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Sarah's House Of Mystery
If you were haunted by angry, vengeful spirits, what would you do? Maybe build a house for them so huge and full of mystery that they would be confused and trapped? That is exactly what Sarah Lockwood Winchester did.
The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, is a humongous house full of doors and stairways that go nowhere, chimneys that stop before reaching the roof, window frames that look out onto nothing, skylights (approximately 52) built above skylights, closet doors that open only to a blank wall and so many other oddities that it would confuse any ghost bent on haunting anyone.
From the outside, this is a magnificent looking, Victorian mansion. Once inside, any visitor would be crazily confused and lost without a tour guide. It was under continuous construction for 38 years, from 1884 to 1922.
The house originally had seven stories, but three of them collasped in the 1906 earthquake. It originally sat in the midst of over 161 acres of gardens. There are approximately 160 rooms. There are over one thousand windows and about 10,000 window panes. Each window has thirteen panes.
There are 40 staircases, all but one has 13 steps. One circular staircase has 42 steps, but they are only two inches high each. There are stunning chandeliers with 13 sconces each for candles. There are spider web designs in the beautiful stained glass windows. There are forty bedrooms. There are 467 doorways, but over 950 doors, some opening to blank walls and some opening to outside and a treacherous drop to the ground.
Forty-seven fireplaces grace the house and there are 17 chimneys. There are at least five kitchens, possibly six. One kitchen has a skylight over it so Sarah could stand on the second story landing and watch the cooks below to make sure they prepared her foods properly. She specified that it was to be made with one-way viewing glass, so they could not see her standing above them. The problem is, it was installed upside down and she could not see them, but the cooks could gaze up and see her trying to peer down.
Not to be too shabby to the spirits that haunted her, Sarah had two magnificent ballrooms built. Sarah was a bit of a recluse and did not entertain - the ballrooms were for her ghostly visitors.
Why, one would ask, did this lovely, petite lady insist on all this madness? It cost her more than five million dollars over the years to have this mansion built. She was the designer of this archetectural marvel. Her consultants? Spirits - spirits that she confided in for the floor plans and everything the contractors were to build. No one questioned her decisions, probably because it kept many people happily employed and busy.
Sarah Lockwood Pardee was born in 1839 in New Haven, Connecticut. She grew up to become a lovely, beautiful and saught after society belle. Her heart was captured by William Wirt Winchester. In 1857, William took over his father's shirt manufacturing business and also took over the assets of a factory that made rifles.
Sarah and William were married in New Haven in 1862. William's rifle business prospered greatly with the creation of the Winchester Repeating Rifle and the couple were blissfully happy. In 1866 their daughter Annie was born. Disaster struck their life when the baby died just two weeks later. Shattered and depressed, Sarah was on the rim of madness for almost ten years. She and William never had another child.
In 1881 more tragedy fell on Sarah when William contracted tuberculosis and died. Sarah inherited William's fortune, worth over twenty million dollars and almost fifty percent of the rifle company which gave her an income of about $1,000 dollars a day, which at that time was not taxable.
Sarah's fortune could not take away the pain and depression that fate had visited on her. For help in her sorrow she turned to mediums and psychics. She was told that the spirits of the people shot down by her husband's rifles were bitter and lost and vengeful and she must do something to keep them from harming her. A medium had told Sarah that William's spirit would guide her and that she take her fortune, move west, "follow the sunset" and find a place for the angry spirits to abide.
So Sarah moved west, to California. She was told by "William's spirit" that she would know when she found the right place. The medium told her she must build a home for herself and the spirits that had fallen from the rifles.
In 1884, Sarah found herself in the Santa Clara Valley. There was a home under construction, by a Doctor Caldwell. The house had six rooms. Sarah convinced Dr. Caldwell to sell it to her. From that moment till her death, Sarah made her home there and never stopped adding to the small house, which over the years had become the enormous mansion that still stands in all it's mystery, giving the fallen spirits room to roam.
It was not a sense of humour that drove Sarah to build the mysterious house, it was one of survival. She believed that as long as she kept building she would live and eventually make things right for the spirits that her husband's rifles took down. It is now a California Historical Landmark.
Ghostly tales are still told around the hearths today of the spirits haunting the house. One lost soul, a man dressed like a cowboy, roams the hallways, looking for a way out.
Sarah Lockwood Winchester died alone in her bedroom September 4, 1922, after retiring from conferring with spirits in the seance room.
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