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Friday, January 21, 2011

Sarah Winchester & The Winchester Mystery House

Sarah Winchester

The Winchester mystery house located in what is now known as San Jose, California is a home filled with doors the lead to nowhere, windows built into walls that look into other rooms, stairways that lead into the ceiling, and ghosts! At least that's what the legend says. To better understand the Winchester house, you need to know about the previous owner of the home who constructed most of it from ground up.

Sarah Lockwood Paradee was born in Connecticut in 1839. On September 30, 1862 she married William Winchester the heir to the Winchester repeating arms company, which sold many rifle and gun types but was most famous for their "repeating ammo arms." You could fire multiple shots without reloading. The couple only had one child, a daughter named Annie Paradee Winchester born July 1866. She died only a few short weeks after being born from the childhood disease marasmus (a disease that causes malnutrition) Sarah became very depressed after the loss of her only daughter and the couple never tried having anymore children. Her husband's father Oliver passed away in 1880, and her husband William passed away shortly after in 1881 to tuberculosis.

This left Sarah with 50% ownership of the Winchester rifle empire. She earned nearly $1,000 per day (an equivalent to about $25,000 per day in present time) According to legends, Sarah Winchester felt as though her family was cursed and sought out a specialist to see what she could do. The alleged psychic told Sarah that she and her family we being haunted by all of the spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles. The psychic told her to move out West, and build a house for herself... and for the spirits. She was also told if she ever stopped construction on the home she would die. She was told there were some spirits that only followed Sarah to protect her from the horrible spirits that meant her harm.

Bathrooms with windows built in
Sarah moved to California and purchased a small home that stood on 161 acres of land and immediately began construction on her new home that would last 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for the next 38 years.

One of the first things Sarah built was a "seance room" and it was rumored by construction workers that Sarah would go to this room every night between midnight and 3am sometimes for hours. It is said that she would ask the spirits what they wanted her to do to the house. She would speak to the "good spirits" to ask how to confuse the bad ones. (this is why doorways go into walls, and stairways go into the ceiling.) She also has over 13 hidden rooms in the home or "secret passages" if you will.

Sarah became obsessed with appeasing the spirits, the good and the bad. She had 13 bathrooms, 13 chandeliers, Windows had 13 window panes, stairwells had 13 steps etc... it's unknown if this was a preference of Sarah's or the spirits. Either way it is a very prominent number that appears throughout the home. After the big earthquake of 1906 the seven story home was shaken but most of it still stood. The most damage was taken by the front of the home. Sarah took this as a sign that the spirits did not want her to continue building on the front so she sealed off most rooms. A ballroom that was used less than 3 times, and a quite pricey door (estimated to have been over $1,200) that had only been used twice were never touched by Sarah again.

Sarah was also trapped in her bedroom by the quake. Construction crews dug for Sarah for hours, she was unharmed it took them a while to find her because it is also said Sarah slept in a different bedroom of the home every night to further confuse the spirits. 
Winchester Firing Arms

Sarah was also convinced there would be another great flood like the biblical one experienced by Noah. In the 1920s she purchased a large houseboat later known as "Sarah's Ark" which she maintained until her death on September 5, 1922. Sarah was 83 years of age and died of natural causes in her sleep. Upon her death construction stopped completely on the home, nails are still sticking out half hammered in some areas of the home. Sarah was buried next to her husband and daughter in Connecticut, "Sarah's Ark" was destroyed by fire in 1929.

The Winchester Mystery House is now National Historical Landmark number 868, and you can visit the home. Tours are given most everyday and you can get a schedule and pricing here: Winchester Tours and Ticket Pricing

Today the house stands with about 160 rooms, including 40 bedrooms and two ballrooms, one completed and one under construction. The house also has 47 fireplaces, 10,000 window panes, 17 chimneys (with evidence of two others), two basements and three elevators.

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