The Winchester House has fascinated me since I learned of its mistress Sarah’s obsession with the occult, the number 13, and her frantic need for redemption. Her husband William invented the rifle responsible for countless deaths during the Civil War. Sarah’s fixation with the after-life occurred after her only child died of mysterious causes as a newborn and her husband William succumbed to tuberculosis. She consulted a psychic who told her to move from Connecticut out West and to build a house for these restless spirits who had taken her loved one’s lives. Sarah believed she would be the next to die unless she built a final resting place for these vengeful souls. As long as she continued building, her life would be spared. In 1884, she purchased a farmhouse in the pristine Santa Clara Valley and hired men to work in continuous shifts. She began a strange reclusive life filled with spiritual guides, architects, and builders.
Over the next 38 years the quaint home transformed into a massive estate built over 6 acres. According to the Winchester Mystery House website, when Sarah finally passed away in her sleep on September 5th, 1922, “the house contained 160 rooms, 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, 47 stairways, 47 fireplaces, 13 bathrooms, and 6 kitchens.” It came as no surprise to hear the house is haunted.
A few years ago we flew to San Francisco planning to travel down the coast to Los Angeles. I called for reservations. As we drove to this infamous mansion, I believed we had taken a wrong turn since the area seemed to be choked with modern shopping centers. I had imagined it in a more remote location. As we pulled up to the tourist attraction, it seemed to be frozen in time. My disappointment was soon forgotten once inside its rambling halls.
Our tour began in a room full of Tiffany stained glass windows that had been commissioned, but never used. The dark oppressive place set the tone for the entire tour. The desperation of this paranoid woman could be sensed in the awkwardness of stairways going nowhere, peculiar rooms, and strange windows in sets of thirteen or containing panes of that number.
We had been touring for quite a while when we arrived in a storage room Sarah had used for communing with the dead. I did not feel anything out of the ordinary, but pity for this poor woman. Moments later we arrived in another that had nothing in it, but at one time had been used for storage and was originally a hayloft. That’s when it hit me. I felt woozy and unbalanced as if the floor was moving beneath my feet. I became light-headed and nauseous. When we left the unfinished space, I took a deep breath and the queasiness went away.
After the extensive tour, I brought it up with my family and another guide.
“There was one room that made me feel wonky,” I said.
“No way mom!” my daughter Courtney said, “Was it that room with nothing in it?”
“Yes! Did you feel something too?”
“Oh, I felt so dizzy!” Courtney replied.
“Now that you mention it,” the tour guide said, “I have given tours here for quite a while and yet this was the first time that I felt something strange. I rushed my group through that room.”
“Was our experience an isolated event?” I wondered as I wrote this piece.
I searched the Winchester website and found, “Alleged Hauntings.” One time when a group toured the storage room, a tourist told the guide she could still feel violence taking place by spiritual entities. She knew that it had originally been a hayloft before the guide had mentioned it. She went on to say that long ago a fight broke out between two men. One attacked with a sharp tool which most likely killed the other. I literally got shivers down my spine after reading this story!
In the last photo you can see the trap door in the floor which had been used for pitching hay down to the horses. Can you see orbs floating in the room? This is the first time I have looked at these photos since our vacation!
Do you notice anything unusual in the top photo?
Click on the images to enlarge.
Would you ever be inclined to visit the Winchester Mystery House?
All photos by S. Lindau