Witches and Concealed Shoes

Mun Staff w artifacts 1
Municipal employees display some artifacts found under the Library.

With Halloween coming closer, I recall a time several years ago when Municipal employees were upgrading the electrical wiring here in the Library and they found two old shoes in the crawlspace under the east section of the building. We sent them to experts at Parks Canada, who dated one from the early 1800s and one from Victorian times. One must have been put there when the house was built and another around the time Zoé bought the property for use as her summer cottage.


The custom of putting concealed shoes in buildings, all but gone now, was widespread in earlier times in Europe, North America and Australia. Archaeologist Brian Hoggard has observed that the locations in which these shoes are found suggest that at least some were concealed as magical charms to protect the occupants of the building against evil influences such as demons, ghosts, witches, and familiars.


Witches were believed to be attracted by the human scent of a shoe, and after entering one found themselves trapped, as they are unable to reverse. It has been suggested that an unofficial 14th-century English saint, John Schorne, may have been the source of the belief that shoes had the power to protect against evil. Schorne was said to have succeeded in trapping the Devil in a boot, a legend that may have its origin in a more ancient folk belief, which the Church was attempting to convert into an “approved Christian rite”.


Not long after the shoes were back in the Library and stored in a cupboard, we began to hear a loud knocking sound, at different times, coming from the crawlspace under the house. We had never heard the sound before and could not figure out what could be making it. I then recalled the time when I found a baby shoe in the wall of my parent’s house when I was doing some renovations for them. When I showed it to my mother she went white and told me to immediately put it back where I had found it, with no explanation.


Perhaps the knocking was some sort of warning or request? I got the shoes and tossed them back into the crawlspace where they had come from. We never heard that knocking again.

Old shoes 1
The old shoes, Victorian on the left and the one from an earlier era.

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