Hidden behind an unassuming exterior on West 21st Street in Manhattan, the Dentorium was the site of some of the most daring and bizarre experiments in 20th century denture design. 
Dentorium was founded in 1928 by British expatriate Leonard Gray. The previous year, Gray had been expelled from the British Society of Denturists for his use of “unorthodox” and “experimental” methods. He emigrated to America the following year and founded Dentorium in the city’s harpsichord district. His mission, as stated on handbills and tracts he distributed: “to aid the common man in exceeding the miserly dental allotment Nature has seen fit to bequeath him”.
But while Dentorium converted remaindered harpsichord ivory into low-priced dentures by day, Gray busied himself with secret experimental models by night. Toothless alcoholics, lured in by Gray with promises of soft food and potent liquor, soon turned up in Bowery flophouses outfitted with bizarre dental apparatus: streamlined aluminum dentures, teeth of brightly colored glass, heated dentures, even an intricate double-rowed jaw fashioned after the mouth of a shark.
Finally, in 1933 a cocker spaniel turned up at the city pound, its mouth gleaming with artificial human teeth. Its picture was splashed across the tabloids, and in short order the spaniel was traced back to Dentorium. There, in Gray’s private workshop, authorities discovered his mauled corpse. Whether by his own hand or by accident, he had been consumed by a pair of his own mechanized “self-chewing” dentures.

Hidden behind an unassuming exterior on West 21st Street in Manhattan, the Dentorium was the site of some of the most daring and bizarre experiments in 20th century denture design. 

Dentorium was founded in 1928 by British expatriate Leonard Gray. The previous year, Gray had been expelled from the British Society of Denturists for his use of “unorthodox” and “experimental” methods. He emigrated to America the following year and founded Dentorium in the city’s harpsichord district. His mission, as stated on handbills and tracts he distributed: “to aid the common man in exceeding the miserly dental allotment Nature has seen fit to bequeath him”.

But while Dentorium converted remaindered harpsichord ivory into low-priced dentures by day, Gray busied himself with secret experimental models by night. Toothless alcoholics, lured in by Gray with promises of soft food and potent liquor, soon turned up in Bowery flophouses outfitted with bizarre dental apparatus: streamlined aluminum dentures, teeth of brightly colored glass, heated dentures, even an intricate double-rowed jaw fashioned after the mouth of a shark.

Finally, in 1933 a cocker spaniel turned up at the city pound, its mouth gleaming with artificial human teeth. Its picture was splashed across the tabloids, and in short order the spaniel was traced back to Dentorium. There, in Gray’s private workshop, authorities discovered his mauled corpse. Whether by his own hand or by accident, he had been consumed by a pair of his own mechanized “self-chewing” dentures.


One morning in July 1972, New Yorkers awoke to news of a grisly massacre. Every single member of the feared Yorkville Goonies gang, some 65 young men, had been killed. In apartments, street corners, telephone booths and in their cars, each Yorkville Goonie seemed to have simply stopped breathing sometime in the night. Their bodies bore no signs of trauma or struggle, but autopsies revealed that each had died of asphyxiation. Fiber analysis turned up traces of satin on the face of each victim. There was little doubt: the feared gang “Quiet Storm” had struck again.
Quiet Storm was formed sometime in the 1960s, when a group of deaf-mute students from the Murray Abelman School for the Deaf began training in the martial art of ninjutsu, likely to escape persecution by neighborhood toughs. Members adopted a uniform of dark satin garments and light slippers, and communicated solely through a specialized dialect of sign language. They moved stealthily throughout the city, silently decimating competing gangs. As one (rare) survivor reported, he neither saw nor heard anyone approach him, but suddenly felt a satin pillow pressed into his face, preventing him from breathing or calling for help. Over the years the Quiet Storm dispatched hundreds of New York gang members this way, eventually expanding their territory throughout Manhattan. 
Citywide anti-gang policing took its toll in the 1980s, and Quiet Storm’s numbers dwindled. Today, they remain small membership and bit of territory in the Long Island City area of Queens. Older, retired members are known to sport the gang’s satin jackets, as in the photo above.

