The Winchester Mystery House —Some legends say it is haunted by every person killed with a Winchester Rifle.
Deeply saddened by the deaths of her daughter Annie in 1866 and her young husband in 1881, and seeking solace, Winchester consulted a medium on the advice of a psychic. According to popular history, during a séance, the medium told Winchester there was a curse on the Winchester family because the guns had killed so many. The psychic told Winchester her husband and child died because of vengeful spirits and she was next.”
The Boston Medium told Winchester that she must “build a home for the spirits who have fallen from this terrible weapon. You must never stop building the house. If you stop, you will die.”
Sarah Winchester inherited more than $20.5 million upon her husband’s death. She also received nearly 50 percent ownership of the Winchester Rifle Company. Giving her an income of roughly $1,000 per day. This amount today is roughly equivalent to $21,000 a day so she was well able to fund the mansion she began building.
In 1884, Sarah began a construction project that lasted thirty-eight years. The Victorian mansion is filled with so many unexplained oddities, that it has come to be known as the Winchester Mystery House.
For the next 36 years, they built and rebuilt, altered and changed and constructed and demolished one section of the house after another. She kept 22 carpenters at work, year around, 24 hours each day. The sounds of hammers and saws sounded throughout the day and night.
There were countless staircases which led nowhere; a blind chimney that stops short of the ceiling; closets that opened to blank walls; trap doors; double-back hallways; skylights that were located one above another; doors that opened to steep drops to the lawn below; and dozens of other oddities.
Nearly all of the windows contained 13 panes of glass; the walls had 13 panels; the greenhouse had 13 cupolas; many of the wooden floors contained 13 sections; some of the rooms had 13 windows and every staircase but one had 13 steps. This exception is unique in its own right…. it is a winding staircase with 42 steps, which would normally be enough to take a climber up three stories. In this case, however, the steps only rise nine feet because each step is only two inches high. Only 2 mirrors were installed in the house…. Sarah believed that ghosts were afraid of their own reflection.
When the great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 struck the fireplace in the Daisy Room (where Mrs. Winchester was sleeping on the night of the earthquake) collapsed, shifting the room and trapping Sarah inside. She became convinced that the earthquake had been a sign from the spirits who were furious that she had nearly completed the house. Sarah never slept in the same bedroom two nights in a row and she spent from midnight to two a.m. conversing with spirits. On September 4, 1922, after a conference session with the spirits in the seance room, Sarah went to her bedroom for the night. At some point in the early morning hours, she died in her sleep at the age of 83. The building stopped the next day.
Sarah had managed to spend nearly every penny of her wealth. Rumor had it that somewhere in the house was hidden a safe containing a fortune in jewelry and a solid-gold dinner service with which Sarah had entertained her ghostly guests. Her relatives forced open a number of safes but found only old fishlines, socks, newspaper clippings about her daughter’s and her husband’s deaths, a lock of baby hair, and a suit of woolen underwear. No solid gold dinner service was ever discovered.
One of the first to see the place when it opened to the public was Robert L. Ripley, who featured the house in his popular column, “Believe it or Not.”
In the years that the house has been open to the public, employees and visitors alike have had unusual encounters here. There have been footsteps; banging doors; mysterious voices; windows that bang so hard they shatter; cold spots; strange moving lights; doorknobs that turn by themselves. Some special events include flashlight tours every Friday the 13th and at Halloween.