Not too long ago, House Crazy Sarah featured an old Vermont home with a Witch Window. Intrigued, she thought she’d dig a little deeper into this unique feature.
A witch window (also known as a Vermont window, among other names) is a window – usually a double-hung sash window or a single-sided casement window – placed in the gable-end wall of a house and rotated approximately 45 degrees from the vertical position, making it diagonal, with its long edge parallel to the roof slope.
That’s a mouthful but put simply, it’s a crooked window.
Folklore explains that the purpose of these diagonal windows is to prevent witches from flying into the houses, hence their name: witch windows.
An alternative theory is that the odd windows enabled coffins to be hoisted onto the upper floor since funerals were often held in the home before the 20th century. But really, would a slanted roof window be any easier than lugging a coffin up the interior stairs?
In reality, the technique was utilized by builders so they could fit a full-sized window into the long, narrow wall space between two adjacent roof lines.
Look how clever they were!
This unique way of hanging a window is found mostly in 19th century farmhouses the Vermont countryside – generally in the central and northern parts of the state.
But why are they mostly located in Vermont?
Britta Tonn, an architectural historian from the Burlington, Vermont area, explains:
“They’re just a really great piece of vernacular Vermont architecture that really kind of points to how unique Vermont is and how resourceful farmers were.”
Devin Colman, who works for Vermont’s Division for Historic Preservation, further explains:
“My interpretation as an architectural historian is that it’s simply a really practical New England response to the need to get daylight and fresh air into a second-story room.” [source]
You may be wondering what witch windows look like from the inside…
They are a tad disconcerting!
The tricky part is how to hang window treatments on these odd angled windows…
Gravity is not on your side so probably most people don’t even attempt curtains or blinds.
In any case, what a fun, unique, regional feature.
They are downright witchy!