Can We Climb the Torch? The Answer Is Totally Unexpected

“I actually climbed the torch.”
“I climbed it to the torch when I was a kid.”
“I remember it well!”

Here are the questions: are they lying? Can we climb the torch? Is it true?
I don’t think they are lying. I am pretty sure they are not. What I think is that they altered the truth a little bit. All in total, absolute good faith. Let’s see why. And to do this, I have to tell you a story that actually happened to me. So it’s first hand! That will help us understand what is happening.

I once had a discussion with a friend about the final scene of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. He clearly remembered the man who caused James Stewart’s desperation, up to trying to kill himself, released him of all his financial burden in the final scene of the movie. He was so positive about it he ended up convincing all the people in the room.
But not me!

Unfortunately for him, I had happened to have seen the movie a couple of months before. Somehow I managed to find that scene online and… he had this horrendous surprise.


There are actually lots of reasons why his memory failed. And this is serious and interesting at the same time. First of all, it’s a Christmas movie. And, of course, at Christmas everybody is good. Second, and this is particularly true in the last twenty years, the bad man’s name is actually… Henry Potter, which is so, so, so close to Harry Potter, the teenage wizard who deceives the evil Voldemort. See how memories can trick you, even if you are in total good faith? I presume this is what actually happened in these people’s heads.

So, in the End, Can We Climb the Torch?

Can we climb the torch? Statue of Liberty, New York, July 2020. I took this picture.
Can we climb the torch? The Statue of Liberty, July 20, 2020. My picture.

Getting back to: can we climb the torch? There’s no doubt accessing the Statue of Liberty used to be much easier than how it is today, and there’s no doubt climbing the torch was no exception. If such access was open, in the first place! But you know what? There’s more than that, actually a series of things and reasons why you can’t climb the torch that most people don’t know.

And I’m pretty sure that, if they knew, those people would likely begin to doubt their own memories. And it’s not because they are hallucinating or because they’re getting crazy. Sometimes, memory plays tricks. You’ve just heard one example. And the Statue of Liberty is too much a powerful figure for you to resist her charming spell!

Are People Crazy?

Let’s start with some actual memories published on the Internet.

Read the whole story here.

Here’s a story. Reading this memory, what jumps straight to my eyes is that these memories date back to a long, long time ago, when people still used ships from Europe to the United States. And considering the relationship between Germany and the US, it surely was in the early 1950s or the late 1940s. Seventy years ago. No doubt there are people who have a crystal clear memory. It is also true such memory tends to be clearer when related to strong emotional facts, mostly of a traumatic nature. Happy memories are often likely to be excessively embellished, which is great for our self-esteem, but a little useful for the purpose of this research. Let’s get into details. Last but not least, the use of tenses makes me think the testimony was a little stripped down. But I may be wrong on this.

I reached the Top Via a Spiral Staircase

Usually, when you hear or read these stories, a spiral staircase running along the body of the Statue of Liberty is often mentioned. What I actually almost never found was the mention of the small door leading to the balcony on the torch. And that’s a fact, and undisputed one. All you have to do is going to the Museum of the Statue of Liberty and take a look at the original torch, which was replaced in the mid-’80s. You will see only an 8-year old child could pass from that door in a standing position. And unless these people were 8 when they did climb the torch, I begin to doubt their memories. I also begin to doubt how responsible their chaperons were, but that’s another story…

These people are partially right. The spiral staircase they refer to actually exists. But it simply does not lead to the torch. It leads to the Crown. Last but not least, the layout of the stairway changed through time.

So, How Can We Climb The Torch? Which Way Do We Have To Go?

The staircase is the way to the Crown. Someway along that ascendance, not so far away from the summit, you will find the access to the Torch, via a separate way. The way to the Torch is not a spiral staircase. It is indeed a ladder. It is also easy to understand why. All you have to do is connecting the dots. According to the statistics published by the National Park Service, the width of the right arm measures 12 feet (3.66 m).

A spiral staircase doesn’t fit in such a small space, especially because Gustave Eiffel’s frame, which allows the statue to stand, takes most of such space. That’s the reason why there is a ladder. Such a ladder is more than 40 feet high. Here’s an image taken from the web. I tried to find the credits but was unsuccessful, so if you know, please leave a comment.

