Revisited Myth #14: To ward off witches, early Americans hung doors with Bible and cross symbolism.

May 10, 2014



According to this myth, the bottom two panels of a six-panel wooden door were designed to represent an open Bible, and the middle stile and rail were meant to form a cross. This story is trotted out to show how pious our ancestors were. Or how laughably superstitious they were to think this would ward off witches.

Remember Myth #6 about the Holy Lord hinges? Same thing here. Both are based on the erroneous belief that all early Americans were very religious and highly superstitious. The truth is, some were and some weren’t. But no one at the time thought of his door as Christian symbolism. The six-panel design is just one of many wooden door styles that was popular back then and still is today.

When I asked Colonial Williamsburg Senior Architectural Historian and author Carl Lounsbury to comment on this myth, he said, “I am not sure why otherwise intelligent people seem to embrace these preposterous notions. I have heard it hundreds of times in descriptions of various features in buildings . . . Cross and bible doors—-Really? On the Moses Myers [a Jewish merchant] House in Norfolk?”

Revisited Myth #6: Early Americans were so religious that they put HL hinges on their doors, which stood for Holy Lord.

March 2, 2014
Colonial Williamsburg's Master carpenter Garland Wood with a door hinge

Colonial Williamsburg’s Master carpenter Garland Wood with a door hinge

A related myth—that the Holy Lord hinges were intended to protect the house from witches—regularly makes the rounds as well, even in hardware stores! 

HL hinges are a stronger version of simple symmetrical H hinges.  They are useful for supporting the weight of a heavy wooden door.  The key is the extra supporting arm that fastens to the door. This piece can be on top, in which case it would look like an HΓ, or on the bottom, where it resembles at L, or it can be mounted on the other side as the mirror image of these two.  Leaving aside the hard fact that many colonists had little or no interest in religion, no documentation exists for the belief that their hardware had any symbolic value.

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