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They Came For Tourism... They Stayed To Die!
 

Imagine it: you're standing underneath the Empire State Building, minding your own business, when suddenly you hear it from high up above… a whistling noise.

Looking up suddenly, you instantly recognize the noise as the sound of incoming inspiration: you should take an elevator to the top of the Empire State Building, drop a penny from the top and kill someone. That'd show some of them. Why, it might even show them all.

Ask any child on the playground and odds are they've heard the one about the penny dropped from the top of the Empire State Building — the penny that fell with such velocity it went right through someone, killing them instantly. You might even get the time to ask them where they first heard it, before some teacher inevitably starts putting their big nose where it doesn't belong, asking you why you're hanging around a schoolyard in a trenchcoat and track pants. When this happens, try to grab as many kids as you can before running off. They make excellent bargaining chips and, in a tight corner, even passable shields.

 

The penny legend is known throughout the world. Canada, for instance, doesn't have an Empire State Building, and so makes do with the not-even-real-sounding CN Tower. In their version the deadly piece of metal isn't a penny but a metal beaver (their slang for a one cent piece). And Instead of being dropped off the CN Tower, the metal beaver is slapshotted off with a hockey stick.

In France the building is the Eiffel Tower, and the one cent piece is called the Frencho. Every other aspect of the French tale is identical to its American counterpart, except that both the penny-dropper and victim don't have jobs.

But no matter what the location and culture, one aspect remains eerily constant: namely, that every country in possession of a tall building has a corresponding legend about murdering people by dropping change from it. It's difficult to choose which aspect of the legend says more about human nature — our ignorance of the laws of physics or our insatiable bloodlust — but in either case, it's one more reason not to visit France.

 

Where did the penny legend start? It's hard to say, since according to the good people at the Empire State Building, nobody's ever once dropped money from the top. And since there's no reason at all to lie about the percentage of innocents being violently eviscerated by terminal velocity metal shards while visiting a popular tourist attraction, it must be concluded that this urban legend is nothing more than that: a legend. An urban one.

Even if it isn't true, however, the penny legend has been around almost as long as the Empire State Building itself. Construction workers who strode on the girders of the then-unfinished building would make jokes about throwing pennies from the top. Luckily sanity ruled, and the only things thrown from the top of the Empire State Building during its construction were a few sandwich wrappers and an Irishman.

 

Hogwash. Poppycock even. Let's assume the good folks at the Empire State Building are lying, and pennies rain down from the roof of the place daily in a veritable hail of copper. The Empire State is 1,250 feet tall, so a cent dropped from the top would hit the ground at around 280 feet per second. Factor in a penny's light weight and flat, non-bullet shape, and the odds are the tumbling coin would barely break the skin. This is why, for instance, large hailstones sting but do not, say, pierce a skull and shoot downwards into a human torso, like a hot knife through a bag of exploding red butter.

No, if your intent is to deal death from above, your best bet would be something bullet-shaped, like a pen. Or a bullet.

Professionals in the field know that coins are no substitute as an assassination tool (even an entire roll of quarters would not have brought success to, say, Lee Harvey Oswald) but that the combined speed of a high-powered rifle round working in partnership with gravity guarantees instant airborne death. The "rifle" method is so deadly, in fact, that some skyscraper attendants won't even allow you to take one to the top unless you have a good reason, such as a note from your physician.

If you live in France and thus do not have access to firearms, your best bet is to fling yourself off of the roof with a dagger, swinging it wildly all the way down. And do us a favor; aim for that scamming coin-helmet salesman first.

 

 

RETURN TO THE URBAN LEGEND DATABASE

 

 

 
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