Ever heard of the Mystery House of Winchester? The mansion is among the most famous tourist centers in the United States, all thanks to its ornate, confounding interior, and anecdotes of unearthly happenings. Although there are lots of historical centers in the United States, the Winchester Mystery House remains one of the most famous and no doubt, the strangest of all. Situated in the San Jose neighborhood of California, the mystery house belongs to Sarah Winchester; an American heiress and spouse of the then-renowned American business baron, William Winchester.
Born circa 1839 in New Haven, Connecticut, Sarah was married into the Winchester family in September 1862. The Winchester family is highly revered for their giant strides in rifle-making. After the death of her husband, Sarah embarked on a project aimed at erecting a large 160-room mansion, which is now called the Winchester Mystery House. There is a belief that the mansion was guided by spirits until her death in 1922. Later on, it was transformed into a tourist center.
Sarah Winchester’s name pops up every now and then, as a result of the Winchester Mystery House which has remained one of the oldest tourist attractions in California. In view of that, we have gathered interesting facts you probably never knew about Sarah and her Winchester Mystery House. Check them out below.
1. The House of Mystery Came After the Death of Sarah’s Husband
It was in 1862 that Sarah got hitched to William Winchester, who is also a New Haven, Connecticut native. William happens to be the only child of his parents and was trained to take over the family business. His father Oliver Winchester owned a chain of businesses including the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The rifle-making warehouse was famed for being one of the largest producers of arms at the time. Notably, their Winchester Model 1873 rifle was regarded as the rifle that conquered the West.
Four years into their marriage, Sarah and her husband welcomed a baby girl named Annie. Unfortunately, Annie didn’t survive as she died of malnutrition six weeks later. Afterward, the couple didn’t have any more children. 1881 was a very tragic year for Sarah as she lost her husband William, who died after a long battle with tuberculosis. Following his death, Sarah inherited a fifty percent stake in the arms company and $20 million from his estates; making her the richest woman in the world at the time. She later relocated to California to start life anew with her extended family members.
2. The Construction of the Mansion Lasted for 38 Years
Soon after her arrival in San Jose, California in the year 1886, the heiress procured an eight-room farmhouse which was later transformed into a mansion. She hired many workers, who divide working hours among themselves so that the project can go on day and night. The work was done round the clock and was ongoing for 38 years. According to reports, the construction stopped on 5th September 1922 following the death of Sarah Winchester, who died of cardiac arrest. After Sarah’s death, the mansion was named The Mystery House of Winchester in her honor.
3. The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake Had an Impact on the Mansion
While the project was still ongoing, an earthquake struck San Francisco in 1906, causing part of the seven-story house to collapse. However, the affected areas of the building were never reconstructed but were reinforced. When the incident happened, the rifle heiress was confined in her room, as the debris from the collapsed area covered the room’s entrance. Fortunately, she was later rescued by her workers.
4. Sarah Winchester Passed On in the Year 1922
Although there were no accounts of Sarah Winchester’s failing health, she was said to have died of cardiac arrest. According to reports, she died in her sleep on the 5th day of September 1922 and afterward, a service was held in Palo Alto, California. Her remains were first laid at Alta Mesa Cemetery. However, they were later moved to New Haven, Connecticut. There, she was buried next to her husband and their infant child in Evergreen Cemetery.
5. The Mystery House of Winchester is Now a Tourist Center
Following Sarah Winchester’s demise, her Winchester Mystery House was purchased by an undisclosed family in 1922 for $150,000. While the identity of the new owners remains unknown, the mansion can now be explored as a tourist center. The California mansion translated into a National Landmark on 7th August 1974, when it was added to the National Register of Historic Places, as a designated California Historical Landmark.
6. The House is Among the Strangest Tourist Centers in the US
The Winchester Mystery House is perceived as a place for strange encounters. As the story goes, the third floor of the house has been marked by tour guides as a place for such encounters. While some say they hear footsteps, others say they hear voices softly calling their names. Similarly, some people who visited the mansion claim that its third floor is the most frightening part of the house. Meanwhile, that was where Sarah’s servants lived.
7. Stories About the Winchester House Has Inspired Several Films
Following its reputation, the Winchester Mystery House has been adapted into several movies and Broadway musicals. In October 2005, the musical The Haunting of Winchester by Craig Bohmler and Mary Bracken Philips was released. Later on (in 2016), another short film (Sarah Winchester) directed by Bertrand Bonello was released. Also, in 2018, a supernatural horror film titled Winchester was released, with Helen Mirren playing the main role.