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.


Posted on Wed Jun 08, 2005


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  01:33 AM
Hey... That
Posted by El Mai  on  Thu Jun 09, 2005  at  02:15 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  on  Thu Jun 09, 2005  at  04:51 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  05:17 AM
Here's Snopes' assessment:
Posted by AqueousBoy  on  Thu Jun 09, 2005  at  11:28 AM
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  02:56 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  04:35 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  07:27 PM
Kids -- obnoxious??!!! Naw, it's gotta be the code thing...
Posted by hcmomof4  on  Fri Jun 10, 2005  at  04:15 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  on  Fri Jun 10, 2005  at  04:44 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  04:17 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  on  Sat Jun 11, 2005  at  05:13 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  on  Sat Jun 11, 2005  at  05:18 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  on  Sat Jun 11, 2005  at  05:25 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  12:35 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  08:54 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  10:29 AM
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  on  Sun Jun 12, 2005  at  11:03 AM
maybe it was fat people sex
Posted by Jeremy  on  Sun Jun 12, 2005  at  12:36 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  on  Sun Jun 12, 2005  at  02:05 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  on  Sun Jun 12, 2005  at  07:17 PM
Cheese on strings means that someone's idea of a better mousetrap has gone awry.
Posted by hcmomof4  on  Sun Jun 12, 2005  at  11:09 PM
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  on  Tue Jun 14, 2005  at  11:02 AM
"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  on  Tue Jun 14, 2005  at  12:07 PM
In the Army soldiers threw their boots over the wires when they ETS's (left the service).
Posted by Mike  on  Tue Jun 14, 2005  at  12:15 PM
Does this site ever update anymore?
Posted by raoulduke  on  Tue Jun 14, 2005  at  03:14 PM
Yes. Yes it does.
Posted by Boo  on  Tue Jun 14, 2005  at  03:17 PM
God forbid Alex takes a few days off. Maybe he's out there trying to corroborate the shoe story!
Posted by Silentz  on  Tue Jun 14, 2005  at  06:29 PM
Or maybe, just maybe, he's been busy writing a book, like he's been saying all over the site. :shut:
Posted by Winona  on  Wed Jun 15, 2005  at  12:11 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  02:40 AM
Or maybe he's really there, but just not updating, ya know, pulling a hoax of some sort on all of
Posted by Tom  on  Wed Jun 15, 2005  at  03:02 AM
I think this site is a hoax.
Posted by Blackie  on  Wed Jun 15, 2005  at  09:01 PM
I think I'm a hoax.
Posted by Soldant  on  Wed Jun 15, 2005  at  11:22 PM
i think your a hoax too
Posted by joeodd  on  Thu Jun 16, 2005  at  03:14 AM
I know of a pair of dangling trainers (sneakers) in my hometown. They're outside a greengrocers shop. Maybe he hollows out the vegetables and stuffs them full of drugs.

When I was much younger (late eighties/early nineties) it was not uncommon to see a worn out bicycle tyre thrown over a lamp-post. It didn't mean anything other than somebody liked throwing old tyres around....
Posted by Creep Tom  on  Fri Jun 17, 2005  at  03:56 AM
Maybe, sneakers hanging from a power line just means it's a shitty neighborhood.
Posted by Zombie  on  Sat Jun 18, 2005  at  11:50 PM
Thats awesum!
Posted by MeL  on  Sun Jun 19, 2005  at  07:54 PM
I have a pair of rebox hanging outside my door in the alley way. Its a pretty bad neighborehood and I wouldn't doubt drug activity, but I dont think the shoes had anything to do with it. (Maybe its the graffiti?)

Surprised no one is hanging up signs that say "DRUGS 4 SALE & CRACK WHORE ON DUTY, RING the DOOR IF YOU WANT SOME BOOTY!" LOL.
Posted by Andrew  on  Tue Jun 28, 2005  at  11:21 PM
Where I live all of the power, telephone, etc, cables are buried. There are always lots of folks digging in the backyards trying to find buried balloons.
Posted by Manny  on  Thu Jul 14, 2005  at  10:02 PM
In my neighborhood, the only thing found hanging from powerlines is squirrels of the limp and lifeless variety.

