When I was a little girl I had a friend with a huge farmhouse. It had secret passageways and was great fun to play hide and seek in, but it was also was a little scary! Fast forward 35 years and I had déjà vu in a big way at The Winchester Mystery House. The house is spectacular in and of itself, but it also comes with one hell of a story.
Sarah Pardee was a wealthy, well educated woman when she met her husband to be William Winchester. They lived a happy life together funded by the money from William's share of the Winchester gun fortune.
In Victorian times there were no psychiatrists to help with mental health issues, only spirit mediums, and it is said that Sarah consulted one to help her through her grief. She was allegedly informed that she was cursed and haunted by the spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles, that her money was blood money, and the only way to appease them was to build a house.... and never stop.
Sarah found a piece of land in San Jose and did just that. She employed carpenters to work around the clock, to build to her own plans and specifications, exactly what she wanted. This turned out to be a never ending collection of rooms and passageways. She had no end of money, and no end of ideas. She would build, rebuild, build over and tear down room after room.
Although she courted them for their building advice, Sarah didn’t want them hanging around and so the house is full of spiritually significant features such as chimneys that don’t reach the ceiling to stop spirits getting in, very few mirrors, and the number thirteen everywhere. There are thirteen windows in the 13th bathroom, thirteen palm trees in the garden, thirteen stairs in the main stairway.
Because of the spirits contrary nature, or maybe because Mrs Winchester was not an architect, the house is odd to say the least. Doors to nowhere, cupboard doors into another room, stairways that go up, then down, then up again, windows that look into walls.
The tour of the house is guided as it is apparently rather easy to get lost and people were stealing bits and pieces from the rooms. The guides are very good and the stories are so interesting that any feeling of it being twee doesn’t last. Everything about the house is intricate and exquisite, even down to the door latches. There are rare examples of wallpaper and priceless stained glass.
Personally, her bedroom where she died was the most moving room for me and the seance room was the most spooky.
Read more about the Winchester Mystery house at www.winchestermysteryhouse.com