Why Do New England Homes Have ‘Witch Windows’?

source: Instagram/witchwindows

Imagine you have a two-story home with a sloping roof. On the gable end of the house, where the sides of the roof meet to form a triangle, there are windows on both the first and second floors. Now, let’s say you want to add an extension to your home without disturbing the existing roof. Roof work can be costly and complicated, after all. So, you decide to build a one-story addition onto the gable end of the house. However, this new addition covers up the windows that were there before.

Now you’re faced with a problem. You can install new windows on the first floor of the addition, but there isn’t enough space on the second floor to keep the existing windows. If you don’t add new windows, the second floor might end up being quite dark and gloomy. What can you do?

Well, here’s where the curious phenomenon of ‘Witch Windows’ comes into play. In certain parts of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, many homeowners have found a unique solution to this problem. Instead of abandoning the old windows or forcing them into an awkward position, they choose to reinstall them at a peculiar angle—the only way they can fit. These specially installed windows are known as Witch Windows.

source: Instagram/witchwindows

But why are they called Witch Windows? The name itself sparks intrigue and imagination. Some legends suggest that witches cannot fly diagonally, and having a crooked window would prevent them from entering your home. However, these tales are purely fictional and a product of folklore rather than actual beliefs or practices.

In reality, the term ‘Witch Window’ is simply a local nickname given to these peculiar windows due to their unique appearance and the stories that have been associated with them over time. The windows are usually double-hung and installed at a 45-degree angle on the second story of older farmhouses. The long edges of the window frame run parallel to the roof lines of both the first and second stories on the gable end of the house.

source: Instagram/witchwindows

While Witch Windows may have originated as a practical solution to the challenges posed by home additions, they have become a distinctive feature of New England’s architectural history. They add a touch of whimsy and charm to old farmhouses, becoming a unique element that sets them apart from other homes.

Today, these quirky windows are often seen as a cultural curiosity and a reminder of the resourcefulness and ingenuity of the past. They continue to capture the interest and imagination of locals and visitors alike, serving as a symbol of New England’s rich heritage and its connection to folklore and tradition.

So, the next time you come across a New England farmhouse with a Witch Window, remember the story behind it. It’s not about keeping witches out or any supernatural powers—it’s simply a testament to the creativity and adaptability of those who built and lived in these charming old homes.