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Weird 'shoe tree' in northern Michigan

10:58 AM, May 1, 2008   |    comments
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I was on my way up M-33 for a video column I'm working on in Alpena when, just a couple miles past the town of Fairview north of Mio, I spotted a bizarre collection of shoes tossed in the branches of a tree. There were so many that I had to stop and pull out the camcorder. I tried to find someone nearby who could shed some light on the huge collection of shoes. A guy at a gas station up the road a bit just shrugged and said the shoes started collecting on the tree about five years ago. "A practical joke, I guess," he said. I've seen shoes tossed up on trees and wires before, of course, but never more than a couple pair of them. On this tree, there must be 100 pairs. Maybe more. For whatever it's worth, a Web site called says such shoe trees are common throughout the country. It says many have legends surrounding them. Do a search on Google for "shoe tree" and you'll find lots of them. But how about this one on M-33? If you know the story of the one I shot, post a comment below. Or if you have a picture of another one, and the story behind it, send it to me at Update I've had lots of response on this clip. Many are posting comments. Others have e-mailed me. Here's a sampling of e-mail that came in just in the first two hours of posting this story: Did you see the Giant Chair off of 33 between Mio and Fairview? West side of the road Kevin Suetterlin Delphi I don't know the exact story of the shoe tree, but my friends and I travel up to Mio for a softball tourney ever year. The guys that have a cabin up there took us to the shoe tree once before. I can ask them and maybe they can shed some light. Eric Upchurch Erie, MI The shoes in the tree on M33 have been there way longer than 5 years. I myself have a pair hanging in it. I am originally from Alpena and have been by that tree hundreds of times. Rumor has it that a group of bowlers from Alpena were at a tournament in Traverse City and one of the guys bowled so bad that on the way back he threw his shoes up in that tree. It caught the eye of more than a few people and thus the shoes multiplied. On one such bowling trip my bowling shoes got wet during the tournament and I had to buy a new pair. On the way home (via many bars and several beers) we stopped and I whipped my old pair up into the tree. Thanks for the report - since we moved to the Lansing area 5 years ago I haven't had the occassion to go by the M33 tree so it was fun to see the tradition continues! Nan Higgins Lansing There was a Shoe Tree in Northville on 9 Mile Road West of Beck. This was back when I was in High School at divine child and my best friend lived in Northville, we used to go see after dark, it was a very eerie thing to drive up on. I wonder if someone from the area who knew about the shoe tree, started a new legend up north. cool story, reminds me of my glory days. Luke Bonner Sterling Heights I was a teenager in Livonia in the early '90's and we used to drive out to a shoe tree on 9 Mile Rd. It had quite a lot of shoes, similar to the one in your story. I'm not sure exactly where it was, probably Lyon Township, but it was were 9 Mile turned into a windy dirt road. It was near a home that had garage with a big yellow smiley face. The story I heard was that the shoes were put there by a crazy man who lived in the house with the smiley face garage. They were the shoes of the children he supposedly killed or something. I live in the Chicago area now and I don't have a picture, sorry. Carolyn Barnes Chicago When I was in the Army we had these trees, it signified a guy leaving the Army and not needing his combat boots any longer. Usually one tree was singled out and anyone who was a "short-timer" would throw their boots into the tree. Perhaps the M-33 tree is a signal from our young people who are fleeing our horrible economy and leaving the state? Scott Jacobs Traverse City I do not know the legend of the shoe tree but that is not the orginal shoe tree on US 131 between Kalkaska and Mancelona is the original shoe tree. That tree has been their for at least ten years if not longer at one time someone had put a fake gravestone at the bottom that said rip shoeless jackson Al Leese Charlevoix Hello Mike Another tree is on 131 just North of Kalkaska on the West side of the road. Been there many years. Jerry Torch Lake

By Mike Wendland, Detroit Free Press Video & Technology Columnist

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