The Winchester Mystery House® is an architectural wonder and historic landmark in San Jose, CA. Sarah Pardee Winchester, heiress of the Winchester Repeating Arms fortune, built the Winchester Mystery House, a magnificent but strange residence.
Hidden tunnels, enigmatic rooms, and meandering stairs that seem to lead nowhere can be found throughout the house. The mansion was built in 1884, and it appears that the architects forgot their blueprints, yet the layout was purposeful and originates from a tragic past.
The story began with the marriage of Sarah Lockwood Pardee and William Wirt Winchester. Mr. Winchester worked for the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, which produced the Winchester repeating rifle, a single-barrel gun capable of holding many rounds of ammunition. Sarah gave birth to a daughter, Annie, four years after she and William married. The infant died of marasmus after a few weeks. Annie was the Winchesters’ only child, and her death in 1866 was especially heartbreaking for Mrs. Winchester—many believe she never fully recovered from the emotional blow. Mr. Winchester died of illness in 1881, leaving Sarah with more than half of the shares in the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.
Sarah, overcome with grief when her husband died of TB in 1881, is said to have sought out a spiritualist who could communicate with the dead. Instead of providing her with comfort or closure, she was offered a disturbing warning. Through the medium, William informed Sarah that their sorrows, including the loss of her daughter, were caused by the family’s blood money from the Winchester guns. He forewarned her that hostile ghosts would seek her out. Sarah must make a house for herself and the spirits that have fallen from their deadly weapon, William added, in order to protect herself. Sarah was urged to abandon their house in New Haven, Connecticut, and relocate to the west, where she would construct a magnificent home for the spirits. There was only one catch: the house could never be finished and if she stopped construction then she would die.
Sarah Winchester moved to San Jose, in 1884, she bought a big plot of land and proceeded to develop on it until her death 38 years later. Architects and contractors started construction on an eight-bedroom home, which gradually grew into a seven-story complex. What’s more intriguing is how the foreboding number 13 is a recurring motif throughout the property. Each of the house’s windows, for example, has 13 panels; each of the stairwells has 13 steps; and the ceiling has 13 panels as well. Mrs Winchester’s will, according to the website, included 13 portions, each of which she signed 13 times.
There are claims that events began to occur that prompted Mrs. Winchester, her workers, neighbours, and relatives to believe the house was haunted by spirits. Mrs. Winchester kept specific chambers in which she would try to connect with the dead, and bells would ring, windows would open and close without anyone in the room.
Sarah issued many bizarre demands to her contractors including trap doors, secret passages, a skylight in the floor, spider web windows, and staircases that led nowhere. There are also doors that go to nothing but blank walls, as well as a deadly door on the second storey that leads to nothing but an ominous plunge to the yard below. Some believe the labyrinth was designed to confound the ghosts, giving Sarah some calm and a way to get away.
There are other theories, which suggest that Sarah became depressed after the death of her husband and kid, and was just looking for a change of scenery and interest. Sarah Winchester’s mansion featured 160 rooms, 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, 47 stairways, 13 bathrooms, and six kitchens when she died of heart disease in 1922 at the age of 82. Many of her goods were bequeathed to far-flung family members and local NGOs in her will, but the property itself was not. The majority of the furniture in the house were handed to her niece Marian I. Marriott, who elected to sell or auction them. Her cherished home was auctioned off after her death and subsequently transformed into a public spectacle, which it is still today.
On August 7, 1974, the Winchester Mystery House was designated as a National Historic Landmark. The interesting mansion is still owned by the family who bought it from the Winchester estate in 1922—their identity, however, is another Winchester House mystery.
Cited as one of the most haunted places in America, Winchester House is still a popular location for believers hoping to have their own paranormal experience.
Visual by: Aslam Siddique
Article by Sneha Singha, The North-Eastern Chronicle