the extra, naming him Figwit (short for “Frodo is great… who is that?”) and creating the fansite Figwit Lives in his honor. Peter Jackson, responding to the grassroots support for the character, added him to The Return of the King as “Elf Escort” and even gave him a line, “just [as] fun for the fans.” (In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, McKenzie plays an elf named Lindir. He’s not the same character as Figwit, the actor noted, because the two have “slightly different ears.”)
13. AN ENTIRE ACTION SCENE WAS DESTROYED BY A FLOOD.
The end of The Fellowship of the Ring originally featured a scene where the heroes are ambushed by a band of Orcs as they row through rapids on the Anduin river. “We had all kinds of action planned with boats flipping over … and Legolas’s boat afloat as it bucks and tosses, while the Elf—standing with a foot on each of the gunwales—would be firing arrows at the attackers,” Jackson shared. But Mother Nature had other ideas, and a massive flood—in addition to causing a state of emergency in Queenstown, New Zealand—washed the entire ambush set down the river.
14. BILL THE PONY WAS TWO PEOPLE IN A HORSE COSTUME.
Sam’s pony Bill was, in Fellowship’s Midgewater Marshes scene, actually a “panto pony,” due to the difficulty of working with a live animal in a swamp. Not sure what a “panto pony” is? Well, that’s a fancy way of saying Bill was a pony suit with one person in the front half and one person in the back. It wasn’t exactly easy to work with, either. “We had a terrible struggle to get the pony to walk through the marshes because the performers were completely blind, buried in this costume and up to their waists in a real swamp,” shared Jackson. “Bill would try to walk and then would start to wobble and everyone would have to rush in and catch him before he fell over! There was one hilarious moment where the front legs moved without the back legs and Bill got stretched into a sort of long sausage dog!”
15. SEAN BEAN WAS READING HIS SCRIPT DURING THE COUNCIL OF ELROND SCENE.
Jackson and his co-writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens were constantly in the process of revising the script, even during production; the actors would frequently get new dialogue to memorize the night before a particular scene was scheduled to shoot. That was the case with Boromir’s famous speech in The Fellowship of the Ring’s Council of Elrond scene. Look closely and you’ll see the actor occasionally lowering his eyes to look at the new script page, which was taped to his knee.
16. WOMEN IN BEARDS WERE USED AS EXTRAS.
A good chunk of the Riders of Rohan in The Two Towers and The Return of the King were actually women outfitted with fake beards. “There are some very good women riders in New Zealand, and it’d be silly not to take advantage of them,” Mortensen said in The Two Towers Extended Edition extras.
17. THE URUK-HAI AT HELM’S DEEP ARE NEW ZEALAND CRICKET FANS.
In the Battle of Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers, the chanting of the vicious Uruk-hai army was provided by a stadium full of New Zealand cricket fans. “There’s this Black Speech battle cry the Uruk do,” said executive producer Mark Ordesky. “We wrote it out phonetically on the Diamond Vision screen and Peter [Jackson] directed 25,000 people going ‘Rrwaaa harra farr rrara!”’
18. A SCENE WHERE ARAGORN FIGHTS SAURON IS IN THE RETURN OF THE KING… SORT OF.
Jackson filmed a scene for the end of The Return of the King where Aragorn goes toe-to-toe with the physical version of Sauron, in a sort of updated version of the Sauron-Isildur battle from the prologue of The Fellowship of the Ring. “By the time we had got to post-production,” Jackson remembers, the scene “no longer felt right,” so they cut it. But they did still use the footage: In the final battle, Aragorn can be seen battling a giant cave troll that was digitally superimposed over what was originally meant to be Sauron.
19. ONE OF THE MOST EMOTIONAL SCENES WAS SHOT OVER THE SPAN OF ONE YEAR.
It’s well known that all three Lord of the Rings movies were shot in one long stretch. As with most movies, the shoot wasn’t consecutive, meaning on any given day the schedule included scenes from all over the trilogy. Possibly the most extreme example of this has to do with the scene in The Return of the King where Frodo, urged by Gollum to think Sam has betrayed him, orders his loyal sidekick to go home. First Sam’s part was filmed, then Frodo’s … a year later. “Every time we cut to and fro between Frodo and Sam we are actually jumping back and forth across a year-long gap,” Jackson explained.
20. FRODO ORIGINALLY "STRAIGHT-OUT" MURDERED GOLLUM.
New Line Cinema
The final confrontation between Frodo and Gollum in The Return of the King was originally going to end with Frodo pushing Gollum off the ledge into Mount Doom; “straight-out murder,” Jackson admitted, “but at the time we were OK with it because we felt everyone wanted Frodo to kill Gollum. But, of course, it was very un-Tolkien, because it flew in the face of everything that he wanted his heroes to be.” Years later, the scene was re-shot as it ended up in the film.
Additional Sources: Peter Jackson: A Film-Maker’s Journey, by Brian Sibley Peter Jackson: From Prince of Splatter to Lord of the Rings, by Ian Pryor