Just what is a witch window? Have y’all ever heard of these things? I hadn’t until recently. You see, I stumbled across this kooky architectural oddity when researching ghoulish topics on the interwebz. (Okay, by “researching” I really mean “scrolling through Instagram reels” but that’s basically the same thing, right?) Typically found in northern Vermont on 19th century farmhouses, witch windows are slanted windows tucked directly under the eaves, often found in the gable end. They usually slant at a 45 degree angle.

what is a witch window? This image shows a delightful depiction of what a typical witch window looks like.
A typical witch window in Vermont. Photo Copyright Mark Paul for Adobe Stock.

Why the strange name?

Sure, they look odd, but what’s up with the supernatural nomenclature? Well, apparently folklore has stated that a witch cannot fly on a broom through any tilted opening. That sounds, erm, interesting for sure. However, the theory doesn’t hold much weight as there are plenty of other non-slanted windows she could just zoom through instead, right? I mean, I would assume most witches would be smart enough to just pick any of the regular windows to enter through…

Witch Window Vermont
A Vermont or Witch Window. Photograph by Piledhigheranddeeper, used under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license

Witch windows are also sometimes referred to as coffin windows. (Aha! Now we’re talking!) The reasoning behind this ghastly name is the thought that perhaps it was easier to get a coffin from the second floor out of the house through the slanted window instead of attempting to maneuver it down a narrow stairway. But hold up. That doesn’t make much sense to me either. How would shoving a coffin out a second story window be easier? Is anyone else picturing poor Farmer Joe’s coffin squishing a chicken or three when it violently landed in the yard below? Yikes!

That’s strike two, isn’t it? Well, hold on to your pointy black hats because I’m about to explain the actual reason these weird windows were installed! It’s actually, well, not a spooky reason at all. Sadly for us grim ghouls and boils, the windows have nothing to do with anything slightly eerie. Witch windows were simply a way to get sunlight and fresh air to the second story of the home by utilizing a small wall space. While that definitely makes the most sense, the truth about witch windows is definitely a bummer to those of us that love all things dark and creepy. Darn it!

Photo below actually taken in Russia by Anton Maksimov juvnsky on Unsplash

 

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