Winchester: true story of the real haunted house explained.
The Spierig Brothers's 2018 horror film Winchester only tells a portion of the true story behind the Winchester Mystery House; here it is explained.
Directors Michael and Peter Spierig, better known as The Spierig Brothers, based their supernatural horror film Winchester (2018) on the real-life occurrences of Sarah Winchester and the house she never stopped building. In paranormal pop culture, it is nearly impossible to escape hearing the story of the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. The home has appeared in travel television programs and as the backdrop for a multitude of horror films. Michael and Peter Spierig took up the task of crafting a semi-biographical, but fictional account of Sarah and the notorious mansion.
Starring Helen Mirren as Sarah Winchester , the film follows the aftermath of the death of her husband and their daughter, Annie. The family is none other than the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Sarah is left with approximately twenty million dollars which she uses to expand the house due to the belief that the spirits killed by the Winchester rifle will not be satisfied until they decide she has completed the mansion. The film largely speculates who may or may not have died by a Winchester rifle and overly dramatizes the events surrounding the constant construction of the home. It attempts to assert that the hauntings stopped, as did Sarah’s building, but it did not.
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Ultimately, Winchester received overwhelming negative reviews that resulted in a nomination for Worst Picture. It told the historical story of Sarah, the Winchester family, and the complex mythology of the hauntings in an overly disappointing manner. Winchester did not do any aspect of the Winchester Mystery House justice. Here's what actually happened and who Sarah Winchester really was.
Who Was Sarah Winchester?
Sarah Winchester was born in New Haven, Connecticut on an unknown date in 1839. When she was twenty-three, she married William Wirt Winchester. His father was the founder of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company and William, as his only son, would inherit it once he passed away. The couple only had one child named Annie, who died of a disease that leads to severe malnutrition. In 1881, William followed his daughter to the grave after struggling with tuberculosis. The moment he passed, Sarah became a millionaire and made one-thousand dollars a day, but nothing could console her grief. As a result, she visited a psychic medium.
The medium supposedly channeled her late husband who instructed her to move to California to build a home for herself and the spirits of the people who were killed by Winchester rifles. Some speculate that Sarah moved in order to heal and build a new life away from the trauma of Connecticut, but others believe that she bore the burden of appeasing the restless spirits. In 1884, she purchased what would become the Winchester Mystery House in Santa Clara Valley. When Sarah died on September 5, 1922, the house never reached her idea of completion, but its ornate design, architecture, and legend became a historical symbol that represents the existence of the supernatural.
The Winchester Home’s Haunting Explained
The Winchester Repeating Arms Company was founded in 1866 by Oliver Winchester, father of William and father-in-law to Sarah. They were the most popular production company of firearms in the 19 th century and provided their equipment to nearly every major battle or war at the time. Sarah Winchester was told by the Boston medium that she had to build the Santa Clara Valley home to appease those who died because of the firearms she and her family profited on. She supposedly felt a deep sense of regret and guilt for the innocent lives that were taken as a result of their firearms, despite not being the person to enact any of the killings. Regardless, she built the Winchester Mystery House for the restless spirits .
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The haunting of the mansion is explained by the ornate nature of its architecture. Sarah built doors that led to nowhere, staircases that abruptly ended, windows built on the inside of the house, and detailed design elements that created a bizarre feeling within the home. At its most complete, the mansion had two basements, 47 fireplaces, 161 rooms, and stood at seven stories. It does not have any actual blueprints. The confusing nature of the house’s construction led outsiders to believe in the house’s haunting. It is such a deeply unsettling place that it is assumed to be haunted. There is little to no proof that it actually is, but that does not discredit Sarah’s experiences within the home that no one else but her can attest to.
Every Death That Happened On The Property
Winchester depicts the mansion as the setting of numerous deaths and mysterious disappearances. This has followed the Winchester Mystery House throughout its entire existence, but there is no proof that anyone died, besides Sarah, on the property. There are no concrete facts that the house caused people to die, that the spirits took others to the great beyond, or forced them to get lost within its walls by mysteriously moving doors or walls. It is all speculation that has been emphasized through the legend and numerous films that depict the Winchester Mystery House.
