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Dog wins art contest, 1974
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The Great Electric Sugar Swindle, 1884
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Jernegan's Gold Accumulator Scam, 1898
Secret Powerline Codes
I've heard in the past that shoes hanging from a powerline means that you can buy drugs in the area. But according to this article, in which a utility worker is interviewed, there are even more secret codes:

"The tennis shoes hanging up there mark drug areas," the worker says. "It's a sign to those who are 'in the know' that drugs are available for sale in that neighborhood." He goes on to explain the alleged meaning of yoyos and deflated helium balloons. "That meaning is a lot darker," he says. "Yoyos mean that sex is for sale in the area, and if a balloon is tangled in with the yoyos, that means both sex and drugs are for sale." He explains that the color of the yoyo indicates the ethnicity of the person offering sex.

So what are you supposed to do if you see one of these codes? Go up to the nearest person and say, 'Hey, I saw the yoyo, if you know what I mean?' Maybe objects hanging from power lines simply mean that kids have thrown things up there to be obnoxious.
Categories: Places
Posted by The Curator on Wed Jun 08, 2005
Comments (59)
Sheesh, the lengths some people will go to invent new urban legends.

I grew up in the Bronx in the 60's and 70's. There were sneakers hanging over powerlines back then too and I never heard anything about it being a "secret signal" of ANY kind. Kids throw things over wires for the same reason dogs lick their private parts--because they can.

Hey, Alex, did you ever decide on what kind of contest you want to have?
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Thu Jun 09, 2005  at  03:33 AM
Hey... That
Posted by El Mai  in  M  on  Thu Jun 09, 2005  at  04:15 AM
My brother's friend threw his shoes over the wire in front of my parents yard. It was a sign. A sign that he was gonna get chewed out by my mom. She was ticked.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Thu Jun 09, 2005  at  06:51 AM
I agree with the webmaster's assesment. Where did the person saying they know these codes get their information?
Posted by Reynard Muldrake  on  Thu Jun 09, 2005  at  07:17 AM
Here's Snopes' assessment:

http://www.snopes.com/crime/gangs/sneakers.htm
Posted by AqueousBoy  on  Thu Jun 09, 2005  at  01:28 PM
I once lost my yoyo to the powerline outside my house, and nine months later, my mom had a baby. What the...
Posted by booch  on  Thu Jun 09, 2005  at  04:56 PM
From AqueousBoy's link, "There's no one definitive answer as to why those shoes hang from telephone wires"

I've always wondered about this. I guess the world will never know:
Posted by Chadds Ford Prefect  on  Thu Jun 09, 2005  at  06:35 PM
Talk about False Authority Fallacy. Just because this yahoo works for the utility company doesn't mean he knows what he's talking about regarding tennis shoe secret signs. It means he knows how to maintain power lines.

I don't think linemen for the county conduct house-to-house drug and prostitution surveys, do they?

This guy's just repeating an urban legend the same way anyone else might.
Posted by Barghest  on  Thu Jun 09, 2005  at  09:27 PM
Kids -- obnoxious??!!! Naw, it's gotta be the code thing...
Posted by hcmomof4  on  Fri Jun 10, 2005  at  06:15 PM
I'm pretty sure shoes hanging on a power line mean that in the area there are juvenile delinquents who throw shoes ... uh, wait, that's what Alex already said. Never mind, then.
Posted by Big Gary C in Dallas  in  Dallas, Texas, USA  on  Fri Jun 10, 2005  at  06:44 PM
if this was true, wouldnt the cops be aware of it? they would probably discourage the throwing of shoes. does anyone know if its illegal anyway?
Posted by Jeremy  on  Sat Jun 11, 2005  at  06:17 PM
Considering how much political clout utility companies have (i.e., they get just about anything they want), I'm sure there's some law against putting things on the power lines (without the company's permission) in most jurisdictions. Besides, throwing stuff up there cold conceivably damage the wires or the poles or cause a short circuit or some other problem, although I don't think tennis shoes pose a very big risk of any of these.

How the police (or anybody else) could enforce such ordinances, and whether or not they're interested in enforcing them, are other questions.
Posted by Big Gary C in Dallas  in  Dallas, Texas, USA  on  Sat Jun 11, 2005  at  07:13 PM
I do think it's true, though, that you can buy drugs in most neighborhoods where you see shoes hanging from the power or phone lines. I also think you can buy drugs in most neighborhoods where you don't see shoes hanging from the lines.

