The Winchester Mystery house has a maze of bizarre features that cause a lot of people to scratch their heads, either out of disbelief or sheer confusion. Without written records about the house, the stories have become obscure. Oftentimes, stories that people pass down through history lapse quickly into the realm of lore. For this reason, the Sarah Winchester story of San Jose’s most mysterious estate is a riddle that nobody will ever solve.
Why is the Mystery Mansion Full of Enigmas?
Sarah Lockwood Pardee Winchester was the owner of the Winchester Mansion. She suffered the death of her baby daughter and, later, the early death of her husband, William Winchester. He was the treasurer to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company and heir to the Winchester Rifle fortune. Sarah Winchester may have moved from Connecticut to California to put behind her the place where she experienced two overwhelming tragedies that sent her into deep despair. However, this explanation doesn’t really unravel the question of the over-construction of the Winchester house.
Sarah Winchester and Her Spiritualist
The story of the Winchester Mansion tells that Sarah Winchester was a firm believer in spiritism. She believed that something may be cursing her. After all, she experienced two major tragedies. Thus, in her despair Sarah visited a medium in Boston who told her that she was haunted by everyone who was ever killed with a Winchester rifle. The medium explained that Sarah needed to moved west and buy a house for herself and the spirits, and that she must never stop construction on the house. Additionally, he said that if she ever did stop, the spirits would continue to curse her.
You May Also Like: Secrets of the Coral Castle, Florida: An Engineering Marvel
So in 1884, the extremely wealthy New England widow moved to the agricultural region of California’s Santa Clara Valley. She settled into a small farmhouse and immediately began spending her $20 million inheritance on new construction and renovations. Over time, the project ballooned into a goliath mansion that has about 150 rooms (supposedly nobody knows exactly how many), two ballrooms (which were never used), 40 bedrooms, almost 10,000 panes of glass, and more than 45 fireplaces. The current owners believe there are secret passageways within the structure that have yet to be found.
A House Fit for the Spirits
Sarah oversaw the construction of the house, which went on 24/7/365. Sarah was not an architect, and she ordered many bizarre features, such as upside-down columns; doors that open to walls; stairways that end at the ceiling; doors that open onto three-story drops; and a large section of the house, with rooms fully furnished and decorated, boarded up and walled off. Surely, only the spirits could navigate through a mystery house like this. Some say that Sarah’s instructions came from nightly séances she held with the spirits that pursued her. She had a special room just for her “meditations” with the spirits.
Another continuing mystery is a pair of stained glass windows in an unused ballroom featuring two quotes from different Shakespeare plays: “Wide unclasp the table of their thoughts” and “These same thoughts people this little world.” Although they obviously both pertain to “thoughts,” the meaning of the two of them together is obscure. Were they merely favorite quotes for Sarah? Or did they combine to a meaning known only to her?
Winchester Mystery House Construction Compulsion
Sarah had an obsession with the number 13. Within the house there are 13 bathrooms, many windows with 13 panes, doors with 13 panels, flights of stairs with 13 steps, and 13 cupolas on the top of the greenhouse. Additionally, she had drains in the sinks custom made with 13 holes.
The house originally had seven stories, but the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 destroyed the top three floors. As a result of the quake, the damaged doors trapped Sarah in her bedroom for a number of hours. After the earthquake, she left the destroyed part of the house unfixed and boarded off, and she instead began work on another section. Supposedly, this is what the spirits told her to do.
And, of course, any house so entrenched in the paranormal is bound to be proclaimed as haunted, and the mansion is supposedly home to a variety of spooks. Employees who operate the tour attest to lights going on and off on their own, and chandeliers that swing without cause.
The End to it All
After Sarah’s death in September of 1922, the laborers stopped all construction on the house. Subsequently, Sarah’s niece inherited the house and all of its contents. She kept a few things for herself and auctioned off the rest. Unfortunately, the items are untraceable. The Winchester Mystery House and land passed through various hands. And today, the Winchester Mystery House is currently open to the public for tours, including night tours around Halloween.