Upstate Urban Legend: Are Sneakers Hung on Wires a Secret Gang Code?
A few months ago, while searching for a parking spot near Washington Park in Albany, I approached a light and it was red. Naturally, I came to a stop and looked up while waiting for it to change colors. In doing so, I noticed a pair of sneakers, tied together by the laces had been flung over the wire. I didn't think too much of it. Two days later at the same intersection, I noticed a second pair of sneakers had been tossed up there as well.
They looked like pretty decent sneakers, they weren't all raggedy and worn. This seemed odd to me; in all my years living down in the "center square" part of Albany, I hadn't noticed that it was a "thing." A guy who lives in my building happened to be walking alongside my Jeep. I rolled down my window to say "Hey," and he ( without hesitation) pointed up at the wires.
"Been seeing this a lot down here, Brian," he said. "You know what that means, right?" "Not really," I said. "Google it," he told me.
The light turned green and then he was off and so was I.
I started wondering, "what's happening down here that I need to know about?" I always just assumed this was the work of some bored kids. But the way he told me to "Google it" led me to believe this was something deeper, darker, and more sinister.
I decided to do some searching about "sneakers hanging from wires" and even added "Albany" as a keyword Zero results. So while I can't say for certain what the true meaning is, some of the theories people have come up with over the years are, at the very least, interesting.
So I turned to the website that has been debunking rumors, old wives tales, urban legends, and Fox News for years, good old Snopes.com.
According to Snopes, here are the 6 most common theories, none of which Snopes will definitely say is the most likely reason.
- Gang members marking their territory or creating a makeshift memorial where someone lost their life.
- Drug dealers alerting others that this is a place to buy.
- Bullies taking them off a kid and then taunting them by tossing the sneakers out of reach.
- Graduating seniors leaving something behind as they take the next step in life.
- Someone losing their virginity
It's crazy because until now, I never really thought this was a big deal, let alone something sinister like gang or drug activity. I just assumed it was the work of bored kids or someone playing a little prank.
I'm not entirely sure it's the work of bullies, gangs or drug lords, but I'm not willing to completely rule it out either. It is Albany, it is Washington Park and even though it is my hometown, certainly stranger things have happened.