The mystery surrounding the haunted dwellings of eccentric widow Sarah Winchester centers on the Winchester House which was never completed, even after 36 years of construction, destruction, and renovation ordered by Sarah Winchester herself. This mystery house was said to have been built for Winchester and the spirits of those who died by Winchester weapons. It is said that the eccentric women spent over 5.5 million dollars (from that time) on the construction that was designed to appease the spirits.
The Story Of Sarah Winchester:
Sarah was born Sarah Pardee to Leonard and Sarah Pardee in New Haven, Connecticut on September 1839. As little Sarah grew up, she turned into a beautiful and talented young woman with nice musical skills, fluency in foreign languages as well as being one of the most beautiful ladies in town. William Wirt Winchester was also growing up in New Haven where in 1857; he took over a firm that made the famous Volcanic Repeater gun. This rifle was popular at the time as it used a lever mechanism to load the bullets into the chamber.
Oliver Winchester, Williams’s father finally hit it rich when the company developed the Henry Rifle that was superior to its predecessors. This new rifle became a favorite amongst the Northern troops during the Civil War which brought in government contracts that made him an incredible fortune at the time. After the reorganization of the company to the new name ‘Winchester Repeating Arms Company‘ and the creation of the Winchester rifle, on 30th September 1862, William Wirt Winchester and Sarah Pardee were married in New Haven.
Sarah gave birth to Annie Pardee Winchester on the 15th July 1866 and that was one of the last happy moments of Sarah’s life. The reason for this is that Annie contracted the illness called Marasmus and as a result died on 24th July. The devastating tragedy led Sarah into near madness where she almost took ten years to recover. Sarah and William didn’t have another child after Annie.
On the 7th March 1881, another tragedy struck Sarah Winchester as her husband and heir to the Winchester empire died due to pulmonary tuberculosis. Sarah had then become a wealthy widow with a massive 20 million dollar inheritance as well as a 48.9% share in the Winchester Repeating Arms Company and had an income of around a thousand dollars a day.
Unfortunately, all the money and wealth in the world couldn’t make Sarah happy because what she wanted were her husband and baby daughter to be with her. The now depressed women sought a Spiritualist medium on the suggestion of a friend where the medium told her, “Your husband is here,” and went on to describe William. The medium went on to say, “He says for me to tell you that there is a curse on your family, which took the life of him and your child. It will soon take you too. It is a curse that has resulted from the terrible weapon created by the Winchester family. Thousands of people have died because of it and their spirits are now seeking vengeance.”
At the time, the Psychic also stated “You must start a new life and build a home for yourself and for the spirits who have fallen from this terrible weapon too. You can never stop building the house. If you continue building, you will live. Stop and you will die.” After the seance, convinced Sarah sold her property in New Haven and headed west which is where the story of the Winchester mystery house continues.
Construction Of The Winchester Mystery House:
Sarah believed that she was guided by her dead husband until she reached the Santa Clara Valley, San Jose California in 1884. Here, she found a Victorian Mansion owned by a Dr. Caldwell that was under construction that sat on 162 acres of land, which later went on to become one of the most popular paranormal sites in the country.
After purchasing the land and the mansion, she disregarded the building plans and started to construct one of the most confusing layouts and a labyrinth of a house in the world. This construction went on for over 36 years and only stopped at her death on 4th September 1922. The widow had over 22 carpenters who are speculated to have worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, every year until Sarah’s death.
The Oddities Of The Winchester Mystery House:
It was said that Sarah met with the foreman in the morning with sketches of the day’s work as there was no concrete plan to complete. Her goal was to continue building until the spirits were satisfied and would leave her and her family alone. The chaotically designed house grew into having 26 rooms and ballrooms where rooms were turning into entire wings while levels turned into towers which grew to seven stories. The haunting house was a marvel of modern convenience with central heating, a hot shower (for Sarah’s comfort), multiple elevators, 47 fireplaces, and Tiffany stained-glass windows. The Winchester mansion was very much like a labyrinth as many staircases lead nowhere, doors leading to neither the upstairs or the downstairs and several other oddities.
Some of these oddities in the Winchester House:
- Staircase that led nowhere
- Chimneys that ended with the room ceiling
- Closets that are said to open into blank walls
- Cabinet that opens up over thirty rooms
- Double-back hallways
- Upside-down stair posts
- Bathrooms with glass doors
- State of the art elevator
- Numerous chimneys
- Over 2000 doors
- Only two mirrors in the entire house
- Door that leads to 8-foot drop into the kitchen sink
- The obsession with the number, Thirteen
Sarah Winchester’s Obsession With Number 13:
It was said and is evident that Sarah was obsessed with the number 13. This was because the walls had 13 panels, the windows contained 13 panes of glass, there are 13 cupolas in the greenhouse, and most were had 13 steps, except for the winding staircase. This unique staircase contains 42 steps that are only two inches high, made for Sarah due to her arthritis making it difficult to walk up the normally sized stairs. All these oddities were said to be confusing because they were traps for the spirits who came to haunt her with bad intentions.
The Conclusion Of The Winchester Mystery House:
The seven story house stood until the great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, where the top three floors of the mansion collapsed into the back garden and were never rebuilt again. In the earthquake, Sarah was also trapped inside the Daisy Room where she was convinced that the spirits were furious that she had almost completed the house. After this disaster, she had over 30 rooms sealed so that they would be left unfinished.
After her death on 4th September 1922 at the age of 83, her possessions went to her niece while the Winchester House was sold to a group of investors who wanted to start a tourist attraction. It is said that by the time she died, her massive fortune of over 20 million dollars dwindled into very little for her family. When the relatives searched safes in the house, they only discovered socks, newspaper clippings of her husband’s and her daughter’s deaths as well as a lock of baby hair but no hidden fortune as some rumors had speculated.
The Winchester Mystery House Today:
Currently, the Winchester Mystery House is still open to the public for tours that guide people through the many rooms that are as confusing as they are said to be creepy and unexplained. The haunting house has also been declared as a California Historical Landmark and in the National Park Service as “a large, odd dwelling with an unknown number of rooms.” Reports over the years by many people including psychics have accredited to the sighting of ghosts of Sarah Winchester as well as the spirits who died by Winchester rifles in the bizarre mansion.
While there are some who believe that the Supernatural Winchester Mystery House is a place of paranormal activity which is haunted or curse, others argue that it isn’t an eerie house but just a really good ghost story. Whether you believe it’s a haunted house or not, it’s still worth a visit if you are ever near San Jose, California.