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Modern Mysteries

Shoes were hidden in walls to ward off witches

By T.K. Randall
December 10, 2017 · Comment icon 15 comments

People were a lot more superstitious in the past. Image Credit: sxc.hu
A growing number of old shoes have been discovered concealed inside the walls of British homes.
The peculiar practice, which was thought to have been carried out by superstitious builders and homeowners, was intended to help protect the buildings from evil spirits.

One such example was discovered by Laura Potts - a homeowner who was undertaking renovation work at her Georgian home near Norwich when she came across a woman's shoe in the wall.

According to History professor Malcolm Gaskill, it had probably been left there to deter 'witches'.
"In the early modern period, people also believed in demons, ghosts, elves, goblins - but witches were the most frightening because they were in human form," he said.

Fear of these supernatural beings was rampant throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

"One theory proposes that the shoes were intended to act as lures for witches, spirits, and other supernatural threats," said historian Ceri Houlbrook from the University of Hertfordshire.

"The theory is that the evil force believes the shoe to be the person, attacks the shoe instead, and becomes trapped inside it."

Source: BBC News | Comments (15)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #6 Posted by Eldorado 6 years ago
i found a pair of old boots. I cleaned them up and they now work for the Dept of Work and Pensions.
Comment icon #7 Posted by freetoroam 6 years ago
Not according to the article: the idea was to ward off witches. People were very superstitious back then, and believing in demons, ghosts, elves, goblins and witches allowed for much of it. Today people are more knowledgable and thanks to science and much research, explanations are given. There are still some who still believe in demons etc. But you do not have to believe in religion or be naive to be superstitious, but it helps.
Comment icon #8 Posted by _KB_ 6 years ago
well yeah but if they do that then their technically casting a spell making them witches... besides what's wrong with being a little superstitious, i mean I've seen some strange sh*d and you can only handle so much of it before you start thinking maybe theres something to this magic stuff
Comment icon #9 Posted by Piney 6 years ago
They find shoes sometimes while revamping houses that were part of John Fenwick's Colony in Salem, New Jersey but this aspect was never mentioned by historians around here.
Comment icon #10 Posted by BorizBadinov 6 years ago
I had never heard of this with shoes but I can understand the concept. A personal item would have stronger effect to a believer. Wards or protection symbols used to decorate barns to create a hex free zone and bring good luck, similar concept. Fighting fire with fire. That little muddy shoe conjures an image of a small child playing out in the mud and catching a fever. Perhaps placed by a concerned parent out of options to cure a sickness thought to be witchcraft perhaps. The stories we will never know. Pretty fascinating thanks for sharing it.
Comment icon #11 Posted by paperdyer 6 years ago
The spell, or non-spell must have worked.  Didn't all the witches move to New England?
Comment icon #12 Posted by Piney 6 years ago
No but they use to persecute us Quakers as witches in New England.
Comment icon #13 Posted by Herr Falukorv 6 years ago
An old co-worker were renovating his sommer cottage 4-5 years ago and were tearing down an inner wall. Inside he and his wife found an old arabic dagger and a little box with old coins in gold. The auction house they visited said the things very worth some 35.000 euro.. Thats a nice bonus to the holiday fund.
Comment icon #14 Posted by Calibeliever 6 years ago
The way I understood it, the shoes (or other personal effects of the dead) were placed in the walls to bind the deceased owner's presence to the house. That spirit acted as a guardian and protected the home from other harmful spirits.  Source: Anecdotal, remembered from a conversation many, many years ago. 
Comment icon #15 Posted by Myles 6 years ago
I've remolded the house over the years,  I always put a few things in the wall for someone to come across at some point.    Nothing of real value though.   Maybe a newspaper.   Last time it was an MP3 player we no longer used.   I love when I find stuff like that, so I just want to pass it on.


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