One morning in July 1972, New Yorkers awoke to news of a grisly massacre. Every single member of the feared Yorkville Goonies gang, some 65 young men, had been killed. In apartments, street corners, telephone booths and in their cars, each Yorkville Goonie seemed to have simply stopped breathing sometime in the night. Their bodies bore no signs of trauma or struggle, but autopsies revealed that each had died of asphyxiation. Fiber analysis turned up traces of satin on the face of each victim. There was little doubt: the feared gang “Quiet Storm” had struck again.

Quiet Storm was formed sometime in the 1960s, when a group of deaf-mute students from the Murray Abelman School for the Deaf began training in the martial art of ninjutsu, likely to escape persecution by neighborhood toughs. Members adopted a uniform of dark satin garments and light slippers, and communicated solely through a specialized dialect of sign language. They moved stealthily throughout the city, silently decimating competing gangs. As one (rare) survivor reported, he neither saw nor heard anyone approach him, but suddenly felt a satin pillow pressed into his face, preventing him from breathing or calling for help. Over the years the Quiet Storm dispatched hundreds of New York gang members this way, eventually expanding their territory throughout Manhattan. 

Citywide anti-gang policing took its toll in the 1980s, and Quiet Storm’s numbers dwindled. Today, they remain small membership and bit of territory in the Long Island City area of Queens. Older, retired members are known to sport the gang’s satin jackets, as in the photo above.


A return to regularity

It gives our editors great relief to announce that Little-Known Facts About NYC will now resume regular publication, after a lengthy and harrowing hiatus. 

As most of our readers are aware, our headquarters is located in the bricked-over back room of a midtown lunch counter, the owners of which are unaware of the room’s existence. This arrangement suits our modest budget quite well, but ingress and egress are completely dependent on access to the deli’s squalid mop closet. This access was abruptly cut off by a protracted asbestos removal project, completely isolating us from our computer terminal and our reference materials.

Many readers have written to ask why we remain in this location. The answer lies a mere two hundred feet away, through a soot-encrusted ventilation duct: ready and total access to the New York Public Library’s central discard room, where supposedly “discredited” reference materials are kept prior to being destroyed. There our editors can sift through a trove of self-published guidebooks, hand-drawn sewer maps, and illegible Chinatown “encyclo-podias”. These materials contain a wealth of little-known information on the history of New York, and we work tirelessly to digest it for ready reference by the New Yorker “on the go”. 


In 1978, an extremely wealthy Italian-American scrap metal entrepreneur named Lorenzo Fabiano opened the restaurant Pizza Town two blocks from Penn Station. Fabiano had devised an experimental, hydrogen-fired pizza oven which operated at temperature of over 11,000 degrees Fahrenheit. In theory, it could cook thirty pizzas in less than five seconds. Pizza Town was to be the oven’s proving ground, and Fabiano boasted that within five years, every pizza oven in America would be of his new design.
The moment it was switched on, the Lorenzo Oven exploded instantly. The building was levelled and 19 people killed. Fabiano vowed to rebuild, and in 1979, New Pizza Town opened on the same site. Fabiano had redesigned his oven, which worked for several hours before erupting in a massive, uncontrollable fire. Fabiano considered his safety advances a success, as the building was only partially destroyed this time and only three lives were lost. New Pizza Town II exploded the next year, killing only one employee.
Fabiano’s pizza ovens went on to destroy nine more sequentially-numbered restaurants on the same site. “New Pizza Town X”, opened in 2002, was often mistaken for a strip club, so Fabiano reset the number to I in 2007. A blackened metal plaque inside the restaurant serves as a memorial to the 75 people who have died in Pizza Town restaurants to date. 

