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