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Are These Three Toilet Urban Legends True?

April 26, 2017

Truth: There is a right way to hang the toilet paper. As for these other stories about bathrooms that seem too good to be true…
Toilet Urban Legends

Myth 1:

In February 1983, the New York City sewer system crashed. Reason: It was the night of the last episode of M*A*S*H, at the time, the most watched program in TV history. So many people in densely populated Manhattan waited until after the show was over to use the bathroom, and millions of people wound up flushing at the same time, crippling the city’s water disposal system.

Truth 1:

It’s actually true…mostly. There are actual news reports from the time period reporting on the sudden, crushing burden faced by the New York sewer system the night of the M*A*S*H finale. According to a spokesman for the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, the rate of water flow in the two tunnels serving the city’s toilets jumped by 150 million gallons each just after 11 p.m., three minutes after M*A*S*H ended. The math works out to about a million New Yorkers all using their toilets at the same time. The only part of the story that’s persisted for 30-plus years that’s not true is the part about how the overuse crashed the water system.

Myth 2:

There was a national—and unnecessary—toilet paper shortage in the ’70s triggered by a joke made by Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show.

Truth 2:

It’s all true. Carson was so popular and influential that millions of people took what he said seriously…even if he was a comedian. Here’s what happened: In December 1973, congressman Harold Froehlich issued a press release warning about a potential toilet paper shortage in the future, after some of his Wisconsin constituents from a paper company told him that pulp paper production was down. Media reports emphasized the “toilet paper shortage,” which made their way to Carson. He made some throwaway comments about it (toilet paper is always funny), and the damage was done. Across the country, hundreds of stores were relieved of their stock of toilet paper by paranoid customers, with some stores resorting to limits on how many packages customers could by. A few weeks later, Carson later apologized on air over the misrepresentation…and TP production and sales levels soon returned to normal.

Myth 3:

President-elect Donald Trump has a solid gold toilet in his Trump Tower penthouse.

Truth 3:

The toilet is real, but the report of who owns it is wrong. While Trump is well known for his taste in the finer things, he doesn’t own a golden toilet, as far as we know. The story of the gold toilet that spread across the Internet in 2016 included a unit that was once in a bathroom in the Swisshorn Gold Palace, a jewelry shop in Hong Kong. It was installed at the behest of the proprietor, Lam Sai-wing.

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