Supernatural fans, ever wonder why the boys are named Winchester? Not only is it a brand of gun but there’s a famous ghost story that goes with it
Sarah Winchester, wife of the gun-maker William Winchester, visited a medium after her husband died of tuberculosis. She was told that the family was cursed and being haunted by people who had been killed with Winchester rifles. The psychic said the ghosts could be appeased if she built a house for them. “Never stop building,” she was told “or you’ll die”
For the next 38 years she had construction going on the home 24 hours a day
Each night she held a seance to ask the ghosts what to build next. Because she let the dead design much of the house the layout doesn’t always make sense
There are staircases that lead to ceilings
doors that open onto walls
and one that leads to a two story drop off
Sarah Winchester slept in a different room every night hoping the ghosts wouldn’t be able to find her. In 1922 she died in her sleep
okay so ive made a post about this before which is cool and this one is quite detailed but i absolutely adore the Winchester Mystery House so I thought I would add a bit more info. (plus some more pictures)
okay story time
The Winchester Mystery House was built by Sarah Winchester (pictured above) after her husband William Wirt Winchester died of TB. William’s father, Oliver Winchester, started the Winchester Firearms Company and designed the Winchester Rifle and after his death William took over the company, but upon his death there were no more direct Winchester heirs so the Winchester line that the guns belonged to ended. Because of this, when William died Sarah was told by a medium that she would be haunted by the spirits of all of the people that had been killed by a Winchester Rifle unless she built the mansion to appease them and the “bad” spirits would harm her if she didn’t build it to be a maze with traps (as seen by the stairway to nowhere pictured above other examples including doors that open into walls, doors that open to 5ft drops, staircases that double back on themselves, etc.).
(the double-back staircase)
And so construction began.
She built for years and in fact she never stopped building and died while it was still in construction.
Every night she would go into the seance room and wear one of 13 seance cloaks from one of the 13 hooks (pictured below) and at exactly midnight she have the bell in the belltower rung the call the spirits to her. She then began to communicate with the spirits of those killed by Winchester Rifles and ask them what was to be done and what she had to do to make the house suitable for them. After two hours in seance she would finish communication and the bell would be rung again twice to send the spirits away again. The next morning she would go to the builders and tell them the additions and changes that were to be made. Sometimes she would draw very simple sketches, but there were never any proper blueprints during the entire continuous construction. This lead to some, often severe, structural instabilities.
Because of this there are loads of interesting design features some, such as pillars built upside down, intended to confuse and trap bad spirits and some just plain silly and odd because they ripped down structures and remodeled it all so often like chimneys that ended up stopping halfway through rooms. (I’ll go into a bit more detail about the rooms and things later)
For years Sarah Winchester built and built and built, particularly on the front of the building where she build upwards in a tower seven stories high (pictured below) and that was even where she stayed most often in the Daisy Bedroom, but after an earthquake in 1906 which nearly killed her and trapped her in the tower for two days she stopped. She believed that the earthquake was a sign from the spirits that she was spending too much of her money and efforts building up and not enough out so she left the tower as it was, half build and partially destroyed, boarded it up, and carried on building, only this time building out.
Anyway that’s the history out of the way onto the fun stuff.
Some basic facts are that over the course of construction there were a total of 500 to 600 rooms built but due to Sarah Winchester’s constant revisions meaning rooms were pulled down and the 1906 earthquake the total when she died (and still the total) is 160 rooms in the house. Of those rooms 40 are bedrooms (which she would change every night to confuse evil spirits), 2 are ballrooms (only one is finished the other was unfinished and unfurnished), 13 bathrooms (the 13th bathroom is a common place for spirit sightings), and 2 basements. Some of the more interesting features are 17 chimneys (and 2 more unfinished ones as mentioned earlier), 47 fireplaces (with multiple fires feeding into the same chimney even if it meant oddly shaped pipes to funnel into them), and over 10,000 panes of glass some of which were Tiffany stained glass windows some designed by Louis Tiffany himself and some other stained glass windows were designed by Sarah Winchester the most famous being the spider-wed window design with 13 threads. As you can guess 13 played a very important part in the House with 13 panes to many windows, 13 steps to many of the staircases, 13 sections to the carriage entrance, 13 ceiling panels in the Grand Hall, and a chandelier with 12 candles in the Grand Hall which Sarah added a 13th candle onto (pictured below). It was also important to Sarah Winchester herself as well for example her will was set out in 13 sections and she signed it 13 times, far more than was needed.