What do you suppose is for sale here?
Posted by Irv  on  Sat Jul 30, 2005  at  03:07 PM
I live in the suburbs in a relatively quiet neighborhood. We have some bad little high school kids that live across the street... they actually punched a hole in our front door because they wanted to come to a party we were having and we wouldn't let them in. I'm not sure it was them, but outside there have been shoes on the power line for a long time. The city finally came and took them down and not more than two days later a new pair of shoes was up there. I'm wondering if these kids are just being stupid a-holes... or if they are doing something worse.
Posted by Megan  on  Fri Aug 05, 2005  at  05:26 AM
As a police officer I can tell you that these signs are not urban legends. We look into these signals very closely and monitor each area. If you see such a sign please report it to the local authorities as it is common knowledge among officers of the law in most big cities.
Posted by Alex  on  Sat Aug 13, 2005  at  12:05 PM
umm...Occifer Alex? Don't you guys patrol the streets on your way to the Krispy Kreme shops? Couldn't you periodically look up from your jelly-filled belly-buster and see the sneakers on the wire yourselves? Just a suggestion... oh, btw...try the crullers..they're delish
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Sat Aug 13, 2005  at  12:40 PM
ugh...crullers. :/ I much prefer old fashioned glazed.

But I'm getting off topic. (ray bradbury)
Posted by Winona  on  Sat Aug 13, 2005  at  01:58 PM
hey, I think crullers are kinda ugh, too... I just figured if the cops ate the crullers, that leaves more glazed for us...Lex Luthor has nothing on me
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Sat Aug 13, 2005  at  02:23 PM
interesting theory .. in kingston qld australia the most well known "secret" drugs house . u name it they sell it type place. they have 3 sets of power lines as they are on a corner block ... every set of lines has at least one pair of shoes. and yet the police who live 100 yards away have none ... neither do anyone else in the neighbourhood. and yes every now and then the local energex boys come and cut them down ... there is a new pair up there almost immedietly .... bottom of diamond street for the locals. coincidence ???.... stoned ppl in hi jinks ??? 15 years that i know of. no i dont shop there either before you start lol. but i know of people that do. the big mystery to the locals isnt the shoes ... its more the fact that police live all around these scumbags and they have never ever been shut down.
Posted by head1ess_chicken  on  Sat Aug 13, 2005  at  09:19 PM
I am also a police officer and don't visit the red light district of Krispy Kreme. Ha ha. It is a trend that is picking up in the community I work. I came here for information about that very topic (Tennis shoes and utility lines) even if it is not a sign of drug or gang activity we remove them immediately.
Posted by Lisa  on  Mon Aug 29, 2005  at  07:05 AM
I've been trying to get to the bottom of this issue in Minneapolis. The hanging shoes certainly seem to correlate with problematic neighborhoods here. I've dubbed this occurance Shoefiti, and started a site in an attempt to find answers.
Posted by Ed Kohler  on  Tue Sep 20, 2005  at  08:15 PM
when you jump someone you usually take there kicks, if they aren't nice enough to resell you through um up a line.
Posted by jermaine  on  Mon Oct 03, 2005  at  06:31 PM
I've lived in Evansville,IN. Chicago,IL. and now here in Pensacola, FL. and usually the shoes on power lines and shit are just that, things on power lines...

However, I do know for a fact that in some cases it is used to mark gang turf and drug areas...

It's not always like that, and it's not the same in all places...

but in Evansville, there was a gang on the north side that wore green colors, and sold marijuana (green), and when they would push into newer neighborhoods they would throw up green tennis shoes to mark that they were pushing dope into that neighborhood, kind of marking it...

and down here

I have noticed that i keep seeing a pair of shoes and it will get cut down, and another pair goes up, and its not always in the exact same spot, there will be a pair up, and then when it gets cut down, or the cops start getting heavy in that area, one block south or north the shoes will be hanging, and then when the cops start cruising that street more, a pair of shoes will show up a couple streets back towards where they were before

and talked to a guy who sold drugs who said that he would move from block to block sort of playing run around with police

so im thinking maybe the shoes were similar to that and had to do with drugs or prostitution because both are very present in that area
Posted by Turtle  on  Fri Sep 01, 2006  at  01:40 AM
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