While the mini-series Rose Red (2002) is not directly linked to the Winchester legend, it does tell an eerily similar story to Sarah’s. In this particular film, Ellen Rimbauer is left with her oil tycoon husband’s fortune and builds a home made up of halls that lead to nowhere, doors that do not open, and more. It indirectly tells the story of Sarah Winchester’s determination to build the mansion for the spirits of the house through Ellen Rimbauer. Except, Rose Red’s mansion kills people, inadvertently perpetuating the rumors that the Winchester Mystery House does the same. These are two separate stories that people have lumped together. Sarah Winchester’s mansion never killed anyone at all, based on the current evidence.
The Winchester Home Today
Today, all are welcome to explore the Winchester Mystery Home on a guided tour of the supernatural location . It is easy to get lost in the mansion, but it is open to the public regardless. The home is such an immaculate piece of architectural history that upholds an even darker past filled with death, despair, grief, and tragedy. Sarah Winchester did not just build a mysterious mansion, she created one of the most significant symbols of the paranormal and the powers it can supposedly hold over individuals. While it's not in the same shape it was in nearly one-hundred years ago, the remnants of the past bleed through and evoke a sense of what the mansion once looked like.
Michael and Peter Spierig’s Winchester does not express the importance of Sarah Winchester in the history of real-life horror, but it does highlight the purpose of her nonstop building. The Winchester Mystery House is a remarkable landmark in and of itself. However, the paranormal aspects explored in Winchester only sheds a fraction of light on the importance of Sarah Winchester, the house, the spirits, and her larger purpose.
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The Fascinating Real Story Behind the Winchester Mystery House
The true story behind the movie Winchester is one of the greatest haunted house legends ever.
If you've visited San Jose, California , one of the first things you'll probably hear about from locals and tourists alike is the story of the Winchester Mystery House. Today, the Victorian and Gothic styled mansion can be found smack in the middle of one of the busiest areas of the city. But back when it was purchased in 1886 by the Winchester rifle heiress, Sarah Winchester, the original home was the only building of note on the 45-acre ranch.
In the hands of Winchester, the modest two-story, eight-room farmhouse was renovated into a 24,000-square-foot, sprawling property containing 160 rooms, 2,000 doors,10,000 windows, 47 stairways and fireplaces, 13 bathrooms, and six kitchens. And when it was made public why Winchester was continuously revising the house until her death in 1922, it was also dubbed one of the "most haunted places in the world."
Fact Versus Fiction Regarding Sarah Winchester
In 2018, Hollywood finally brought some parts of Winchester's tragic story to screen in the horror mystery, Winchester ( now streaming on Peacock ). Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren ( The Queen ) played Sarah Winchester, and the film focused primarily on one infamous day in the house's history: the 1906 earthquake that destroyed large sections of the property she named Llanada Villa. The film places Sarah in the home at the time of the quake, but in reality that was never verified, nor was there any documentation that she was injured on the day of the event, as subsequent stories have spun.
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In fact, history and urban legends have often portrayed Winchester as a mentally disturbed woman who was obsessed with ghosts that she believed were the vengeful souls killed by the guns made by her late husband, William Wirt Winchester's gun company. In reality, Sarah was certainly an eccentric and deeply saddened by tragedies in her life. But she was also an incredible architectural designer, real estate investor, and empathetic small business woman.
It is true that she married Wirt in 1862 and four years later gave birth to a daughter, Annie Pardee Winchester, who died a month later. They never had another child, and just 15 years later, Sarah lost her husband, her mother, and her father-in-law to the plague of her time, tuberculosis. She inherited $20 million, but that didn't make her heart any less broken. Lonely and looking to start anew, she packed up her things in Connecticut and moved to San Jose, California, where she bought the aforementioned ranch.
Was Sarah Winchester a Creative Genius or Just Dodging Ghosts?
Sarah was an amateur architect and loved to design extensions and remodel the properties she owned with her husband. She carried that through with Llanada Villa. According to author Colin Dickey's book, Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places , she was an accomplished designer who worked with her carpenters closely to bring her ideas and designs to life. She was exacting, and by all accounts, a serial builder and rebuilder when something did not meet her expectations.
