People visit libraries for many reasons. Some go to find a book or other research material. Some go for the Internet access, and some just want a quiet place to study. And then there’s a small, select few who go for the feet.
These are the foot fetishists. For them libraries are crammed full of sensory delights, because here you find women (so many of them!) who absentmindedly slip off their shoes as they sit reading at desks.
The temptation is irresistible. The foot fetishist crawls beneath desks like some kind of strange library predator, seeking out his prey. His presence, once discovered, can be unnerving, but because he moves with such stealth, it can be very difficult to realize he’s there.
Below we look at some of the most famous cases of library foot fetishists.
1971: The Sauce Man of Chicago
The Sauce Man, as the media called him, lurked beneath tables in the University of Illinois library at Chicago Circle. His MO was to seek out women who had slipped off their shoes as they read and quietly pour ketchup into one of the shoes. Then he would crawl away. When a victim put the shoe back on, she would look down when she felt something wet and then often start screaming and yelling, thinking her foot was bleeding.
The Sauce Man later switched to using barbecue sauce. Police speculated this was because barbecue sauce pours easier.
Eventually the Sauce Man was caught when police noticed a man carrying a bottle of barbecue sauce into the library. He turned out to be a student. No charges were pressed after he confessed and promised to stop doing it.
1980: Leonardo da Toenail
This character got turned on by surreptitiously painting women’s toenails.
He came to attention of the media after a young woman who had been studying in the Doheny Library at the University of Southern California walked outside and noticed that her toenails were painted green. This was odd since when she had gone into the library they had been pink.
Initially the woman thought she had been the victim of a fraternity prank, but when she described the incident to her roommates, she discovered that the same thing had happened to one of them. So she called the police who soon picked up a man outside the library carrying a bag containing fifteen bottles of fingernail polish. They didn’t release his name to the media but referred to him as “Leonardo da Toenail.” However, they let him go since painting toenails without permission is only a misdemeanor, and officers have to witness a misdemeanor to make an arrest. [Pittsburgh Press, 3/6/1980]
Research by reporters then uncovered that the “phantom pedicurist” had been active the previous year as well, at the library of California State University. His MO there had been to locate a female student working alone at a desk with her shoes off. He would sit down across from her, set himself up as if working on a project, and then pretend to drop a pen.
As he reached down to pick it up, he would surreptitiously brush a stroke of paint on one of her toenails. Then he might pretend to drop something else, and brush again.
Despite his run-in with the law, Leonardo da Toenail couldn’t stop himself, and he was apprehended a second time in 1981 when a male student spotted him beneath a table at USC’s Von KleinSmid Library. Again he was trying to paint a woman’s toenails. The woman had been completely unaware of his presence.
This time he was booked for a possible battery complaint and ordered to show up at the city attorney’s office for a hearing to determine if he would be charged. But he never showed up, and that was the last he was ever heard of. [UPI.com, 6/17/1981]
1989: Sniff Freak
Multiple female patrons at the Boston Public Library complained that their shoes had been stolen as they worked.
The pattern was always the same. After making themselves comfortable at a table, they would slip their shoes off and later discover that one shoe was missing. The victims all described having seen a man sitting at a desk nearby who was in his early 20s with earrings in his nose and one ear. Security officer George Butner said, “You have to tell it like it is. He’s a sniff freak. He must have a closetful [of shoes] by now.” The suspect was not caught. [Victoria Advocate, 8/24/1989]
2014: Foot Kisser
A middle-aged woman was sitting in the Leamington Spa Library, in Warwickshire County, UK, when 33-year-old Luke Rudge approached her and told her that she had beautiful legs and feet. When the woman ignored him, Rudge lay down on the floor and began kissing her feet. He then directed his attention to her boots and began smelling them.
The woman alerted the library staff who called the police. Officers soon showed up and arrested Rudge, who had not attempted to flee. (It’s not reported whether he was still fixated on smelling the shoes.) Because he had prior convictions for sexual offenses, he was sentenced to fourteen months in jail. [Daily Mail, 12/10/2014]
2015: Surreptitious Foot Smeller
Students who were studying in the library of Florida International University were disturbed when they noticed a man crawling beneath tables, trying to “smell women’s feet without consent.” Some students managed to snap photos of the perp before he got away. The photos showed a bald man wearing a red shirt.
The police put out a flyer and soon picked up the foot smeller. It turned out he was a registered sex offender. He was charged with violating his sex offender registration. [wsvn.com, 9/14/2015]