If you’ve never paid New England a visit, you might not be too familiar with witch windows. More specifically, witch windows originate from Vermont. While these aren’t too common in buildings that are fairly new, many older houses in Vermont have them. You may be wondering what witch windows are, and what better time to learn about them than October.
To start, why are these specific windows called witch windows? Legend has it that a witch cannot fly diagonally. It is said that witches couldn’t fit through an angled window because of their broom. Therefore, witch windows were built into houses to keep pesky witches from entering the home. Even though the Salem witch trials happened years before the construction of the first witch windows, I think it’s safe to say there were still some believers out there. However, they are known as a few different names. Since they are seen almost exclusively in the state of Vermont, some people call them Vermont windows. But there is a different, perhaps more creepy name.
Some people instead call these architectural anomalies “coffin windows”. Seems pretty disturbing, and the reason is just as bad. Back when homes like this were built in the 1800’s, a large number of them had narrow, spiral staircases. If the resident of the upstairs happened to kick the bucket, it was easier to get a coffin out of the house through the window than down the stairs. That seems pretty grim. Luckily, neither of these tall tales is the real reason behind Vermont’s crooked windows.
The Truth is Out There
The real reason so many Vermont homes have witch windows is not nearly as interesting as the legends would have you believe. On the other hand, the idea behind them is actually quite ingenious. Especially for the time period when they were first built. If a homeowner in the mid-1800’s decided they wanted to add another wing to their homes, it could’ve meant losing a window. The space where a window would go was just much too small unless a custom window was made. That was until someone decided to tilt the old window at a 45-degree angle. Witch windows meant homeowners still had natural light and ventilation upstairs.
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