This Stunning New England Home Has a Witch Window and Jail Cells
This charming historic home in Guildhall, Vermont, would be perfect for anyone dreaming of a life in rural New England. But becoming the owner of this piece of real estate gets you both a 'witch window' and old jail cells in your home.
The property is in Guildhall, the seat of Essex County, and once served as the county jail. The home is for sale, as of the publication of this article in December 2020, for $149,000. The property features 4 bedrooms and two baths (although they appear to be not counting jail cell cots and toilets!) and is 2,190 square feet.
What is a Witch Window?
Well known around Vermont, but seldom seen elsewhere, a witch window is a slanted opening usually in the gable of a home. The name comes from a folktale that witches can not fly broomsticks through non-square windows. So the 45-degree angle would keep one out of your home.
In that aspect, the witch window is not dissimilar at all to the tradition of haint blue paint on homes in Georgia and South Carolina where, in the Gullah tradition, the indigo-derived hue wards off witches and evil spirits.
Vermont Public Radio gives a great history of the witch window tradition.
Devin Colman, who works for Vermont’s Division for Historic Preservation, says there’s superstitious lore behind the name, "witch window."
"The story is that a witch on a broomstick can’t fly through a crooked window opening, which I guess physically is true," says Colman.
"But, it’s the only crooked window in the whole house. And if I were a witch, I would just use one of the other vertical windows," he adds with a laugh....
Britta Tonn is an architectural historian in the Burlington area, and she's skeptical about that origin story, too. But she's willing to concede it might be "another convenient use of the window once it was developed."
"I think 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," says Tonn.
Your Own Private Jail
Not only does this particular home have a perfect example of a witch window, since it was once the county's lock-up the jail cells are amazingly still intact.
Take a look at what is hidden behind a back room door in this home.
But don't take the unkempt appearance of the jail to indicate the overall aesthetics of the home as the living area is the jailer's residence. Take a look at the dozens of pictures from the real estate listing to see a gorgeous kitchen, living area and bedrooms.
[h/t For the Love of Old Homes on Facebook]