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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Winchester Mystery House

There are no sufficient words to describe the wonderful weekend my dad and I had in San Jose and San Francisco! We met up at the San Jose airport on Friday, got the rental car, and drove straight to The Winchester Mystery House. We had to wait about 30 minutes for the tour so we looked around the gift shop and chatted a bit. Then...it was time to cross off another one of my life's "to do" items! I have always wanted to see The Winchester Mystery House and I couldn't believe I was getting the opportunity to do it.

It was a VERY interesting place. Sarah Winchester, the owner of the home, visited a medium in Boston during her grief after the death of her husband. Sarah had married into the Winchester family. Two tragedies befell her when her daughter died at 6 weeks old from a rare childhood illness and, several years later, her husband died from tuberculosis. Sarah was told by the medium that she needed to move west from her residence in Connecticut and continually build a home to appease the spirits of those who had been killed by the Winchester rifle. Sarah believed that this would somehow stop the tragedy in her own life.

She followed the advice of the medium and moved to California where she began building the home. The house contains 160 rooms, which were continually constructed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 38 years until Sarah's death in 1922.Interestingly enough, Sarah died on September 5, 1922 - 22 years after that, my dad was born. He shares his birthday with the day of her death.

There were no blueprints for the home. Sarah's construction crew built according to her specifications, which were "granted" to her by the spirits during her nightly seances in her special seance room. Much of the house makes no architectural sense at all, which is understandable since there was no building plan of any kind. Doors open onto walls, stairs go up to the ceiling, and one door opens from the second floor onto nothing. It's known as the door to nowhere.

After all was said and done, the house cost $5.5 million to build over 38 years. In today's money, that would be about $70 million. Because Sarah was heir to the Winchester rifle fortune, she didn't need to worry about money. She made $1,000 a day thanks to her inheritance so she could afford to not only build the house, but also furnish it with some of the best furniture of the time, as well as decorate it with beautiful stained glass windows and expensive building materials. It's interesting to note that money was not taxed in the U.S. until 1913, so all of Sarah's money was hers to keep. Imagine making $1,000/day in modern times - that's a lot NOW, it was an unbelievable amount in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It would be like winning the mega millions lottery every single day.

The house is reputed to be haunted, but one thing that strikes me is that it's a good thing ghosts can walk through walls and such because if they had to walk around the house like the rest of us, they'd get exhausted and leave. It takes a good hour just to walk through the rooms, let alone the gardens.

I have always been interested in the oddities of the world. This may be why I am drawn to psychology. I am very interested in the odd and interesting building that is the Winchester Mystery House. But...it is so very sad to think that Sarah Winchester, a woman who was reportedly very intelligent, and rich beyond measure, should have suffered and been so miserable over the deaths of her daughter and husband that she embarked on 38 years of wasteful spending and construction. It yielded nothing in terms of alleviating her mental pain. If anything, it contributed to it.

In any case, the house is worth seeing and I highly recommend it.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a recap of San Francisco!

1 comment:

Dauphyfan said...

This must makes me want to visit this house even more! Glad you and your dad had a fabulous trip! Let's chat this weekend, lots to share...on both our ends.