Despite the Winchester house’s striking appearance, the massive California mansion is edged with a history of catastrophe, mystery and ghosts. The oddly laid out mansion, with seven stories, two basements, 161 rooms, 2,000 doors, 47 fireplaces, 47 staircases, 6 kitchens, 13 bathrooms, is built supposedly to confuse evil spirits.
The History of the Winchester House
In 1884, Sarah Winchester, the heiress to the Winchester Arms fortune, had moved to San Jose after she lost both her only child Annie and later her husband, William. Deeply grieved, she had turned to a medium for information and solace. The medium told her that there was a curse in the family that took her daughter’s and husband’s life because of the numerous people who died from Winchester rifles.
The psychic told her that the only way to evade her own death would to move to the west and build a house large enough to accommodate all the ghosts.
Sarah did exactly that- she moved and bought a small unfinished farmhouse. She hired carpenters to work 24/7 expanding the farmhouse into a seven-story mansion. Construction was done continuously from 1884 until her death in 1922, where the builders stopped the work so abruptly that they left behind half-hammered nails on the wall.
A House Full Of Architectural Oddities
Sarah was the sole architect of the mystery house, and no blueprint of the design has ever been discovered. She could be the only person who really knew all of its secrets. But, it is believed that the labyrinth design was meant to confuse the ghosts of the Winchester house.
Sarah issued many demands of alterations that seemed pointless. That included secret passages, trap doors, spider web windows, and a skylight on the floor. In the house, staircases would ascend and end abruptly or lead to nowhere, hallways would turn a corner and end in a dead-end, and doors or cabinet doors would open to solid walls. Furthermore, only one out of the 13 bathrooms was functional, and Sarah would sleep in different rooms every night. She would also use secret passageways to move from room to room to ensure no ghosts would follow her.
The Daily Séances
Right at the heart of the house, lays the séance room. It is reported that the mistress had daily séances with different local mediums in an effort to reach the good spirits. These spirits were said to be consulted and uncover the best ways to appease the ghosts whom she was supposedly building the house for. These are what called for the mistress to make numerous illogical additions to the home.
The Earthquake That Trapped Sarah
During the great San Francisco Earthquake in 1906, three floors of the seven-story house caved in. The rooms that were destroyed during the disaster were cordoned off and never rebuilt. Even so, Sarah was stuck in one of Daisy Bedrooms that had been named for the floral motif inside its windows. While she had been safe, she had to be dug out by the staff since its entrance was blocked by rubble.
A Haunted Legacy
Throughout the years-long construction and in the years Sarah lived in the house, the San Jose residents whispered about the strange building and its inhabitant. But it was after her death that these wild stories became even more boisterous. Sarah had left all her belongings to Marion, her niece, who had also served as her personal secretary. Nonetheless, the house was never mentioned in the will, and that adds the mysterious deeds of the home.
Since her death, visitors and staff have claimed hearing footsteps in bedrooms, temporarily lost vision, and seen doorknobs turn themselves. Some tour guides also claim to have heard disembodied voices whisper their names.
Others have reported coming across “Clyde,” a mustached man who is sometimes seen trying to repair the fireplace or pushing a wheelbarrow in the basement.
Sarah’s Fascination With The Number 13
The Winchester House holds many secrets, including various inscriptions of work written by the great English philosopher Francis Bacon. But among these secrets, is Sarah’s obsession with the number 13. There are many 13-paned windows and 13-paneled ceilings, as well as 13-step stairways. Even her will had 13 parts, and she had signed it 13 times.
The American Landmark
On the 7th August of 1974, the Winchester Mystery House earned landmark status. While the captivating mansion is still owned by the family who bought it from the Winchester’s niece, their identity is yet another mystery of the house. But thanks to them, tourists can today explore 110 of the 161 rooms that Sarah dreamed up. Besides, the home boasts special tours on Friday the 13th and Halloween.
Mystery is a well-deserving middle name for the Victorian mansion in San Jose. Built amid tragedy, mystery, and spirits to appease, the Winchester house is a one-of-its-kind historic landmark.
While ghostly anecdotes are one matter, real-life encounters are an entirely different topic, but at the Winchester, both the employees and visitors claim spectral sightings.