Published on Monday, 26 August 2013 00:00
Do you believe in the supernatural? The notorious, sprawling Winchester House in Northern California has long been rumoured to be haunted with stairs leading to nowhere and doors leading to walls. The former occupant, Sarah Winchester slept in a different bedroom every night, supposedly in order to confuse evil spirits. Some say that she also held special dinner parties for her spirit friends. Legend has it that she would serve her phantom guests in gold plates, offering them dishes like caviar, truffles, and pheasant stuffed with pate. Those ghosts were living it up!
The Haunting History...
It was the year 1862, and Sarah was at the peak of her beauty. Beautiful, charming, musically-inclined and an incredible linguist, she was wooed by men far and wide. But it was to the lucky William Wirt Winchester, heir of the Winchester Repeating Arms Co (the company responsible for the Winchester rifle), that she gave her dainty hand in marriage to.
In 1866, much to the joy of the Winchesters, Sarah gave birth to a precious baby girl that they named Annie. However, Annie died on the same year as her birth and a devastated Sarah was almost driven to the brink of insanity by the loss. She bore no more children as hard as she tried and her health deteriorated as the years went by.
Tragedy struck again in 1881 this time for William who succumbed to tuberculosis. Sarah received 50 percent of the company’s shares and inherited $20.5 million upon her husband’s death, equivalent to about $615 million in 2013. On top of that, she had a daily income of $1,000 which translates to $30,000 in present time. The massive windfall offered Sarah no comfort though, distraught over her losses, she decided to visit a medium for spiritual guidance.
The medium told Sarah that a terrible curse had befallen upon the Winchester family and was haunted by the ghosts of all those killed by the Winchester rifle, resulting in the misfortunate events over the past few years. The spirits were out for revenge and the medium advised that the only way to appease them was to build a house that can never be completed. Sarah was to continuously build the house without stopping, if not she would die. Sarah in her weakened emotional state trusted the medium wholeheartedly and set about trying to atone for the Winchesters’ sins. Oh, this was also the point where she completely went bat-shit crazy.
Sarah left her home in New Haven and travelled West where she bought a six-room farmhouse on 162 acres in California for herself and her ghosts. I am assuming that the ghosts travelled from New Haven to California with her as well. Why wouldn’t they? California is practically the party state of America! Ghosts need some time to let their hair down too. Haunting is a tough job!
Even comes with the whole spooky tree branches effect
Sarah hired a crew and began the long process of further expanding the house. According to witnesses present, she served as her own architect but there were rumours of her retreating to her séance room every night to receive instructions from the spirits on the progress of her house. She would then present her hand-drawn architecture plans to her construction workers the next morning.
Sarah gave unusual instructions on the construction of the spirit house. The crew might take up to a month of building a room only to have it destroyed. Because Sarah paid well, no one defied her orders. Doors will lead into walls, or out in the open with a long fall down. A closet door opens onto a first-floor sink several feet below. Stairs go up, zigzag back and forth and go around in circles until they reach the ceiling and just stop there.
Stairs that lead up to the ceiling
People have made assumptions that perhaps these weird architectural ideas were designed to confuse the evil spirits haunting Sarah. She could have deliberately installed these strange touches for the ghosts to get lost or accidentally exit the house from a door with no room.
In 1906, the San Francisco earthquake destroyed three upper floors of the house. Sarah was unharmed but was trapped for several hours in the room that she had been sleeping in. Believing that the entire disaster was the vengeful work of the spirits she claimed to have constant contact with, she ordered to have the front half of the house boarded up so that the rooms can never be repaired, and thus, never finished.
Crazy old lady?
Sarah continued working on the house until she died in her sleep in 1922 at 83-years-old. The gigantic house was auctioned off at a mere $135,000 (due to the devastation left behind by the earthquake) to a group of investors who opened it up to the public as a tourist attraction.
While Sarah Winchester left no records of the warped shit that went through her mind, her creepy house is still standing for anyone brave enough to venture in and explore. To date, no one knows exactly how many rooms are in the house as people kept getting lost when they tried counting. The California Historic Landmark describes the Winchester house as a “large, odd dwelling with an unknown number of rooms”. It is estimated that the house contains 160 rooms.
So are the hauntings real or are they just a figment of Sarah’s imagination? Psychics who have visited the house insist that they can sense the spirits still wandering the halls. Tour guides and visitors have reported hearing footsteps when no one is there, heard doors slamming and seen floating lights. Some have even claimed to have seen doorknobs turn with nobody infront or behind the doors and others have experienced cold chills. Non-believers simply call it bullshit and attributed the eccentricity of the house to Sarah’s mental instability.
The Winchester House actually looks really lovely from the outside
Fact or fiction, the mystery of the Winchester House is probably something that you might have to find out for yourself. The Winchester House offers daily tours, and for those spook-seekers, flashlight tours are available at night only on Halloween and all Friday the 13ths. Even if you are not the superstitious sort, the Winchester House still makes a pretty interesting place to pop by when you are in California.