Sarah L. Winchester believed her family was cursed.
That’s why she built the structural oddity at 525 South Winchester Boulevard in San Jose, California – a place of winding corridors and stairways to nowhere of which M.C. Escher, or perhaps H.P. Lovecraft, would be proud. It’s a mansion that has come to be known as the Winchester Mystery House.
Revenge From Beyond
Sarah’s strange tale began with the death of her husband, William Wirt Winchester. He had owned the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, which, as the name suggests, manufactured Winchester rifles. When he died, Sarah inherited his vast fortune, over $20.5 million, as well as 50% ownership of his company.
She also potentially inherited something else.
You see, after his death, Sarah visited a spirit medium. There, she learned a strange truth – that her family was cursed, doomed to be haunted by the victims of the very Winchester rifles they created. Her daughter had suffered an untimely death, her husband had died of tuberculosis. Both, perhaps, victims of this supernatural revenge.
And she was next.
There was, however, a way out. The medium told Sarah to build a house and never stop. Make it complicated and bizarre to confuse the vengeful spirits. Only then could she avoid a similarly untimely fate.
Construction began on the house in 1884, and would continue until Sarah Winchester’s death in 1922. The entire project, from start to completion, would cost about $5.5 million over the course of those 38 years.
The Winchester Mystery House contains roughly 160 rooms, 40 staircases, several hundred doorways, and two ballrooms, one uncompleted. Originally, it stood seven stories tall, but the 1906 earthquake brought it down to four.
Strange symbolism also permeates the house. Reportedly, Sarah Winchester was obsessed with the number 13, and it can be found in many places, along with spiderweb designs in the windows, their significance unknown.
She even included a séance room, a place she used often. She’d allegedly communicate with the other side for advice on what to build to avoid, or appease, the evil spirits that haunted her.
But what was it all for, really? Is the Winchester Mystery House still haunted? Was it ever? The house’s alleged paranormal occurrences range from weird sound disturbances (one individual complained that a tour guide’s voice “became muffled”) to sudden nausea, similar to the reported effects of infrasound. Others have reported ghost sightings, including one of a man pushing a wheelbarrow.
Speaking of which, a psychic featured on the Travel Channel once shared what he saw: Workers are apparently still constructing the house…from beyond the grave.