Sometimes, her erratic choices created design problems, like walled-off windows or staircases that were cut off by new construction. From 1890 to 1900, Llanada Villa expanded to seven stories. When the earthquake struck six years later, the fourth floor and the seven-story tower was destroyed. But she picked up building once again, which continued until her death in 1922, ceasing 36 years of constant construction.
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In 1922, Winchester's story and subsequent legacy starts to take on a new life. John and Mayme Brown leased Llanada Villa and opened the doors to the public as a tourist attraction. In order to add a hook to tourists, Mayme became the property's first guide, and created stories about Winchester's mental state and reasons for her incessant building that painted her as an unstable figure, when she was likely the exact opposite. Spreading stories of hauntings , they invited Harry Houdini to visit Halloween night 1924 to investigate the home. He visited, but did not have time to hold a seance or conduct research. However, he suggested the houses tourist tagline: "The Winchester Mystery House."
The property then continued with some construction projects and restoration work to make it more of a cultural and tourist destination. In 1970, major restoration to bring the mansion back to its heyday began, and then in 1974, the Winchester Mystery House was granted state historic landmark status.
How Sarah Winchester's Story Got So Twisted
By all documented accounts made by actual historians and researchers who have studied Winchester's life, her story went into pure fiction with the release of author Susy Smith's 1967 book, Prominent American Ghosts . In it, she describes a meeting between a grieving Sarah Winchester and Boston medium, Adam Coons. The book reports as fact that Coons told Winchester, "The Winchester family were being haunted by the ghosts of people killed by Winchester rifles," and the only remedy was to build a home for them to wander. That account was then cited as the real reason for her ongoing, and often baffling, constant construction. She was somehow trying to trick or confuse the ghosts away from her, and that it was protection from their vengeance. In truth, there was no documentation of Winchester meeting any psychic medium, and furthermore, there were no Boston spiritualist named Adam Coons.
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That false narrative was stitched together with a San Jose Daily News story from March 29, 1895 that reported that the private woman who owned Llanada Villa and was constantly expanding the property "believes that when it is entirely completed, she will die. This superstition has resulted in the construction of a maze of domes, turrets, cupolas and towers, covering territory enough for a castle." Despite a close friend of Winchester's refuting that reporting in a San Jose Evening News story in 1897, the superstitions stuck like glue to her legacy and became local lore and "fact" that was even incorrectly recorded by the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) in 1981.
Supporting Winchester's actual competency were all of her friends, family, and even the builders on her property who defended her as a independent woman and a loyal widow who dressed in black to honor her losses. They also explained that she was reclusive due to poor health. Winchester died in 1922 and willed her fortune to her employees. Nine months later, the house became a tourist attraction.
A century or so later, it also became the basis for a perfect October movie; Winchester is now streaming on Peacock.
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The True Story of the Winchester Mystery House, the Creepiest Mansion in the U.S.
Hidden rooms, secret passageways, and rumors that it's haunted? Let's get to the bottom of this.
The full story of the Winchester Mystery House is featured in season 3, episode 1 of House Beautiful's haunted house podcast, Dark House . You can listen to the full episode on Spotify .
What started out in the mid-1800s as a modest eight-room farmhouse in California's Santa Clara Valley has become one of the most recognizable and notoriously mysterious mansions and haunted house attractions in America: the Winchester Mystery House, as it's known today. The sprawling—and incongruous— Queen Ann Revival home was rifle heiress Sarah Pardee Winchester's constantly-in-progress (and forever unfinished) hobby home that she dubbed Llanada Villa in honor of the region's Spanish roots and her love of the Basque countryside.
As the widow of William Winchester, whose family's eponymous company, The Winchester Repeating Arms Company, Sarah came into a $20 million inheritance along with 50 percent ownership in the firearms business when William died in 1881. That fortune enabled her to transform the humble ranch house into a massive mansion on hundreds of acres, but it also fueled rumors that Sarah built the home to escape the spirits of those killed by the Winchester rifle. Read on to learn more about the design of the Winchester Mystery House, as well as the true motivations behind it.