In 1978, an extremely wealthy Italian-American scrap metal entrepreneur named Lorenzo Fabiano opened the restaurant Pizza Town two blocks from Penn Station. Fabiano had devised an experimental, hydrogen-fired pizza oven which operated at temperature of over 11,000 degrees Fahrenheit. In theory, it could cook thirty pizzas in less than five seconds. Pizza Town was to be the oven’s proving ground, and Fabiano boasted that within five years, every pizza oven in America would be of his new design.

The moment it was switched on, the Lorenzo Oven exploded instantly. The building was levelled and 19 people killed. Fabiano vowed to rebuild, and in 1979, New Pizza Town opened on the same site. Fabiano had redesigned his oven, which worked for several hours before erupting in a massive, uncontrollable fire. Fabiano considered his safety advances a success, as the building was only partially destroyed this time and only three lives were lost. New Pizza Town II exploded the next year, killing only one employee.

Fabiano’s pizza ovens went on to destroy nine more sequentially-numbered restaurants on the same site. “New Pizza Town X”, opened in 2002, was often mistaken for a strip club, so Fabiano reset the number to I in 2007. A blackened metal plaque inside the restaurant serves as a memorial to the 75 people who have died in Pizza Town restaurants to date. 


In the 19th century, indoor plumbing spread throughout New York. There were, however, notable exceptions: “French apartments”, which had a system of open ducts on the outside of the building into which residents would empty their chamberpots, bath water, and any other unwanted liquids. The sewage would collect in a small pit dug alongside the building, which was filled in with sawdust, horse dung, or whatever else was around. By 1930, most had been converted to sanitary indoor plumbing, and the French apartment had all but vanished from New York.
But as World War II threatened, hundreds of expatriate Americans returned home, many to settle in New York. The city’s remaining French apartments were quickly populated with painters, poets and writers nostalgic for fetid, old-fashioned Parisian tin “shit troughs”. Henry Miller wrote that he found the odor of a French apartment “a manly reek” and thought indoor plumbing an “emasculation of the senses”.
Whatever the appeal, a few of New York’s French apartments persisted well into the 1960s, despite irrefutable evidence of their contribution to outbreaks of malaria, cholera and various intestinal parasites.
This one, on Manhattan’s West Side, has been converted to indoor plumbing — though several large depressions in the surrounding soil testify to its past.

In the 19th century, indoor plumbing spread throughout New York. There were, however, notable exceptions: “French apartments”, which had a system of open ducts on the outside of the building into which residents would empty their chamberpots, bath water, and any other unwanted liquids. The sewage would collect in a small pit dug alongside the building, which was filled in with sawdust, horse dung, or whatever else was around. By 1930, most had been converted to sanitary indoor plumbing, and the French apartment had all but vanished from New York.

But as World War II threatened, hundreds of expatriate Americans returned home, many to settle in New York. The city’s remaining French apartments were quickly populated with painters, poets and writers nostalgic for fetid, old-fashioned Parisian tin “shit troughs”. Henry Miller wrote that he found the odor of a French apartment “a manly reek” and thought indoor plumbing an “emasculation of the senses”.

Whatever the appeal, a few of New York’s French apartments persisted well into the 1960s, despite irrefutable evidence of their contribution to outbreaks of malaria, cholera and various intestinal parasites.

This one, on Manhattan’s West Side, has been converted to indoor plumbing — though several large depressions in the surrounding soil testify to its past.


During Pope Benedict XVI’s recent New York visit, it was widely reported that the Pope travelled by “Pope-mobile” through the city, greeting spectators and press. These reports were, of course, completely false.

Since soon after the New York subway’s creation, visiting heads of state, high profile celebrities and religeous leaders have travelled in special armored subway cars. Seen here during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, the train is equipped with high-wattage lights and apertures through which machine guns can be fired if necessary.*

So while one of the Pope’s many look-alikes rode above ground in a sham motorcade on the East Side of Manhattan, the real Benedict XVI was speeding along a downtown IRT express track — on one of his annual trips to withdraw gold from Federal Reserve vaults and to deliver stock market closing averages for the coming year.

