A type of staggered, narrow staircase known as “witches stairs” and occasionally seen in old New England homes has helped a listing go viral on social media.

A Victorian home listed in Maryland for $400,000 has been picked up by Zillow Gone Wild, an Instagram and Facebook account run by Long Island resident Samir Mezrahi that points out funny or unusual homes on the site. While the house is a simple single-family home in the suburbs, its distinguishing feature is the staggered carpeted staircase leading up a narrow path to the attic.

Posted by Zillow Gone Wild on Friday, March 26, 2021

Prior to Mezrahi’s post, photos of similar homes had been circulating on social media at the start of the month. The unusual look has prompted some to poke fun while those with design expertise pointed out that this type of staircase is known as “Witches Stairs” and has once been common in a specific type of New England Colonial-era home.

Legend has it that at the time of the Salem Witch Trials in the 1670s, many Boston-area residents feared all things supernatural and created staircases that they thought a witch would not be able to climb. Another, more practical explanation pointed out that the separated steps is a way to build a staircase into a very narrow landing.

Reddit (u/DingDongPuddlez)

“On each side of an alternating-tread ladder stair, every other tread is omitted,” Scott Schuttner wrote in Fine Homebuilding, as dug up by Reuters to fact-check the different stair theories circulating on the internet this month. “The distance between treads on a given side of an alternating-tread stair is actually twice the unit rise, which gives you more free tread area and therefore a safer stair in theory.”

“I’d hate to come home drunk to those!” Laurie McDonel Sipe wrote on Facebook.

Email Veronika Bondarenko

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