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The Real Origins of the Winchester Mystery House
Following the deaths of multiple family members—including her infant daughter in 1865, her father in 1869, her mother in 1880, both her father-in-law and husband in 1881, and her sister in 1884—Sarah left her hometown of New Haven, Connecticut, to make a fresh start just outside San Jose, California. Within just a few months, she'd already added more than a dozen rooms onto her new home with the intention of accommodating her two little sisters and their families. For the next 38 years, reports claim, the property would be constantly under construction, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Sarah designed all of the additions on her own despite having no formal training. Construction ended only upon her death in the mansion in September 1922, leaving it incomplete and her plans unfinished.
The Winchester Mystery House Today
What stands today is four-story, 160-room, 24,000-square-foot mansion constructed mostly out of redwood on less than five remaining acres of land in one of the city's most heavily trafficked West Valley neighborhoods. The home has 2,000 doors (some leading straight into blank walls), 10,000 windows (some interior facing), 47 fireplaces, 17 chimneys, 40 stairways (at least one of which leads up to a ceiling), 40 bedrooms, two ballrooms (one completed, one unfinished), 13 bathrooms, six kitchens, three elevators, two basements, and a wood-paneled, Venetian-inspired dining room—whew.
There are gold and silver chandeliers, hand-inlaid parquet floors, and many original stained-glass windows rumored to have been created by Tiffany. At one point prior to the 1906 earthquake, the house stood seven stories tall, but it was reduced—likely due to damage caused by the quake. In fact, after the quake, Sarah all but stopped work on the front wing of the house. Luckily, the home was spared total destruction during both the 1906 and 1989 Loma Prieta earthquakes because it was built using a floating foundation— a design that allows the structure to move freely as its only semiattached to its base.
Few people aside from household staff and teams of carpenters and other workmen were invited into the mansion during Sarah's lifetime, and very few if any interior photographs were taken. The furniture inside the home today reflects the period, but her personal belongings, including the contents of the house, were left to her niece, Marian Marriott, who kept what she wanted and sold the remainder at auction.
Is the Winchester Mystery House Haunted?
It's a question people have asked ever since Sarah started construction. In order to make sense of this perceived monstrosity in what was then a rural community, rumors began to swirl about her motivations. According to folklore, Sarah was motivated to build a home with such odd features because a medium told her that the ghosts of those killed by the Winchester rifle would haunt her until the day she died unless she went out west to build a house with room for all of them. Other versions of the story purport that Sarah was driven west because she was being haunted in the family mansion in New Haven. Unfortunately for her, the ghosts followed her to California, so she tried to outsmart them by building a rambling home with a tangle of hallways.
Historians have never been able to corroborate the visit with the medium, and many of Sarah's longtime employees and friends denied the story both during and after her lifetime. And, of course, the truth is likely bit simpler: Sarah's father had been a carpenter during the height of the Victorian period, and so she grew up loving design and architecture. She later subscribed to many magazines and journals on the subjects and taught herself the craft.
The rumors only grew after her death, when the property sold at auction to a private investor for around $135,000—today just north of $2 million. It was then leased to John and Mayme Brown for a 10-year period. The couple opened the house up to the public in 1923 and eventually bought the property (which is now owned by a privately held company that represents their descendants). The home was designated a historic landmark in 1974, and it's listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.
In September 2019, one of the many mysteries of the Winchester House, as the National Registry of Historic Places refers to it, was solved during restoration work in one of its many dining rooms. According to the Times Union , workers were removing parts of the wall when they noticed something peculiar: a beautifully preserved envelope tucked inside from 100 years ago from the Pacific American Decorative Company.
This discovery confirmed something that many historians had a hunch about: the true artisan who made its impeccable stained glass windows. Recently, architectural historian Jim Wolf dug into the mystery of who actually created them, and he landed on the answer that it was actually glassworker John Mallon. Well, turns out Mallon owned Pacific American Decorative Company. Case. Closed.
Hauntings and spirit sightings aside, a tour of the fabled home is definitely worth the price of admission.
Want to hear more ghost stories about the Winchester Mystery House? Listen to this week's episode of our haunted house podcast series, Dark House , for exclusive ghost stories and insights into the home's haunted reputation.
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14 Haunting Facts About the Winchester Mystery House
By kristy puchko | feb 2, 2018.
