The scene at Shoe Corner [photo by Paul Benninghoff]


Storytellers find a muse in the Shoe Corner

The deliveries happen overnight under the cover of darkness. Sometimes it's a single shoe. Sometimes they come in pairs. There’s a report clown shoes made an appearance at the corner.

Old and new, footwear keeps materializing at the corner of 109th and Calumet avenues in Hanover Township. This pocket of land, which many in the region affectionately refer to as the Shoe Corner, serves as some sort of esoteric tribute. But no witnesses have come forward to shed light on this 50-year-old cold case.

Once it was just farmland. Now the landscape is studded with new construction, and the legend of the Shoe Corner continues.

No one knows for sure who started the tradition. One tale has it that a destitute man begged for clothes and shoes at that corner, and the shoes kept coming even after he abandoned his post.

Another account unfolds this way: Someone dropped a woman's boot at the corner. A man’s shoe later accompanied the boot. Then children’s shoes came along to fill out the nuclear family of footwear.

However the story truly goes, and there are many, the Shoe Corner has earned its spot in the annals of region folklore. People from as far as Valparaiso reportedly know about the Shoe Corner.

To Beth Mierzwa, of Crete, the Shoe Corner was an inspiration.

In conjunction with the Soles4Souls organization, which collects shoes for the needy, Mierzwa began a shoe drive to benefit the victims of January's devastating earthquake in Haiti. Rather than being discarded, the shoes were donated to the Protestant Reformed Christian School nearby.

It's a marvel how an otherwise unremarkable place can amass a life story of its own. Similar to the Isle of Misfit Toys in the "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" classic from the '60s, the Shoe Corner continues to be the foster home for unwanted shoes.

If you are lost while driving on Lake County’s back roads, and you come across an intersection where shoes populate the side of the road and hang from wires, check out the street signs. You could be in the presence of a legend.