Haunted by the Dead at the Winchester Mansion
When guilt, money and guns come together, the results can leave the rest of the world confused, curious and more than a little alarmed. The Winchester Mystery House is something that we have touched on before, but it definitely deserves a closer look. It can be said that its haunted origins began long before construction ever did, and even after its been opened to the public as a museum and tourist stop, it maintains a great deal of its scare factor.
The story begins in 1881, with the death of William Wirt Winchester. Winchester was the man who invented the famouse Winchester rifle, the gun that is said to have won the west. William Winchester died a rich man, leaving his widow Sarah Winchester more than 20.5 million dollars and an income of around 2000 dollars per day from her shares of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. However, it is truly unfortunate that the one thing that he could not leave her was peace of mind.
Winchester was, by all accounts, a normal woman until her husband’s death. After that point, she began going through a series of Boston mediums, looking for her husband’s spirit. It was during this point when her hunt was apparently successful. According to her husband’s spirit, or something else that the medium managed to contact for her, she had to move west out of Boston and she had to perpetually build a house without ever stopping.
Beseiged by depression and grief, Winchester moved west to San Jose in California, and from there, her dreams and nightmares took over. She became convinced that the spirits of the Native Americans killed by Winchester rifles were coming after her. It was only by creating the edifice that would become the Winchester Mystery House that they would be appeased or perhaps confused. Winchester herself was never clear on the difference and mentioned both possibilities at various times.
In 1884, Winchester purchased a farmhouse and set to work. With a team of skilled carpenters at her command, she started to build the mansion she had been ordered to create. Over the course of the next few years, the Winchester mansion would grow to be seven stories in height.
Even from the very beginning, Winchester didn’t have a real plan. She never hired an architect. Instead, the house was simply added to as she saw fit. It became a collection of strange rooms, some enormous and some closelike. There were doors that went right into walls or that let out into a drop, or stairs that ended no where. Some of the windows simply looked inot other rooms, and some of the stairs had uneven risers.
Today, the Winchester mansion stands a mere four stories and coveres only 4.5 acres. In its heyday, however, before the earthquakes that hit the area, it was seven stories tall and covered 162 acres. It was saved from total destruction in those earthquakes by its floating foundation, which allowed the enormous house to shift independently of its brick foundation.
Today, there are 40 bedrooms, 47 fireplaces, 17 chimneys, two basements, three elevators and more than 10,000 panes of glass in the house itself. Despite the fact that the house is over a hundred years old, it has several modern luxurious, including indoor toilets, push button lights and steam heat.
As she built, a certain mystique built up around Winchester. She was generous, paying her workers 3 dollars a day compared to the one and a half dollars that the local employers provided. Many charities benefited from her generousity as well.
However, despite her generosity, she was quite reclusive. At midnight and 2 AM, neighbors would hear a deep bell being rung, as those times marked the arrival and departure of the spirits to the world. During that time, she would be in the Blue Room, communing with the spirits of the dead. Despite this, she supposedly never slept in the same room twice, seeking to confound the spirits who wanted to destroy her.
Since Winchester’s death in 1922, there have been plenty of rumors of spirits haunting the house. Sometimes, people hear the sounds of construction, as if the workers have never stopped adding to the house at all. Some guides talk about hearing voices call their name, and on one occasion, a care taker found his desk soaked with water without any apparent source.
Winchester herself sometimes makes an appearance, sitting at a desk or gazing out a window. If she is trapped, she does not say so, and if she has found peace, she has not told a soul.