What’s with shoes in the walls anyway?

There was an old woman

Who lived in a shoe

She had so many children

She didn’t know what to do

She gave them some broth without any bread

Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

Anyone else wonder WTF we were all thinking singing these “childrens songs?” This lady’s whipping her kids and sh*t!

Alas,

It was common practice in the 18th and early 19th centuries – and some say since the middle ages –  to place a worn shoe in the wall of your home, usually while it was being built. Those of us doing renovations will find them under floorboards, in ceilings and walls. Many time they are near windows, doors and chimneys. Access points essentially. Some have even been found IN foundations.

This is so prevalent that Northampton Museum in Northampton, England actually has a registry that documents where shoes were found!  1900 recorded so far!

There are a couple of theories as to WHY people would do such a thing. One is fertility. As the child’s nursery rhyme suggests, there was a connection between shoes and fertility. In fact it was once tradition to throw shoes at the bride and groom (gently please! And keep those Christian Louboutin spikes on your feet lest you poke someone’s eye out!) From shoe throwing, this tradition evolved to tying shoes to the back of the bride and groom’s getaway car. Somehow we later evolved that to beer cans but that’s ‘Merica folks!

A more popularly held belief, based primarily on the very prevalence of the practice across all different types of building structures is something far more sinister and dark…

Dum dum dum….

The shoe was meant to ward off evil spirits.

The found shoe is almost always singular and well worn. It was believed that shoes took on the shape and characteristics – including scent of it’s owner. As evil spirits tried to enter the house to do the things evil spirits (or witches!) do, they would be distracted by the shoe and drawn to it instead. The spirit or witch would get trapped in the shoe in the wall and the family would be saved!

Another theory surmised that shoes were just considered good luck. I tend to like the ward off evil spirits theory the best and boy was I SO happy when the contractor at the Chester Connecticut house found one! It was in the ceiling above the kitchen/dining room area – or AKA perhaps under the floor of the attic.

I’ll be figuring out a creative way to honor the shoe – perhaps it should be put in a shadow box and hung on the wall. If you have any suggestions, post them below!

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