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Concealed shoes

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
A pair of shoes were found concealed in the wall of the Lamar, Missouri house that was the birthplace of President Harry S Truman.
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 OKLAHOMA CITY – Well, I am back from a week-long trip along the Kansas and Missouri portions of the 94 degrees line of longitude west. And I have returned to Oklahoma City with some remarkable and unique material for my next book, tentatively titled The Stilwell Enigma.

I won’t give too much away here, but my visit to places like Baxter Springs, Scammon, Lawrence, Stilwell and Stull, Kansas – as well as Kansas City, Peculiar, Nevada, Lamar and Joplin, Missouri – went far to further confirm my initial thoughts about the high degrees of strangeness that currently exist on the 94th meridian (or immediately adjacent to that line and the path of the Kansas City Southern Railroad).

Yes, the "borderland" area of Kansas and Missouri, which played such an important role in the American Civil War, still has its many ghosts - literally - as we discovered during our travels. The soil itself seems to cry out, considering all of the blood that has seeped into it over the many decades. You sense it whether you are in Kansas City's urban landscape or way out in the countryside. While on this trip I read William S. Burroughs' short story "Death Fiend Guerillas" about Confederate soldiers getting off on killing while in Missouri. 

Writes Burroughs (said to be related to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee) in the short story featured in the 1993 Confederacy of the Dead anthology: "Many of them drafted Union troops have never fired a gun in their lives - city boys, never had to kill game or go hungry. They run like rabbits, those who is still in a condition to run." It was a bloodbath, overseen by rebel bastard Bloody Bill Anderson, whose name would come up on a historical plaque in Stilwell, Kansas of all places. Now there is a seriously haunted town!

It was in Lamar, Missouri  (37°29′37″N 94°16′20″W), at the birthplace of the 33rd president, Harry S Truman, that my companion noted a pair of old boots in the very bedroom where the future leader’s mother, Martha Ellen Young Truman, gave birth to Harry (no period after the “S,” we should note) in May 1884.

Inquiring about the boots, the caretaker (working for for the Missouri State Parks system) of the Harry S Truman Birthplace State Historic Site, a friendly guy named Daryl, said that in those days there was a “superstition” related to hiding shoes or boots in the wall of one’s home.

This superstition was a bit of Western European folk magic where people would try to defeat witches and evil spirits by placing artifacts like shoes in the wall to keep harmful entities from entering the home. These are not unlike “witch bottles” which were used to fend off evil spirits, and were featured in a recent cover story in the Fortean Times.

And in a 2012 BBC story, reporting on shoes and clothing found hidden in buildings in Australia, researcher Ian Evans said that concealed shoes, specifically, “are the only piece of clothing that retain their human shaped after being taken off” and that the concealed shoes “act as a defiant, permanent reminder to the spiritual world, of the primacy of human beings.”

And these everyday items of clothing are “magical charms” used to “protect the occupants of the building against evil influences such as demons, ghosts and witches,” as noted in a Wikipedia article. That same article reports that the earliest report of “concealed shoes” in Europe was behind the choirstalls at Winchester Cathedral in England back in 1308.

And the Truman home – purchased in Lamar, Missouri in 1882 by Truman’s parents – was no exception. Now, it is not clear if the Truman family placed the shoes in the wall or they were put there by other homeowners after the Truman’s lived there (they left the Lamar home in 1885 – the same year the events of Back to the Future Pt. III take place – where the plutonium-powered DeLorean time machine is destroyed on a train track and the steam-powered - and safer - locomotive time machine takes its place).

Odd, in that nuclear power would come into its own under Truman's watchful eye, beginning with the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan. J. Robert Oppenheimer tells Truman he feels he has "blood on his hands" after the success of the Manhattan Project and the Trinity Test - and the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki - and Show-Me Stater Truman dismisses Oppie's concerns. Harry was humble, but he could be a hardass, too. 

I have not come across any evidence that Harry S Truman himself was superstitious. But he was a Freemason. And the 33rd president. Truman died in December 1972, just after the final Apollo Moon mission - Apollo 17 - took place. 

Lamar, we should note, was named after Mirabeau B. Lamar, the second president of the Republic of Texas. It was also the site of multiple attacks by rebels during the early years of the American Civil War, a little over two decades before the birth of Harry S Truman.

And, I would be remiss if I failed to note the fact that Wyatt Earp, of Tombstone/Wild West history, was a sheriff there in Barton County, Missouri, before making his mark on American history. Just as a stillborn baby of the Truman family is buried in a Lamar cemetery, so is the wife and unborn child of Wyatt Earp.

History is strong in this area, hugging the Kansas stateline.

We visited Truman's parents farmhouse in Grandview, Missouri. And the library and museum in Independence, of course - the city said to be the site of the original Garden of Eden, by early Mormon settlers. The Mormon theme is strong in this research project, collecting information for The Stilwell Enigma. Stilwell himself was from Rochester, New York, not too far from Joseph Smith's stomping grounds around Palmyra. The "burned-over district," as they called it in the 19th century.

More on this and other aspects of my journey into the mystical Heartland of America will be featured in The Stilwell Enigma. I can't help but mention I sense Arthur E. Stilwell's presence as I conduct this research.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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