Ladder leading to the torch of the Statue of Liberty.
It’s worth, but far from comfortable

So, whoever says they accessed the torch through a spiral staircase has false memories. What is really interesting is that the memory of the stairs seems to come out only when the discussion starts to kick in. Evidently, under stress, people start to provide further proof to prove their point. And memory is questionable under stress.

The way to climb the torch. My picture
The way to the torch. The ladder starts around the elbow. My own picture.

The Black Tom Explosion

There’s another decisive argument, right before I tell you what I absolutely know first hand. Keep reading!

Somewhere you must have read it is no longer possible to climb the torch since 1916, which automatically makes all these people pathological liars. But what specifically happened in 1916, which led to the closing of the torch?

The event is known as The Black Tom explosion. On July 30, 1916, around 3 AM, an explosion in Black Tom Island, along the New Jersey Coast, caused great damages. Black Tom Island was a small island, now attached to the coast, was home to the main warehouse of weapons and ammunition for the US army. Here’s some articles taken from the local press the day after the accident occurred.

Extracts from The New York Times edition of July 31, 1016

The explosion on Black Tom Island was so violent bullets were scattered all around the New York Harbor, with houses as far as the Times Square area getting their windows broken by random flying bullets.

The Statue of Liberty herself bears the scars from that day. As you can see from this picture, which I took on a very cloudy day, you can see right up above her sleeve there is something that looks like a black scar. That’s were the things sent up to the sky from Black Tom actually hit the Statue, causing damages for over 100,000 dollars.

The scars the Statue of Liberty still bears. My picture.

The Black Tom incident put the entire structure in jeopardy. Some sources report when people intervened to repair such damages on the arm, they found out the whole structure had been assembled 18 inches off-center. Therefore, repairing could have been more dangerous than leaving it like that, evidently closing the access to the torch to prevent more damages.
So many people report you can’t climb the torch since 1916.

Therefore, ALL those people saying they did ti, so we can climb the torch are all liars. Or, in the best prediction, they are hallucinating.
Well, it’s not that simple!

Spiral Staircase, Ladder… So, How Can We Climb the Torch?

We can say without fear of being wrong the access to the torch has been severely limited since the Black Tom incident. But a few of these people are actually right. One day I had a man insisting he had been there (you know I am a tour guide, don’t you?). At first, I thought he was another one embellishing the truth. But he told me something that put the whole thing in a different perspective. He talked about how difficult it was to access the balcony, given the small size of the door.

When I sent people for a break, I went to the information center and asked if somebody knew anything about this story. I was lucky enough to find someone who had been there a long time. What she told me is this: when charlie DeLeo, the first Keeper of the Flame, was in service, on certain days, when conditions were favorable, the weather was fine, there were not too many people and mostly, you were lucky to be at the right place at the right time, you could have had access to the torch. Mind you, those were only a few exceptions.

My conclusion is that it is very likely these people heard the story, and with time they remembered it as if they actually climbed the torch. The Henry Potter example first perfectly this conclusion, don’t you think?

The Final Truth. My First-Hand Experience at the Statue of Liberty

In the end, can we climb the torch? Here comes the first hand experience.

Louis and me

See this picture? Here you see two men. One is a charismatic figure, a man devoted to his job, a figure who deserves the world. The other one is me!
The man you see in this picture replaced Charlie DeLeo in 1997. I know Louis very well, one day I will write an article about him. Yesterday, October 15, I asked him if Charlie DeLeo had granted a few people access to the torch. He said it is true. 

Here’s the Final Answer

No, you can’t climb the torch of the Statue of Liberty. Neither from a spiral staircase nor from a ladder.

Most of the people who said they did have false memories. Always ask them to describe their ascent. If they say they went up a spiral staircase, make sure they mean “all the way through the torch.” If this is what they mean, they are wrong. 

But there are people who actually climbed that ladder. At least one man does it on a very regular basis!

And someday I’ll be there, too!

UPDATE: You may also like this other article about the Statue of Liberty.

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