Despite the Winchester Mystery House's cheerful appearance, this massive California mansion's history is edged with tragedy, mystery ... and maybe some ghosts. Naturally, it has inspired a chilling horror movie, Winchester , which opens in theaters today. But before you go to the movie theater, wander through the curious past of one of America's most infamous homes.
1. THE WINCHESTER HOUSE IS NAMED FOR ITS MISTRESS.
Sarah Lockwood Winchester—the wife of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester, whose family created the Winchester rifle that was heralded as "the gun that won the west”—designed and oversaw the construction of the sprawling Queen Anne-style Victorian mansion that bears her name. Construction on the 24,000-square-foot home, which is located at 525 South Winchester Boulevard in San Jose, California, began in 1886.
2. MANY BELIEVE SARAH BUILT WINCHESTER HOUSE OUT OF FEAR.
Overcome with grief in the wake of her husband's death from tuberculosis in 1881, folklore states that Sarah sought out a spiritualist who could commune with the dead. While she was presumably looking for solace or closure, she was instead given a chilling warning.
Through the medium, William told his widow that their tragedies (the couple had only one child, a daughter named Annie, who died at six weeks old) were a result of the blood money the family had made off of the Winchester rifles. He warned that vengeful ghosts would seek her out. In order to protect herself, William said that Sarah must "build a home for [herself] and for the spirits who have fallen from this terrible weapon."
Sarah was advised to leave their home in New Haven, Connecticut, behind, and move west, where she was to build a grand home for the spirits. There was just one catch: construction on the house could never stop. "If you continue building, you will live,” the medium warned Sarah. “Stop and you will die."
3. THE HOUSE WAS UNDER CONSTANT CONSTRUCTION FOR 38 YEARS.
In 1886, Sarah purchased an eight-room farmhouse in San Jose, California, and began building. She employed a crew of carpenters, who split shifts so construction could go on day and night, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, for 38 years. The work only stopped on September 5, 1922, because the octogenarian mastermind behind the home died of heart failure in her sleep. It's said that upon hearing the news of Sarah's death, the carpenters quit so abruptly they left half-hammered nails protruding from walls.
4. THE HOUSE IS FULL OF ARCHITECTURAL ODDITIES.
Sarah issued many bizarre demands to her builders, including the building of trap doors, secret passages, a skylight in the floor, spider web windows, and staircases that led to nowhere. There are also doors that open to blank walls, and a dangerous door on the second floor that opens out into nothing—save for an alarming drop to the yard far below.
5. AN EARTHQUAKE ONCE RATTLED THE HOUSE AND TRAPPED SARAH.
In 1906, the great San Francisco Earthquake caused three floors of the then seven-story house to cave in. A 1900 postcard of the place shows a tower that was later toppled by the natural disaster. That tower—plus several other rooms destroyed in the disaster—were never rebuilt, but cordoned off. As for Sarah, she was safe but stuck in the Daisy Bedroom, named for the floral motif in its windows. She had to be dug out by her staff, as its entrance was blocked off by rubble.
6. THE HOUSE WAS DESIGNED LIKE A LABYRINTH.
Some say the labyrinth layout was meant to confuse the ghosts, allowing Sarah some peace and a means to escape them. She was the sole architect of this extraordinary home, and no master building plan has ever been uncovered. So Sarah may be the only person who ever truly knew all of its secrets. When movers were called in after her death, one lamented its labyrinthine design that includes many winding hallways. One mover told American Weekly the Winchester House was a place "where downstairs leads neither to the cellar nor upstairs to the roof."
7. SOME SAY THE SYMBOLS IN THE HOUSE POINT NOT TO GHOSTS, BUT FRANCIS BACON.
An alternate theory on the Winchester House's perplexing design declares that Sarah was creating a puzzle full of encryptions inspired by the work of English philosopher Francis Bacon. There's speculation that clues to the house's true meaning are hidden in the ballroom, the Shakespeare windows , and the iron gates . This theory suggests that Sarah was a member of a mystic society like the Rosicrucians , or a secret society like the Freemasons —or possibly both.
8. THERE ARE OTHER THEORIES, INCLUDING THAT SARAH WAS "CRAZY."
Others speculate Sarah was coping with her grief with a flurry of activity, or that she was simply "crazy." However, Winchester Mystery House historian Janan Boehme paints a happier picture, imagining that the continual renovations reminded Sarah of the good times when she and William built their New Haven home together.
