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Why Superstitious Puritans Put Shoes in the Wall

Shoes in the wallAPRIL 24, 2014 TALK

Historian Jan Eakins became interested in devices used by early New Englanders to ward off witches when she was director/curator of Fairbanks House, built in Dedham, Massachusetts in 1641.Puritans believed supernatural forces for good and evil shaped their daily lives.To ward off disaster, they placed old shoes in the walls of their houses and barns, hung a horseshoe over the door, or crossed their fingers – practices that continued long after the Puritan religion faded. (Click on headline) 

In a lecture sponsored by the Old Berwick Historical Society, Jan will discuss the role of magic in early New England, and why shoes were believed to have special power to ward off witches. She will offer tips for determining if a “found” shoe was purposefully placed, and what to do if you are fortunate enough to find one. She will end her talk by examining a pair of children’s shoes found in a house in South Berwick. Bring shoes and stories if you have them!

The program will be held on Thursday, April 24, starting at 7:30 pmat BerwickAcademy's Jeppesen Science Center on Academy Street. The public is invited, and volunteers will serve refreshments. This lecture is one of many bicentennial events to be organized throughout 2014 by the Old Berwick Historical Society and other community organizations.

Jan is an architectural historian who began her study of Maine houses and Maine history when the National Park Service hired her to document the Port Gamble National Historic Landmark, a sawmill town founded on Puget Sound (Washington) in 1853 by four men from East Machias. She and her husband fell in love with Maine as she continued her research on what she calls “New England in the West,” and they now live full-time in Portland. Jan trained guides and conducted tours of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. She collaborated in training Massachusetts teachers to engage students in Colonial history, and recently completed a five-year stint teaching media history and other subjects at Plattsburgh State University in New York. Before turning to history, Jan wrote a college textbook on desktop publishing for McGraw-Hill and was a group manager at Microsoft. Jan is presently writing a book on Mainers in the California Gold Rush.

For additional information about our programs and the Counting House check our websitewww.oldberwick.orgor call (207) 384-0000.

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