Shoes Hidden in Old Houses to Ward off Evil Spirits…

From our Inquiries from Readers page (received today)

Early 19th c Shoe (Concealment Piece)

Chris M. from Indiana writes:

I am a graduate student at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. As part of my Master’s thesis, I am researching objects deliberately concealed in buildings for good luck. I am particularly interested in the practice of concealing old shoes or boots in buildings, which seems to have been brought to the U.S. from Great Britain.

It is my understanding that a shoe was found in a house in Rocky  Hill, CT. I am trying to find out more about the shoe, where exactly it was found in the building, when it might have been concealed and by whom. If you know anything about this object or any other unusual objects found in the walls, ceilings, floors, or chimneys of other historic buildings in the area (horseshoes, old garments, bottles with unusual contents, strange animal remains, iron tools, coins, etc.), I would greatly appreciate it if you would contact me or forward my email to someone who may be able to help.

I look forward to your reply.

We replied:

“You are in luck as I was one of the persons finding the old shoe hidden as a “concealment piece” (as such things were then known) in the Rocky Hill home where I lived until ten years ago. The shoe was found some 15 years or so ago and after examining, photographing, and exhibiting it to society members we replaced the shoe behind the panelling next the hall fireplace where we found it. (see attached photo 18C Parlor…) The room in the photograph is actually what is known as the hall and the shoe was found behind the panelling near the upper left side of the hearth. The date of the house is c 1750; here is a view from 2006.
The shoe may be viewed in this composite view made in 2009. Other, more detailed views (you can enlarge the images for greater detail) are here,here,and here. If you learned about this shoe from these photos on the web then  you may already have seen them. The shoe is made of leather and is fastened together with wooden pegs.”
Her followup message:

…would it be possible to use the photos of the shoe and house in my thesis? If so, how would you like me to credit them?

“I also wanted to let you know that I sent the photos of the shoe to the cobbler at Colonial Williamsburg and he identified the shoe as a “man’s or boy’s, 1820s-40ish, round toed w/pegged repairs. Waxed-calf with “dog-leg” side seam.” Which is interesting because it post-dates the house, suggesting the shoe was concealed at a later date, perhaps during an episode of repair or remodeling.”

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3 Responses to “Shoes Hidden in Old Houses to Ward off Evil Spirits…”

  1. steadyjohn Says:

    Apparently other objects, even cats, have been concealed in houses being built to bring good luck or to ward off evil spirits. According to one source in the U.K. this was known from early times as “house magic”. Here is a photo of one such mummified cat from a Flickr member:

    house magic cat 4

  2. Dr J Howarth Says:

    My house in Buckinghamshire, which dates back at least 500 years, has an old pair of shoes which was found concealed in a wall c. 30 years ago when building work was done. We also have 13 Tudor chimneys and it has been suggested that this might have created a legend of a coven of witches. We have no evidence of any such activity and I do not know if 13 chimneys was considered indicative of witches.

  3. steadyjohn Says:

    Very interesting comment; thanks for sharing!

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