"I think Sarah was trying to repeat that experience by doing something they both loved," Boehme told the Los Angeles Times . She also suspects that Sarah was just an ardent—albeit eccentric—philanthropist who used her family fortune to purposefully employ the San Jose community. "She had a social conscience and she did try to give back," Boehme offered, noting the hospital Sarah built in her husband's name. "This house, in itself, was her biggest social work of all."
9. ONCE IN WINCHESTER HOUSE, SARAH WAS RECLUSIVE, BUT NOT ALONE.
There is only one known photo of the widow Winchester, which was taken surreptitiously. Though she was reclusive, she was never alone. She had 18 servants, 18 gardeners, and the ever-present construction team working on the grounds. Every morning, Sarah met with the foreman to discuss the always-evolving building plans. And it's said that each night, she visited the Séance Room to speak with the spirits, who weighed in on plans for the house's unusual design.
10. THE HOUSE WAS AS OPULENT AS IT WAS ODD.
The home boasts 950 doors, 10,000 windows, 40 stairways, 52 skylights, 47 fireplaces, six kitchens, plus a trio of elevators, and once-groundbreaking elements like wool insulation, carbide gaslights, electricity, and an indoor shower, complete with a sewage drainage system.
11. NO ONE IS SURE HOW MANY ROOMS THE HOUSE HELD.
Following Sarah's death, Winchester House was converted into a tourist attraction. But when trying to get a room count, the new owners kept coming up with different numbers. After five years of renovations, they estimated the number of rooms to be about 160 , which is the number most often quoted today.
12. SARAH HAD AN OBSESSION WITH THE NUMBER 13.
Among the secrets Sarah took to her grave was why she insisted that so many things relate to the number 13 . The Winchester House has many 13-paned windows and 13-paneled ceilings, as well as 13-step stairways. Even her will had 13 parts, and she signed it 13 times. But the pièce de résistance might be the house's 13th bathroom, which contains 13 windows of its own.
13. IT’S A NATIONAL LANDMARK.
The Winchester Mystery House earned landmark status on August 7, 1974. The fascinating mansion is still owned by the family (families?) who purchased it from the Winchester estate in 1922 for $150,000—however, their identity is another Winchester House mystery. But thanks to them, tourists can now explore 110 of the 160-some rooms Sarah dreamed up. The Winchester Mystery House even boasts special tours on Halloween and Fridays the 13th.
14. IT’S REGULARLY CITED AS ONE OF THE MOST HAUNTED PLACES IN AMERICA.
To this day, Winchester House is a destination for believers who hope to have a paranormal encounter of their own. A popular spot for such activity is the corridors of the third floor, where tour guides have claimed to hear footsteps and disembodied voices whisper their names.
In a Reddit AMA, a Winchester House tour guide confirmed that the house’s third floor—only a portion of which is accessible during house tours—is definitely the spookiest part of the house, “because that's where the servants lived, so there's been a lot of reported activity there. Also, when you are on that floor you can never really hear any of the other tours, so you feel pretty isolated.”
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The House That Ghosts Built: The Story of Winchester Mystery House
In San Jose, California, a 160-room mansion stands that includes doors and stairways that lead to nowhere. The owner, Sarah Winchester, passed away in 1922. She was known as an eccentric who dressed in black—which was only reserved for mourning at the time. She built an amazing and bizarre mansion that’s become a tourist attraction. The elaborate mansion was once an eight-room unfinished farmhouse in the Santa Clara Valley, three miles west of San Jose, CA. She purchased the property in 1884, and construction was an ongoing project for 38 years.
According to her biography page, “ Sarah Winchester: Woman of Mystery,” archived from the Winchester Mystery House website, Sarah Lockwood Winchester was married to William Wirt Winchester, whose father manufactured the Winchester rifle, known as “the gun that won the west.” Sarah was an accomplished musician and spoke three languages.
