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Owego couple make historic discovery during home renovation

OWEGO (WBNG) -- An Owego couple were in for a big surprise when they began renovating their historic home in July.

Wendy and Tim Deis purchased the more than one hundred year old Victorian home earlier this summer and quickly got to work restoring it.

They say they decided to remove an old drop ceiling from a section of the kitchen near the back of the house when a bunch of old shoes came tumbling out of a hole. The shoes themselves were also more than a century old.

Wendy Deis says as soon as the shoes were discovered she got online to find out what they might mean. She says she was quickly able to get an explanation.

"The shoes were put in ceilings or doorways or above windows to protect homeowners from witches and demons and evil spirits and in some cases they were also considered fertility charms," she says.

Tioga County Historian Emma Sedore says she looked into the history of the house and came up with a possible explanation for the shoes.

She says that around 1902 architect Claude Bragdon worked on an extensive renovation of the house for then-owner Edwin Stratton that involved a complete redesign of the structure. Sedore discovered that Bragdon was a theosophist and likely would have believed in legends like the one about the shoes in the wall that Deis had been reading about.

"I'm thinking well in 1902 when he was doing this house and moving walls around maybe he talked to Stratton and maybe said 'Wouldn't it be neat to do that and hide shoes in the back of the wall?' so that could have been when these shoes were put in the wall."

Deis says they also found old newspapers, bottles, a mile pitcher and an old box from Sission's Department Store in Binghamton.

She says she and Tim plan to put one pair of shoes back into the ceiling and then donate the others to the local history museum.

Jack Arpey

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