* Machine guns have been used only twice: in 1977 when members of the Black Panthers attempted (probably in error) to board the car transporting actress Sophia Loren; and in 1937, when Woody Gutherie and a group of Italian anarchists tried unsuccessfully to bomb FDR’s train.


The summer of 1984 found the city’s nerds poor and disillusioned. Encouraged to pursue computer-science degrees, thousands found themselves unemployable in the city’s depressed economy. The Internet was in its infancy, and programming jobs were still controlled by the Mafia. Local electronics and comic book shops became hotbeds of discontent and radical Nerd Power discourse. As a record heat wave dragged on, nerds grew angrier. The August release of Revenge of the Nerds provided a rallying cry, and the streets quickly boiled over with enraged, bespectacled youth. As fate would have it, the Hell’s Angels and their affiliates held a thousands-strong motorcycle rally in the city at the time. After some initial clashes with the rioting nerds, the two formed an unlikely truce as they fought side-by-side against the police for two full weeks. In the heat of the battle, nerds and bikers hastily welded together underpowered nerd-owned Volkswagens with Harley-Davidsons to form light, powerful assault platforms with which to outmaneuver the police. In the end, they proved no match for National Guard tanks and Jeeps, and all but a few were destroyed as the authorities reasserted control. (In 1987, police put the city into a state of virtual lockdown for the release of Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise — a measure which proved unnecessary. The nerds’ spirits had apparently been broken for good.)

The summer of 1984 found the city’s nerds poor and disillusioned. Encouraged to pursue computer-science degrees, thousands found themselves unemployable in the city’s depressed economy. The Internet was in its infancy, and programming jobs were still controlled by the Mafia. Local electronics and comic book shops became hotbeds of discontent and radical Nerd Power discourse. As a record heat wave dragged on, nerds grew angrier. The August release of Revenge of the Nerds provided a rallying cry, and the streets quickly boiled over with enraged, bespectacled youth.

As fate would have it, the Hell’s Angels and their affiliates held a thousands-strong motorcycle rally in the city at the time. After some initial clashes with the rioting nerds, the two formed an unlikely truce as they fought side-by-side against the police for two full weeks.

In the heat of the battle, nerds and bikers hastily welded together underpowered nerd-owned Volkswagens with Harley-Davidsons to form light, powerful assault platforms with which to outmaneuver the police. In the end, they proved no match for National Guard tanks and Jeeps, and all but a few were destroyed as the authorities reasserted control.

(In 1987, police put the city into a state of virtual lockdown for the release of Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise — a measure which proved unnecessary. The nerds’ spirits had apparently been broken for good.)


In 1965, a vagrant named Turk McDonald managed to insinuate himself into a high-stakes midtown poker game, and walked out with the deed to the genteel Murray Hill bar called Francis’s. McDonald immediately expelled the old clientele, renamed the place Turk’s and brought in a crowd of hard-core alcoholics. For 10 years between 1966 and 1976, Turk’s hosted an annual 72-hour drinking contest known as Turk’s Folly. Over the years, at least 40 contestants were rumored to have died of alcohol poisoning and been secretly interred in Turk’s basement.  In 1977, McDonald — succumbing to a brain tumor — declared that until his death, beer and liquor would be sold for five cents a glass. Drifters, derelicts, and other old, impoverished alcoholics poured in from everwhere. The bar’s overtaxed toilets soon gave out, turning Turk’s into what Post columnist Steve Dunleavy called “a beloved cesspool” — the raw stench of which caused three neighboring apartment buildings to be abandoned by their residents. Turk McDonald’s last wishes stipulated that he was to be entombed in his pub, and on May 12th, 1977 his alcohol-ravaged body was laid out on the bar, and the doors and windows bricked over forever.

