I know some of you will be familiar with this, but for those who are not here’s a great story for you:
Once upon a time there was woman named Sarah Winchester. Winichester was her married name, for in 1862 she married the immensely, immensely wealthy William Winchester, the founder and chairman of Winchester rifles.
See, guns used to be muzzle based. After shooting them, you have to pour the gunpowder into the barrel, take a stick, pack it in, then fire the gun. You’ve seen Civil War movies, right? Winchester was the man who invented the round, where several bullets can be placed and fired one after the other (one every 3 seconds at the time).
They were quite in love and very happy. In 1866 they had a daughter. However, the daughter died as a baby and Sarah fell into a deep depression which took her years to recover from and they never had another baby. 15 years later her husband William died of tuberculosis and Sarah fell apart once again. She also inherited 20 millions dollars, a crapload of money today, but in 1881 almost unfathomable. Bill Gates kind of money.
Distraught over the loss of her husband, Sarah turned to our old friend Spiritualism. She consulted a Spiritualist medium who held a sceance and called upon the spirit of Sarah’s dead husband.
“Your husband is here,” the medium told her and then went on to provide a description of William Winchester. “He says for me to tell you that there is a curse on your family, which took the life of he and your child. It will soon take you too. It is a curse that has resulted from the terrible weapon created by the Winchester family. Thousands of persons have died because of it and their spirits are now seeking vengeance.”
“You just sell your home and head towards the setting sun. You will be guided by your husband and when you found your new home in the west, you will recognize it.”
“You must start a new life,” said the medium, “and build a home for yourself and for the spirits who have fallen from this terrible weapon too. You can never stop building the house. If you continue building, you will live. Stop and you will die.”
And oh how she built. She built that home for the next 36 years, never, ever, ever stopping. She had 20 million dollars and didn’t ever to stop, so she didn’t.And so Sarah Winchester went to California, to Santa Clara Valley, bought a 6 room house, drew up some building plans herself, hired a team of carpenters, and started building.
She believed the house was a giant ghost trap, in which all the angry, harmful spirits of the men killed by Winchester rifles would become caged and unable to escape. Thus, as the years passed and the house grew bigger and bigger, the inside became a labyrinth to the point of insanity. Hallways led into walls or twisted around upon themselves. Rooms were built over smaller rooms. Doors were joined to windows. Countless staircases led nowhere, closets opened to blank walls, trap doors, double-back hallways, skylights were located one above another, doors opened to steep drops to the lawn below… insanity.
Sarah Winchester walked about in a veil which she never removed in front of any of the workmen. In fact workmen were fired who accidentally glimpsed her face.
The number 13 abounded. Most of the windows contained 13 panes of glass, the walls had 13 panels, the greenhouse had 13 cupolas, many of the wooden floors contained 13 sections. Some of the rooms had 13 windows and every staircase but one had 13 steps. The one without 13 steps had 42 steps, but each step was 2 inches and the staircase rose only 9 feet.
By the time she died on September 5, 1922 the house occupied 6 acres and had 160 rooms, 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, 47 stairways, 47 fireplaces, 13 bathrooms, and 6 kitchens. The moment the carpenters heard of Mrs. Winchester’s death they literally stopped working on the spot and walked away, leaving nails only half driven.