... Hey, maybe that's the real secret code-- if there are no shoes on the power lines, you can buy drugs; if there are no yo-yos, you can buy sex; and if there are no shoes, yo-yos, or balloons on the line, you can buy drugs or sex. Now that you know the truth, you can see just how rampant these problems are!
Posted by Big Gary C in Dallas  in  Dallas, Texas, USA  on  Sat Jun 11, 2005  at  07:18 PM
I'm intrigued... we have power lines in the UK (imagine that), but I've not seen anything hanging off them.
Posted by Boo  in  The Land of the Haggii...  on  Sat Jun 11, 2005  at  07:25 PM
in some reigons of italy, (and probably elswhere, I just say Italy because that's where I heard it) hanging shoes on power lines is a new-years tradition, it's a sort of out with the old, in with the new kind of thing.
Posted by mormagli  on  Sun Jun 12, 2005  at  02:35 AM
For years, my brother would go to parts of NYC to buy reefer from the Jamaicans, who operated small convenience or music stores as a front for their operations... although they had some Look The Other Way cooperation from Johnny Law, they still had to move around a bit, mainly during election periods...You could identify the new storefront location by looking for the placement of a pack of Kool and a pack of Marlboro cigarettes in the window...some even named the new joint (pun intended) "K and M Records", or whatever... "K" being Coccaine, and "M" being the Chiba-chiba... true story
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Sun Jun 12, 2005  at  10:54 AM
Actually, an unconfirmed but really persistant rumor among us NYC locals is that they are a Santeria thing. (Or started as a Santeria thing that was imitated by kids who started throwing their shoes up there as well.)
Santeria is a type of religion that actually contains elements of 'voodoo'(spells) & Christianity that orginated in in Africa. It's practiced by certain African and Hispanic immigrant groups living in the greater NYC area, but especially in areas of Harlem, the Bronx, and the Lower East Side, where these ethnic groups are most prevelant. I live on the LES in NYC and can see sneakers dangling as I write, and have seen them for years.
LOTS of locals like to say that the sneakers have been used in spells by the Santeria priest/priestess. I imagine that the intent of the so-called spell could be anything from wanting a child or a person to 'aim high, or succeed' or wanting a person to 'trip up' or to fail.
I'm not saying that I believe this or not. I have just heard that "it's a Santeria thing" many many times over the years. Just thought it was an interesting perspective to add.
Posted by Electra  on  Sun Jun 12, 2005  at  12:29 PM
When I was in NYC a couple of years ago I saw a hula hoop hanging from a streetlamp. If shoes are drugs and sex is yo-yos what in god's name do you suppose the house with the hula hoop was selling??
Posted by sombrero11  in  Cleveland, OH  on  Sun Jun 12, 2005  at  01:03 PM
maybe it was fat people sex
Posted by Jeremy  on  Sun Jun 12, 2005  at  02:36 PM
I work with teens in an area called duplex city located within Bradenton. Many of those teens have told me that regular sneakers mean drugs can be bought on that street, and high tops mean that one of the houses on that street has a prostitute in them. However, they said there was really no way to pin down exactly which houses were which.
Posted by Jim  in  Bradenton, FL  on  Sun Jun 12, 2005  at  04:05 PM
What does it mean if you see some cheese strung up on a power pole?

I'm serious. Going for a drive yesterday someone had put two pieces of what looked like cheese on the ends of a string and chucked it up there. It was hanging off those little metal step things that guys climb up to fix the stuff at the top of the pole.
Posted by Soldant  in  Australia  on  Sun Jun 12, 2005  at  09:17 PM
Cheese on strings means that someone's idea of a better mousetrap has gone awry.
Posted by hcmomof4  on  Mon Jun 13, 2005  at  01:09 AM
As I remember it, many catholic schools required dress shoes worn to class and all students had to keep a pair of athletic shoes (gym shoes) for gym class, by the end of the school year, the kids would out grow the shoes and on their way home on the last day of the school year would tie them together and throw them ober the power lines. Some power lines seemed to the special territory of certain schools or classes.
Posted by Jay  in  Detroit  on  Tue Jun 14, 2005  at  01:02 PM
"objects hanging from power lines simply mean that kids have thrown things up there to be obnoxious."

But accepting that would require creating a mental space that allows for the possibility that some things in the world just don't really mean much of anything--and obviously, it's a slippery slope from there to some completely chaotic, absolutely relativistic world where 1+1=3 and the pope is secretly a satanist.
Posted by all-seeing eye dog  in  florida  on  Tue Jun 14, 2005  at  02:07 PM
In the Army soldiers threw their boots over the wires when they ETS's (left the service).
Posted by Mike  in  Buffalo, NY  on  Tue Jun 14, 2005  at  02:15 PM
Does this site ever update anymore?
Posted by raoulduke  on  Tue Jun 14, 2005  at  05:14 PM
Yes. Yes it does.
Posted by Boo  in  The Land of the Haggii...  on  Tue Jun 14, 2005  at  05:17 PM
God forbid Alex takes a few days off. Maybe he's out there trying to corroborate the shoe story!
Posted by Silentz  in  general  on  Tue Jun 14, 2005  at  08:29 PM
Or maybe, just maybe, he's been busy writing a book, like he's been saying all over the site. shut eye
Posted by Winona  in  USA  on  Wed Jun 15, 2005  at  02:11 AM
naa the big drug and prostitution crime rings of america took him out.... he knew too much about the shoes...
Posted by joeodd  on  Wed Jun 15, 2005  at  04:40 AM
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