Sole Power

By Katie Graham

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This shoe was found in the LeFevre House roof in January 2006 during a post-storm repair. It is very likely that is a concealment shoe once used to protect the home from bad luck. Concealment shoes were hidden in chimneys, window frames or any other openings in which evil spirits could enter a home. It is likely that shoes were the clothing item of choice for this type of folk magic because it is the only article of clothing that will maintain it’s human shape after being taken off and, therefore, would have served as a permanent reminder to the spiritual realm of the dominance of the tangible mortal world.

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The LeFevre House was built in 1799 by Ezekiel Elting, but the tradition of concealing shoes in structures dates back to the 14th century according to the archives at the Northampton Museum in England.1 To avoid being wasteful, the shoes used for concealment were often well worn. The origin of concealment shoes is unclear, but it is speculated that it is a modern rendition of the prehistoric tradition of sacrificing a human and placing their remains in a home’s foundation with the hope that the body will keep the home in place.

One of the more unconventional locations in which a concealment shoe was found was in the Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia. Workmen creating an access tunnel in the southeast pylon came across a child’s shoe that dates back to when the bridge was being constructed in the 1920s. In the United States, concealment shoes are most often found in New England, but have been discovered as far West as Missouri and as far South as Virginia. As far as we know, this is the only concealment shoe found on Historic Huguenot Street.

1 Shoes Concealed in Buildings, Northampton Museums Journal 6, December 1969

Can you guess Rachel’s object for next week?

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One thought on “Sole Power

  1. Interesting article. It is really interesting that practices like this have existed for so long and in so many forms. Recently came across information on the various objects discovered during renovations and upkeep at the Tower of London – in the exterior walls no less.
    So far as guessing what next weeks object is, I am torn. I want to say leather, but the lack of visible grain sways me away – then again it is obviously pigmented and the artwork indicates military encampment. There seems to be a curve to the object, perhaps with a bit of piping. I’d hate to step out on a limb and say button, but more than likely I’d cast a vote toward a leather-cased canteen.
    No matter how wrong I am, I am looking forward to the article next week.

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