Every state has places of interest that are, well, strange. Indiana is no exception. In fact, Indiana seems to have an exceptional amount of odd roadside attractions - everything from a giant leg sundial at the Sun Aura Nudist Resort, to an oversized peach in Bruceville, and on to the largest ball of paint in the world in Alexandria. Indiana is no stranger to strange. The good folks at Visit Indiana have even compiled an epic list for those seeking a bit of Hoosier weirdness. Another unusual spot is a "shoe tree" in Eastern Indiana.
I stumbled upon this unusual roadside attraction in my corner of Indiana - the Albany Shoe Tree. Or to put it more accurately, the Albany Shoe Trees! If you are like me and unfamiliar, this peculiar sylvan sneaker wonder consists of a small grove of trees in the middle of nowhere, festooned with hundreds of pairs of shoes, tossed up haphazardly among the branches.
There’s not much information on the history of the Albany Shoe Trees, though the available origin story seems to originate from a mix of folklore and plan, old teenage mischief. RoadSideAmerica offers little, as does Atlas Obscura.
The Indy Star wrote about this arboreal wonder some years ago, but determined that “even locals can’t agree on the legend of the Albany shoe tree, but every version of the story is spooky.” Orange Bean Indiana seems to have the most comprehensive 'analysis' of the Albany Shoe Trees, suggesting that "Most believe the tradition of hanging pairs of shoes strung together on an old tree began with a few of the town's teenagers. A few pairs of shoes grew into hundreds-some paired, many not paired."
According to the same article, the original tree was accidentally knocked over, but locals 'rebuilt' the Shoe Tree in the nearby branches of adjacent timber, even spreading the practice into several trees.
Shoe tossing isn’t really a novel concept. Nary a day goes by in any college town where someone, somewhere, isn't tossing a pair of Chuck Taylors into the power lines, or up into some branches of a mighty oak. Yet, Albany's embrace of their unique footwear attraction, plus the fact that it was remade, makes it the sole Shoe Tree in east-central Indiana.
Oddly, there are others, such as the Milltown Shoe Tree in southern Indiana and a quirky four-way stop, known as the Hanover Township Shoe Corner. The Shoe Corner lies just south of Kreitzburg, Indiana where people (aliens?) toss their footwear into the intersection. There's even a sport in rural England called 'Wellie Wanging' where shoes are thrown competitively. Go figure.
Albany is also a lovely town to visit, resting about halfway between Muncie and Portland. The Albany Shoe Trees are just south of the town, along County Road 750 East: