In 1881, Sarah Winchester became an exceptionally wealthy woman. Nearly 20.5 million dollars came into her possession following the death of her beloved husband, rifle magnate William Winchester. In 2014, that would equal nearly 500 million dollars.
But his death left Sarah with more than a limitless fortune. The poor woman was crippled by her husband’s death. Having lost their only daughter in infancy, Sarah was childless, widowed, and completely alone. She would never recover from William’s loss.
Fortunately, Sarah’s exceptional wealth was an effective distraction. As owner of nearly fifty percent of her late husband’s incredibly lucrative company, Sarah earned nearly $1,000 a day (that’s about $30,000 after adjusting for inflation).
Restless, depressed, and unsure of her personal path, she turned to a psychic medium — someone who would forever alter the landscape of Sarah’s life.
The psychic advised Sarah to move out West and make amends for the many souls lost to Winchester rifles. To do this, she must continuously build and rebuild a house for herself and those murdered spirits.
Fortunately for lovers of all things spooky, Sarah did just that.
The result? A massive Victorian house filled with disturbing mysteries, occult activities, and puzzling rumors…
Built on 162 acres in Santa Clara Valley, CA, this sprawling mansion is made up of seven floors, 300 rooms, 13 bathrooms, two ballrooms, six kitchens, 47 fireplaces, two basements, and three elevators. It also boasted 10,000 panes of glass and 2,000 doors.
It’s rumored that her carpenters worked all day, every day, rotating in shifts to meet her ever-changing demands.
Sarah did, however, pay her workers 50% more than the average wages of the time. Thus, the staff was willing to satisfy her every whim.
Today, after many earthquakes and much-needed renovations, only four stories and 160 rooms remain. But all of the original mystery is intact.
Sarah used no architect when constructing her mansion.
It’s said she used a ouija board to communicate with the spirits, who advised her on what changes to make to the house.
Thus, doors like this open to nothing but the air.
According to legend, Sarah’s intention was to confuse and mislead the angry spirits who followed her.
By building doors that led nowhere, she could escape the spirits who sought vengeance for their rifle-related deaths.
The servants’ kitchen is another example of the mysterious doors.
Here, you can see it is inaccessible from below, and dangerous to those who might open it from above…
In Sarah’s sewing room, you can see an example of windows that look into other rooms.
Very often the windows had no source of exterior light, rendering themselves as useless.
Here we see one of many sets of stairs that leads to nothing but a ceiling.
Was Sarah trying to escape the spirits she believed pursued her, or did she simply get lost in her own house plans?
In her Blue Room, Sarah is said to have communicated with spirits.
Nothing was kept in this room except for a cabinet, table, pens and paper, a closet, and a planchette board.
This was Sarah’s bedroom, although it is said she never slept in the same room twice in hopes of confusing the spirits in the house.
Neighbors reported that Sarah must not have slept much, because at exactly midnight and 2 a.m. every night, the bell tower of the Winchester property rang out.
This is one of the two ballrooms, though neither was ever used.
In this particular room, hardly any nails were utilized. The wood was hand-crafted and fit together. The wood paneling throughout the house is exquisite, and the wood itself is very rare and expensive.
It is said Sarah loved redwood, but hated the color. She insisted it all be stained or covered over.
In the ballroom are two Tiffany stained glass windows, both paned with quotes from Shakespeare plays.
No one knows the significance these lines held for Sarah Winchester.
Throughout the house are custom-made windows, often themed as spiderwebs, one of Sarah’s favorite designs.
Another one of Sarah’s preoccupations was the number 13; it can be found all through the house in the number of panes, sink drain holes, stair rails, candle holders, and more.
Despite its peculiarities, the house is a shining example of Victorian artistry at its finest.
Sarah’s house also featured all of the top luxuries of its time: steam, heating, modern toilets, push-button gas lights, a rare horizontal elevator, and more. It lacked for nothing.
When Sarah passed in 1922, she left a treasure trove of valuable rarities and fine decor.
It’s said it took six trucks six weeks to clear out her possessions.
This room alone stored $25,000 worth of furnishings ($400,000 today).
Luckily for the current owners, Sarah bought such a plethora of pieces and supplies that, when repairs are needed, they can often find the Victorian-era piece within the home itself.
It’s said that if Sarah liked a style of fabric, she would buy the entire bolt just so no one else could have it.
We may not ever have the answers to Sarah’s many mysteries, but it isn’t hard to enjoy the puzzle she left behind. It is an exquisite piece of history, colored by a very special personality.
The house is now preserved as a museum, where visitors can explore the many rooms and hallways on guided tours. To learn more about the house, visit the Winchester Mystery House website.
Watch the video below to learn about recent discoveries within the spooky home!
What do you make of this mysterious house? Would you ever live here?
Let us know in the comments below, and please Rasplove if you love old houses with personality!