In 1965, a vagrant named Turk McDonald managed to insinuate himself into a high-stakes midtown poker game, and walked out with the deed to the genteel Murray Hill bar called Francis’s. McDonald immediately expelled the old clientele, renamed the place Turk’s and brought in a crowd of hard-core alcoholics. For 10 years between 1966 and 1976, Turk’s hosted an annual 72-hour drinking contest known as Turk’s Folly. Over the years, at least 40 contestants were rumored to have died of alcohol poisoning and been secretly interred in Turk’s basement.

In 1977, McDonald — succumbing to a brain tumor — declared that until his death, beer and liquor would be sold for five cents a glass. Drifters, derelicts, and other old, impoverished alcoholics poured in from everwhere. The bar’s overtaxed toilets soon gave out, turning Turk’s into what Post columnist Steve Dunleavy called “a beloved cesspool” — the raw stench of which caused three neighboring apartment buildings to be abandoned by their residents.

Turk McDonald’s last wishes stipulated that he was to be entombed in his pub, and on May 12th, 1977 his alcohol-ravaged body was laid out on the bar, and the doors and windows bricked over forever.


In the early 19th century, beef was not widely available on the east coast — and its relative scarcity made it something of a status symbol. In 1832, a savvy New York milliner named Jacob Krausenfrome began crafting women’s hats from strips of specially dried and seasoned beef. They were an instant hit among wealthy women, and soon  edible shoes, belts and purses began to be crafted from this “fashion beef”. The trend was not to last, however, as westward expansion and railways soon provided ample supplies of meat, and the presige of wearing it quickly wore off. The term “fashion beef”, however, continued to be used in the Garment District for decades after, as a kind of general shorthand to refer to leather accessories or trim. Many businesses, like this frankfurter merchant, also use the name.

In the early 19th century, beef was not widely available on the east coast — and its relative scarcity made it something of a status symbol. In 1832, a savvy New York milliner named Jacob Krausenfrome began crafting women’s hats from strips of specially dried and seasoned beef. They were an instant hit among wealthy women, and soon edible shoes, belts and purses began to be crafted from this “fashion beef”.

The trend was not to last, however, as westward expansion and railways soon provided ample supplies of meat, and the presige of wearing it quickly wore off. The term “fashion beef”, however, continued to be used in the Garment District for decades after, as a kind of general shorthand to refer to leather accessories or trim. Many businesses, like this frankfurter merchant, also use the name.


In 1983, the New York Museum of Folklore began a year-long celebration of  100th anniversary of Huckleberry Finn. Over 4,500 Mark Twain impersonators, drawn mainly from the South, were hired to fan out through the streets of the city reading from Twain’s work. Many of these look-alikes left the city soon after, but 1,000 or more remained and settled permanantly. Under Mayor Koch, an employment program placed a few hundred itinerant Marks Twain as tourist guides and souvenir vendors. But most lacked any marketable skills and, sadly, many fell into poverty and vagrancy. Today, New Yorkers may notice older men with a striking resemblance to Samuel Clemens still shuffling about the city dispensing memorable quotations and anecdotes in exchange for a few coins or part of a sandwich.

In 1983, the New York Museum of Folklore began a year-long celebration of 100th anniversary of Huckleberry Finn. Over 4,500 Mark Twain impersonators, drawn mainly from the South, were hired to fan out through the streets of the city reading from Twain’s work.

Many of these look-alikes left the city soon after, but 1,000 or more remained and settled permanantly. Under Mayor Koch, an employment program placed a few hundred itinerant Marks Twain as tourist guides and souvenir vendors. But most lacked any marketable skills and, sadly, many fell into poverty and vagrancy. Today, New Yorkers may notice older men with a striking resemblance to Samuel Clemens still shuffling about the city dispensing memorable quotations and anecdotes in exchange for a few coins or part of a sandwich.