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You get to live indefinitely, but you have to keep constructing? Would you take it? Alternatively, you can let it go and be haunted by spirits. Sarah Winchester designed and built Winchester House, a perplexing mansion with over 161 rooms. Winchester House, which spans over 24000 square feet and has over 161 rooms (it used to have 500).

Over the course of nearly four decades, the mysterious house never stopped building. The mansion has been said to be haunted by the ghosts of those killed with Winchester rifles since it was built in 1884.

Sarah Winchester and Story of Winchester House

Sarah Lockwood Pardee was the fifth of Leonard Pardee and Sarah Burns’s 7 children. Her birth year is unknown, but based on available records, she was born between 1839 and 1841. Sarah was intelligent and well-educated, and she spoke four languages and played three instruments.

1862

On September 30, 1862, Sarah Lockwood Pardee, then in her early twenties, married William Winchester, the only son of Oliver Winchester, who founded the company that made the Winchester rifle and the best one, the Winchester 73, also known as the “Gun that Won the West,” because it didn’t require reloading like other rifles. Winchester rifles undoubtedly influenced the outcome of many wars.

1866

Sarah and William had their first child, Annie Pardee Winchester, but she died 40 days later from Marasmus, or malnourishment caused by calorie and protein deficiency. In the same year, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company was founded.

1880

Oliver Winchester died, leaving his only son William in charge of the Winchester repeating arms.

1881

William died of tuberculosis at the age of 43, shortly after his father’s death, in March 1881.

1884

Last know portrait of Sarah Winhcester
Last know portrait of Sarah Winchester.

Sarah traveled to California and purchased an 8-room farmhouse in San Jose, where she began the work that would continue until the day she died. After William’s death, Sarah was left with half of the company and over $20 million (over $500 million in 2019) in the inheritance of the Winchester arms company, which provided her with a daily income of $1000 for the rest of her life, making her one of the richest women alive.

The Winchester mystery house

Sarah found William’s death unbearable, so she sought the help of mediums in Boston to help her understand the deaths of her daughter and husband. While doing so, a medium told Sarah that her family was being haunted by the spirits of those killed by the Winchester Rifle and that her family member’s death was simply punishment.

Sarah’s family was cursed, according to the medium, and the only way to break the curse was to move to the west and build a house that would never stop building. The good spirits would tell her what to build, and if she followed their instructions, she would live, but if she didn’t, she would be haunted by the evil spirits of those killed by the Winchester Rifle.

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Sarah took the medium’s advice and relocated to the East Coast, where she bought Dr. Caldwell’s house as well as 161 acres of farmland. Sarah hired 22 carpenters and began construction on the never-ending Winchester House, with Sarah as the sole architect.

Sarah would sometimes pay workers three times as much money to keep them working 24 hours a day, every day and every year for the next 38 years, as the spirits instructed.

Winchester house before 1906 earthquake
Winchester House before the 1906 earthquake. Photo: Courtesy WINCHESTER MYSTERY HOUSE

The Winchester House was originally seven stories tall with over 500 rooms, but due to an earthquake, it was reduced to four stories with only 161 rooms, with the most recent room discovered in October 2016. The house has 2000 doors and 10,000 windows, 47 stairways, 47 fireplaces, 17 chimneys, six kitchens, three elevators, thirteen bathrooms with only one shower, and thirteen coat hooks in the seance room.

Bathroom with a window which nurses used to check on Sarah
Bathroom with a window.

The strangeness of this mysterious house is that it only has 3 meters of stairs, but it has 7 turns and 44 steps of switchback stairs. Sarah had a window on the bathroom door through which nurses were supposed to check on her, despite her secrecy. Skylights emerge from the floor and storage cabinets with a half-inch storage space.

Séance Room

Sarah also had a seance room that she could only enter at midnight to talk to the good spirits. At midnight, a bell was rung outside the Winchester House to summon the spirits, and at 2 o’clock, the bell was rung again to tell the spirits to leave. No one except Sarah was allowed to enter the seance room, which had only one way in but three ways out, one of which was disguised as a closet and the other simply dropped down at the kitchen sink below.

Legend has it that good spirits would tell her about the house’s strange architecture, which could explain why some staircases lead to the ceiling rather than the upper floor, why there is a door to nowhere, and why some doors lead to brick walls. The Winchester house was designed to aid her in escaping the haunting ghosts by confusing them with its unusual design.

Winchester Mystery House's Seance room where Sarah would hold spiritual meetings.
Séance room or Blue room.

Sarah’s fascination with the number 13

Sarah was fascinated by the number 13. Her architecturally designed house had 13 bathrooms and only one shower, the 13th bathroom has 13 windows, the grand staircase has 13 steps. The Winchester house has a total of 52 skylights, the driveway has 13 palm trees, one sink has 13 drain holes, and some rooms have 13 ceiling panels, 13 windows, and 13 panes in a glass window with 13 st.

Bizarre design of the Winchester Mystery house

Let’s take a look at some of the Winchester house photos that lead many people to believe that this isn’t your typical house design.

1. Door to nowhere
Door to nowhere

One of the exit doors in the Séance room leads straight down to the kitchen sink below.

2. Dead end stairs
Dead end stairs

What could have caused such strange architecture, some might wonder? Sarah had her own answers.

3. Windows opening inside the house

We’re used to seeing windows on the outside of houses to help with ventilation and fresh air, but Winchester’s house has windows on the inside.

4. Mirror on stairs
mirror in the midle of stairs.

A mirror placed between the stairwells in such a way that the stairs to the left can be clearly seen.

5. Another door to nowhere
Door from first floor without balcony.

Doors on the second floor open to nothing, possibly to confuse the ghosts who are haunting her and give her time to flee.

6. Switchback Stairs
Switchback stairs

These stairs were only used for a three-meter elevation but had 44 steps and seven turns.

7. Windows to other floors
Windows opening on other floor

Skylights emerge from the window, as well as a window on a different floor.

The house structure was as chaotic as Sarah’s brain, with the house construction going on nonstop. Some thought she was going insane with the house construction going on.

Sarah Winchester being Ahead of time

Sarah’s architecture was certainly ahead of its time, with three elevators, an annunciator, window knobs to open shutters from the inside that later became very popular, carbide gas lights, communication pipes that go all the way up to the fourth floor to help her communicate with her servants, and some interior design.

Winchester Mystery House's announciator
Annunciator, Photo Courtesy: Winchester Mystery House.

Sarah used to sleep in one of her 40 bedrooms after performing seances, one night in each bedroom, which might confuse her servants, so she introduced this annunciator, which will give her servants a brief idea about her and where they can find her.

Sarah had doorbells that looked like buttons and displayed the number on an annunciator, which was unusual in the early 1900s.

Sarah died of heart failure in 1922, but her life was never peaceful; the deaths of family members kept her grieving throughout her life, as did the fact that she had to keep building The Winchester house to keep the spirits from haunting her.

When the workers learned of Sarah’s death, they halted construction, leaving nails halfway through the doors and walls, which is why some people claim to hear nails dropping to the floor, hear strange voices and footsteps, and see the ghost or spirits, both male and female, sometimes children, outside Winchester House or inside the mansion.

Now that you’ve read about the Mysterious Winchester House, now read about the true story behind the conjuring movie and then read about the cases investigated by the Warrens.

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