Are you afraid of witches coming down your chimney this Halloween? This is a common concern for a lot of homeowners… Okay, we’re just kidding, but this wasn’t always the case! In fact, a lot of older homes in the greater Albany area have something called a witches crook, or a witches bend. At Northeastern Masonry and Chimney, we come across these witches crooks from time to time and love the history and folklore associated with what them. This Halloween, let us explain to you the history of witches crooks. Once you learn how to identify them, you can point them out to your friends while trick or treating!
A witches crook is a slight to moderate bend, or lean, in a chimney. About a century or so ago, when masons built chimneys, they would sometimes put a bend in the chimney. Usually it would be between where the chimney enters and exits the attic. Folklore says that this was done because witches could only fly down a straight chimney and the bend would prevent them from coming into your home.
Another, more likely, reason for a witches crook has to do with home aesthetics. Oftentimes, in older homes, fireplaces were constructed near the center of the home for better heating efficiency. However, masons didn’t have all the tools we have today to determine the exact center of the home and had to use different, less accurate methods. Because of this, chimneys wouldn’t always exit the home directly at the peak of the home’s roof, which was the common look for homes back then.
To fix this, masons would often bend the chimney in the attic, where the peak of the rook was easily visible and therefore easy to line up with. Having the crook located in the attic also meant that it would not be seen too often by people in the home. It actually took a highly skilled and experienced mason to create a witches crook, so don’t take it as an indication that your chimney was poorly constructed if you have one in your home.
Should I be concerned about my witches crook?
The short answer to this question is, it depends. If your crook is in an older home built 100 to 150 years ago, located only in the attic, looks intentionally built, and is structurally sound, there probably isn’t a need for concern. However, if your crook is in your home’s living areas or outside your home, looks unintentional, and is beginning to crumble, you probably should have it looked at. If you need someone to check it, make sure you hire a Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) certified masonry expert.
It should be noted, that even if your witches crook looks intentionally built, if you have any doubts, you should have a CSIA certified mason inspect it. At Northeastern Fireplace and Design, our CSIA certified masons are here for any questions you may have concerning your witches crook. You can reach us at 518-767-9315 or contact us online to set up an appointment. We look forward to keeping your home safe from fires – and witches – this Halloween!