Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Winchester House-A California Must-See!


Three miles from the middle of San Jose, California at 525 Winchester Boulevard is California Historical Landmark Number 868. It is right in the middle of Silicon Valley now, but the scenery was very different when Sarah Winchester first moved here in 1884. The landscape then, was open farmland where a partially built 8-room farmhouse stood. This was exactly what Mrs. Winchester was in the market for. She bought the property and began the project that would keep her busy the rest of her life, building what was to become the Winchester Mystery House. Sarah had been widowed in 1881 and she had lost her 6 month old daughter, Annie, in 1866. Her husband had been William Witt Winchester, second president of the Winchester Rifle Company. William Winchester had died young from tuberculosis. Both Annie and William were buried in a Connecticut graveyard. Mrs. Winchester had journeyed to California because of the advice of a psychic who had told her: "...build a home for yourself and for the spirits who have fallen from this terrible weapon, too. You must never stop building the house. If you continue building, you will live forever. But if you stop, then you will die too."

The Winchester Rifle Company had made a fortune and Sarah inherited 20.5 million on her husband's death and the equivalent of 1,000 dollars a day, which was untaxed until 1913 from company sales. This is about the equivalent of 21,000 dollars a day in 2008 dollars. The firearms were also responsible for the deaths of many native Americans, Civil War soldiers and many other types of people from all walks of life. The psychic said that it was the very numerous spirits of all these dead people that needed to be appeased. She told Sarah that the only way to quiet the spirits of the many dead by Winchester rifles was to move west, find an unfinished house and build 'rooms' for the spirits. Sarah Winchester took this advice to heart and found the house and never stopped building onto it for the rest of her life. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week over the next 28 years, the building never stopped. It is estimated the continual building cost 5.5 million dollars in 1922 dollars which would be the equivalent of 70 million in 2008 dollars-in other words-quite a house! Thus stands the 6 acre, 160 room monstrosity today. It has 47 fireplaces, 10,000 windowpanes, 17 chimneys (with evidence of two others), two basements and three elevators.

Spirits-not architects planned the Winchester house. Every midnight Sarah Winchester would go to a small blue room in the center of the building, and using an ouija board she would converse with the "good" spirits. These spirits would advise her about what needed to be done next to keep the evil spirits away. The next morning Mrs. Winchester would tell the foreman about the necessary changes. No plans were ever drawn up-only an explanatory sketch when needed. The spirits had some wild ideas about house building! The Winchester place is a mind-bending maze of almost psychedelic proportions. There are windows in the floor, a set of stairs runs up to a blank ceiling and doors open out into nothing-a sheer drop into empty space. In one room a cupboard opens onto a space about a half-inch deep, and another door opens onto the entire rear of the house. There are windows with walls directly behind them. There are stairs that go up and down all to end up on the floor you started on. There are also dozens of secret passages. All in all these are just a small fraction of the massive house's oddities. The whole building was designed to be a huge ghost trap. Every deceitful nook and cranny was designed to frustrate spirits-even the fact that all the pillars in the house are inverted, something that is supposed to confuse the spirits.

The house was in a constant state of flux over the years. At one point, over 600 rooms were constructed, leaving the 160 that exist today. Some knowledge got lost to the ages over the years. For instance, it is not known which ones, if any of the current rooms were in the original farmhouse. The wine cellar was intentionally forgot about; more or less. Mrs. Winchester kept a superb cellar, but one day she noticed a black handprint on the wall. She thought the handprint the work of evil spirits and ordered the wine cellar to be boarded up, along with its racks upon racks of fine wines, and its location was later forgotten! The house was a massive 7 stories tall at its height, but the tower containing the highest 3 was toppled by the Great 1906 Earthquake. The earthquake itself was an event Mrs. Winchester typically had her own ideas about. Sarah Winchester believed the earthquake was the spirits' retribution because she had gotten too close to completing the front of the house. Sarah immediately decided to have an entire section boarded up-including an enormously expensive ballroom-and moved to the rear of the house for the rest of her life.

No one entered that part of the house until her death in 1922, and the quake damage remains. The Winchester house is full of occult symbolism, as one might expect. The number thirteen plays a large role in the furnishings and architecture of the house. Spider webs are a common decorative theme, and perhaps that should come as no surprise, given the "trapping" nature of the house itself. A crescent hedge had great significance for Mrs. Winchester during her life but she never told anyone why. Interestingly, the hedge points directly to the room she died in and she never slept in the same bedroom twice in a row to confuse the spirits. Even though tourists have to endure the "touristy" stuff-like an acne faced kid droning some tour information he or she learned by rote, the Winchester house is said to have a very strange atmosphere by many who visit. Its atmosphere is said to be strangely oppressive, even on bright, blue-sky days. If you are ever going to visit the northern California area-DO NOT miss visiting this fascinating and very historical place! Winchester House Link

7 comments:

Autumnforest said...

Great post--great subject! That house and her story has always fascinated me. I wonder if the psychic was married to a contractor? Hee hee. From a Feng Shui perspective, the house should be an energy nightmare. If weird stuff happens there, I'd attribute it to that and not spirits. I can't wait until next time I'm up that way, I want to make an effort to finally walk around in it and just feel the weirdness.

Middle Ditch said...

Wow Devin, what an interesting story and that house is just quite something.

Devin said...

Autumnforest thanks as always for stopping by!! I am glad my online/offline schedule is not stopping you from commenting as I enjoy your comments so much-haha that is hilarious about the contractor!! your intuition in these matters and scientific sense of inquiry and sense of "high weirdness" makes me wish I could get you and people like you interested in CTs (conspiracy theory) but I am no one to force a person's interest in a direction they are not naturally drawn towards-best to you as always and I will stop in at GHT as long as connection holds!!

Middle Ditch-always so great to see you here!! Sometimes I think the UK leaves the US in the dust with things like this -but this is one thing that has always fascinated me and I am glad you saw the post-I will check in and see if MD has updated -best to you and the whole crew there-very funny episode last time around!!

Above the Norm said...

We have always wanted to visit this house. The craziness of the rooms, hallways and history of the place, has peak our curiousity. We will get there some day.

Devin said...

Hiya Mike and Julie!! thanks so much for stopping by-I have had "issues" with my latest post and am just giving up-I will come over and say hi in a bit-I would love to know if you get to this house and what you find out-best to the both of you as always!!

ViølatoR said...

Aw man, I was up in that part of Cali a while back and didn't get to see the house, we went to the Rosicrucian museum instead. :D I've always wanted to build a laberyintine house like this, or like the mansion in The Haunting.

Devin said...

Violator-thanks so much for stopping by ! that would indeed to be cool to be able to build a house like that-how was the Rosicrucian museum>:-)? best to you as always!!