September 2, 2012

Winchester Mystery House™: Sarah Winchester, RIP



September 5, 2012, marks the 90th anniversary of Sarah Winchester’s passing. Creator of the most splendidly bizarre house in the world—the Winchester Mystery House™—Sarah passed away peacefully (we hope) in her sleep in 1922. But her legacy lives on in a house that many visitors will swear is haunted.

A rare photo of Sarah Winchester
Briefly for those of you unfamiliar with the story: In 1862, Sarah Lockwood Pardee, known as the “Belle of New Haven” (Connecticut), married wealthy William Wirt Winchester, son of Oliver Fisher Winchester, manufacturer of the famous Winchester repeating rifle (“the gun that won the West”). Life and marriage were blissful until the unexplained death of her infant daughter in 1866, followed by the untimely death of her husband fifteen years later.
Stricken with grief and depression, Sarah turned to a Boston spiritualist for relief and a possible explanation for these heart-rending misfortunes. Through the medium, it was revealed to her that the spirits of American Indians, Civil War soldiers, and others killed by Winchester rifles were behind these tragedies, and Sarah herself could be their next victim. However, there was a way to appease the angry spirits: move west and build them a great house. As long as construction continued, Sarah would be safe.
Feeling haunted and hunted, Mrs. Winchester took the advice to heart, came to California, and found the perfect spot for her project in the Santa Clara Valley, just three miles west of San Jose. Beginning with an unfinished farm house that she purchased in 1844, she spent the next thirty-eight years overseeing the non-stop construction that produced the "eerily eccentric" Winchester Mystery House™—"an extravagant maze of Victorian craftsmanship."

According to the official site for the Winchester Mystery House™ (www.winchestermysteryhouse.com): “At the time of her death, the unrelenting construction had rambled over six acres. The sprawling mansion contained 160 rooms, 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, 47 stairways, 47 fireplaces, 13 bathrooms, and 6 kitchens. Carpenters even left nails half driven when they learned of Mrs. Winchester’s death.”
          



With miles of twisting hallways, secret passageways, staircases to nowhere, doors and windows that lead to unexpected places, not to mention the famously spooky Séance Room, the wild, weird, and fanciful Winchester Mystery House™ is a must see and a memorable experience.
There’s so much more to this fascinating story, and the official site has done a stellar job laying it all out for you (www.winchestermysteryhouse.com). I’ve toured the house myself, and I would gladly return. Admittedly, I encountered no ghosts, but like so many history-haunted places, it’s the stories behind the location that make the impression and linger on in memory. Besides, there are plenty of people who have had a ghostly experience and will swear the house is haunted. You’ll find their strange tales on the website, also.

Sarah Winchester is buried at the Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven, Connecticut, beside her beloved husband. RIP

For the rest of you -- Happy Hauntings!

1 comment:

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