There was an area called the Hall of Fire which has a very high density of fireplaces which was designed to produce and trap massive amounts of heat. Some people believe that this was meant to ease Sarah Winchester’s very severe arthritis, but others believe it to have been to warm the cold spirits and make the evil spirits uncomfortable.
The Grand Ballroom (pictured below) was also a point of interest. It was build for $9000 in a time when a standard family home could be built for $1000 and there was a time when a worker worked for 37 hours straight putting out the floors and ripping them up again to get them just right when Sarah was being very very specific. Interestingly, it was build almost entirely without the use of nails. No-one is entirely sure why, but one theory (which many Supernatural fans might guess) is that the iron nails would have repulsed the spirits which was something Sarah didn’t want to do. The Ballroom was never used to hold a ball at all, but there was a case where Sarah Winchester tried to hire an orchestra and invited no guests so it is assumed that she wanted to hold a ball for the spirits. This never happened due to scheduling conflicts of the orchestra and the Ballroom was sealed off after the earthquake of 1906.
Other things that Sarah Winchester did for the spirits included holding dinner parties to which she laid 13 places for 12 spirits with her being the 13th person. She was also known for playing the organ in the Grand Ballroom (can be seen in the picture above) at night for the spirits, despite her severe arthritis which would have made it difficult and, most likely, painful.
She was also said to have built and designed various features to cater to the good spirits so that they would feel at home and have a nice place to visit to keep them happy and appeased. These features included only having 3 mirrors in the house at the time of her death as according to legend spirits are afraid of their own reflection as seeing it causes them to vanish or become trapped or, in other stories, are enraged and scared by mirrors because they don’t have reflections (either way mirrors are not liked by spirits no matter what version of the legend of the time). She also had many different forms of lighting installed to light the room completely so that it was devoid of shadows. There was often at least two forms of lighting (gas, oil lamps, candles, etc. and even in some of the more impressive rooms, electric lighting despite the immense cost as infancy of the technology) in the same room in case one went out because ghosts are said to be humiliated by shadows as they are unable to cast their own.
There’s loads more on the house and Sarah Winchester herself, but this is a fairly comprehensive description with quite good details and is all I can remember off the top of my head and I have a headache so don’t really want to do any research. There is a lot on specific hauntings, but again I don’t know of any particular ones besides one of a native american man who was supposedly an evil spirit going after Sarah Winchester and would follow her at night with a bloodhound (also a spirit) so she had lots of secret passages and staircases that folded back on themselves built to avoid him.
If you want to find out more then I suggest going to the Winchester House website [x] or watching one of the many shows and documentaries on it. There are loads of shows by paranormal programs that focus on the Winchester Mystery House including Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, Mystery Hunters, and Most Haunted and other shows have gone there for example there was a segment on it on BBC’s The One Show in 2012 and they were requested to go back so much that they did a return segment in early 2014. The best one I’ve seen was Most Haunted Live: Winchester Mystery House which is available to be watched on youtube [x] (I spent a few days watching it in parts one time). They make for some really cool reading/watching and its really atmospheric even if you don’t believe in ghosts and spirits and all that (i mean really atmospheric in that even just writing this it gives me tingling feelings in my stomach). If you ever get the chance to go there then please do because it is a really interesting place to go and see (its near the top of my list of places to go/see before i die)