Shoes Concealed in Buildings

In the 1950s, the Northampton Museum (home of the "World Famous Shoe Collection) began to receive reports of shoes that had been found hidden in buildings. The shoes, usually discovered by people doing renovations or repairs, were concealed under floors, inside walls, in chimneys, above ceilings, etc.

Eventually the Museum received enough of these reports that they realized the concealment of the shoes wasn't an accident, but rather that hiding shoes inside a building was an ancient, deliberate practice. Ever since then, the Museum has kept a record of all concealed shoe finds (the "Concealed Shoe Index"). As of 2012, the index had over 1900 reports of shoe concealment from all over the world (but mostly Europe and North America).

image source: wikipedia

The Museum curators aren't entirely sure why people hide shoes inside buildings, but the leading theory is that it's a form of protection superstition, done to ward off forms of evil such as witches, bad luck, or the plague.

Shoe historian June Swann, former keeper of the Northamton Shoe collection, notes in a 1996 article about concealed shoes that there are all kinds of weird superstitions associated with shoes:

there is much recorded on other shoe superstitions, which are rife wherever shoes are traditionally worn. They are symbols of authority, as in the Old Testament. They are linked with fertility: we still tie them on the back of wedding cars. And they are generally associated with good luck (witness all the holiday souvenirs in the shape of shoes). But most of all they stand in for the person: it has been a common practice from at least the sixteenth century to at least 1966 to throw an old shoe after people ‘for luck’.

Why the shoe? It is the only garment we wear which retains the shape, the personality, the essence of the wearer.

Just recently, maintenance workers at Cambridge University found a 300-year-old shoe hidden inside a wall.

And earlier this year, a Michigan family discovered 53 pairs of shoes behind a wall in their home — concealed there since the 1970s. Though in that case, it was theorized that the hidden shoes weren't warding off bad luck, but instead were evidence that a previous owner of the home had a shoe fetish.

     Posted By: Alex - Wed Aug 24, 2016
     Category: Rituals and Superstitions | Shoes

"It is the only garment we wear which retains the shape, the personality, the essence of the wearer." She, obviously, doesn't wear her underdrawers long enough to reap the full experience available.
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 08/24/16 at 10:05 AM
This strikes me as being perfectly normal.

I don't know why, but I associate it with always having a home. Someone might throw out all your clothes and other personal belongings, but there would always be that one item remaining untouched during times of family discord. Shoes are ideal for this because they're permanent; at the time, clothing styles changed regularly, but good shoes were too expensive to replace frequently. And old shoes are comfortable, probably the strongest 'friendship' a person has with their clothing.

The chimney/fireplace/hearth was the center of the house, so putting a shoe there means the person will never truly leave the heart of the home.
Posted by Phideaux on 08/24/16 at 10:59 AM
I like the concept some Arab cultures have about showing the bottom of ones shoe as an insult. Remember scenes of people slapping the head of the broken statue of Saddam Huessein with their shoes?
Posted by KDP on 08/24/16 at 11:52 AM
Raise a few dogs thru their teething stage and see if your shoes retain their shape, personality, and essence. A Shepherd / St. Bernard mix works well, but I expect that any large breed will do.
Posted by Virtual on 08/24/16 at 01:38 PM
We have adopted something similar, every time we moved. We'd leave a penny or nickel or dime, in each room, hiding somewhere, as a tribute to the time spent, paying back the house, or apartment, in our way. Nothing like getting to a new place, moving in, and finding a little change to welcome you!
Posted by Greg on 08/24/16 at 07:03 PM
"Shoe historian June Swann"

Now there's a thrilling profession. Pity the child who dreams of becoming a shoe historian.
Posted by A Nonny Mouse on 08/25/16 at 12:21 PM
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