Winchester Mystery House

The ‘Henry Rifle’

Oliver Winchester, a shirt manufacturer and businessman, fathered a son by the name of William Wirt Winchester in 1838. Oliver took over the assets of a firm in 1857 that manufactured a rifle called the ‘Volcanic Repeater’ which used a lever mechanism to load bullets. In 1860, the company developed the ‘Henry Rifle’ which allowed easy reload and rapid fire which averaged a shot per three seconds. Due to the total revolution in gun design, the ‘Henry Rifle’ became known as the “rifle that won the West” as this was being distributed during the height of the Civil War.

How The Mystery House Got It’s Start

The Winchester ‘Henry rifle’ was selling briskly due to its popularity and use by the Union Army. William Winchester was set for life with abundant wealth. It was at this time that William Wirt Winchester married Sarah Pardee on September 30, 1862. Their marriage was happy one, and On July 15, 1866, Sarah gave birth to their first, and only child, Annie Pardee Winchester. The baby died nine days later of marasmus. The loss of her baby pushed Sarah close to insanity and it was nearly a decade before Sarah could be considered recovered from the shock. In 1881 William developed pulmonary tuberculosis and died. Sarah’s grief for her husband seemed to reawaken her pain over losing her baby and friends grew concerned about her. It was suggested by a friend that she visit a spiritualist medium, who might be able to help her communicate with her lost family. Sarah’s visit to the medium shaped the rest of her life.

The Twenty Million Dollar Winchester Inheritance

Her inheritance from William was over twenty million dollars and her income from her share of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company amounted to about $1000 a day. The medium told Sarah that she was in contact with William Winchester, who said that the Winchester family was cursed by the many lives lost to the Henry rifle including William himself. The only way Sarah could save herself from the dreadful curse was to sell her house and head toward the setting sun. Sarah was told that she would be guided by her husband in choosing the spot to build her new home, and once she began building, she must never stop, and if she did stop building, that would be the day of her death. In 1884, she bought a house under construction in Santa Clara Valley and carpenters began building around the clock.There was never a master plan for this house, so Sarah simply sketched plans for the work each day. Much of the construction was haphazard, and Sarah occasionally demanded rooms be torn down or boarded up. The resulting house is definitely odd with doors joined to windows, blind chimneys, stairs that lead nowhere, doors that open to blank walls or, worse yet, steep drops to the ground below. Wandering the house can be like a carnival maze with double-back halls and trap doors.

Sarah Was Obsessed With The Number 13

Originally the grounds consisted of almost 162.000 acres, and the house had seven floors. In April 1906, after the earthquake that hit San Francisco and the surrounding area, the house was reduced in levels, and is presently four today. As a result of the earthquake, Sarah was imprisoned in her room. Upon being freed, she believed that the earthquake was a message from the spirits that she was spending too much money and time on the front areas of the house. Consequently, she had thirty rooms boarded up, never using them again, devoting her money and designs to others areas of the house. Additionally, Sarah was obsessed with the number thirteen, which is apparent in many of these projects.

The Most Interesting House In America

Although building never ceased in Sarah’s lifetime, she did eventually die from natural causes on September 4,1922 at the age of 85. Sarah was put to rest next to her husband and daughter. After her death, it was discovered that the Winchester fortune had been eaten up by the expenses from the house, although it was rumored that treasure was hidden away somewhere in the great maze of rooms. A safe was discovered and opened, but it contained only Sarah’s greatest treasure, a lock of her daughter’s hair. Many people feel the Winchester Mansion was only haunted by Sarah’s grief and her guilt over the deaths of so many people from Winchester rifles. Still, whether you see it as a truly haunted house, or just a truly strange bit of architecture, the Winchester Mansion is definitely one of the most interesting houses in America. The Winchester House is located in San Jose, CA and is open to the public every day except Christmas, and flashlight tours are a popular event on Halloween, and every Friday the 13th.

Facts About The Winchester House

The House contains 160 rooms, which includes 40 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, and 6 kitchens. There are 47 fireplaces, many of which have flues that go nowhere, as Sarah believed the spirits after her could enter and leave a house through the chimneys. There are two ballrooms, and 40 staircases, and roughly 450 doorways. Of the forty staircases, many lead to nowhere, and one ends at the ceiling. All the stairs have thirteen steps except one which consists of 42 steps, but each step is only two inches high, and consists of this back and forth pattern. There are 2,000 doors in the house, and 10,000 windows. Most of the windows have thirteen panes, and other rooms have thirteen windows. Sarah was never forthright on why she did these odd things, and she took these and many other fascinating facts with her to her grave.

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