William passed away in March of 1881 from tuberculosis. The Winchesters had a daughter, Annie, who passed away in 1866. Sarah contacted a spirit medium who told her that her family was haunted by the spirits of people killed by Winchester rifles. The medium also told her that the spirits caused the deaths of both her husband and daughter and that she may be next. The medium told Sarah that the only way to appease the spirits would be to move west and build a house for them. The Winchesters lived in New Haven, Connecticut at the time. Winchester left New Haven to visit a niece who lived in Menlo Park, CA. In 1884, she purchased the house that would become the now famous, elaborate, and unusual Mystery House.
Winchester found the raw materials and had the funds to do whatever she wanted with it. Sarah inherited millions after her husband’s death plus 777 shares of stock in the rifle company. Her mother-in-law passed away in 1897 and left Sarah an additional 2,000 shares. Both inheritances left Sarah the owner of 50 percent of the company’s stock, which provided her with a $1,000 a day income. As soon as she bought the house, she got to work immediately. Crews worked around the clock and managed to transform the farmhouse into a seven-story mansion. The land grew to eventually hold apple, plum, and walnut tree orchards, which also added to Sarah’s income.
As her estate grew, so did her eccentric reputation. Sarah was a generous employer and paid her servants almost twice the average rate. She paid tradespeople with gold coin. Sarah was also generous with the community and gave donations to orphanages, among other charities. Local children were also invited to play on the grounds where they were served ice cream. As for the house, its construction grew to many inexplicable and bizarre details, including doors and staircases that lead nowhere and the number 13 baked into decorations.
According to “Everything You Need to Know About the Winchester Mystery House,” by the San Francisco Travel Association,
Some of the staircases in this home are truly peculiar. Instead of taking you to another floor, they lead right into the ceiling. There is a vast network of secret passages twisting throughout the property. One cabinet door opens to a hive of 30 additional rooms. Many visitors are fascinated by the vast collection of windows, more than 10,000, and the fact that some of the loveliest Tiffany stained glass is hidden away where no light can reach it.
Sarah reportedly held seances occasionally in a turret room now known as the “Witch’s Cap.” The morning after these seances, she would give the construction foreman plans to continue construction. Winchester was aware of how unusual the house was and even described it as looking as if a “crazy person” built it in a 1906 letter.
The main theory regarding the house’s construction is that guilt fueled the ongoing construction. Winchester felt guilty about the lives taken by the gun bearing her husband’s family name. An added detail to this possible theory is that the stairways and doors to nowhere served a supernatural purpose. Winchester put them into the plans as a way to confuse the spirits that she believed were stalking her.
Could the “guilt theory” be an assumption born out of a modern perception of guns’ societal impact over the years? Winchester Mystery House historian Janan Boehme commented on this theory and told Vanity Fair , “People back then didn’t have a massive guilt complex over guns. They were a useful tool, something that people needed for survival.” Then again, not everyone subscribes to popular societal perceptions and beliefs.
Winchester’s all-black wardrobe, always topped off with a mourning veil, also lent to her reputation as an eccentric. Black clothing was usually worn for mourning during that time period. Actress Helen Mirren, who played Sarah Winchester in the film Wincheste r (2018), told Vanity Fair that “she went into mourning and stayed in mourning for the rest of her life. A bit the way Queen Victoria did when she lost her husband. It was a kind of Victorian thing to do, wasn’t it?” With regard to Winchester’s fascination with spiritualism, Mirren said, “When you lose someone, the losses can be so unbearable, so difficult, that the only way you can deal with your grief is by feeling they are still with you in some way or another.”
Some unusual features of the house may have more of a practical and earthly explanation. Winchester appreciated modern technology at the time and incorporated it into the house. The house had three elevators, a high-tech heating system, and a communication system to allow her to easily communicate with her staff. Other strange details may have served practical purposes such as low, narrow “claustrophobic” stairwells. Winchester was 4’10” in height and had severe arthritis. The construction would’ve been more accommodating for her.
Much of the mystery surrounding the house and its eccentric owner is due to Winchester’s staff’s loyalty. After her death, no one came forward with details about their employer. She spared no expense when it came to her staff and treated them like family. Not one member of the staff spoke to journalists about Winchester or what went on in the house. “I think they probably felt very identified with this house,” Mirren said. “Because it was as much their house as it was her house.”
In a 2018 article, “Demystifying the Winchester Mystery House” on Atlas Obscura , Walter Magnuson, Winchester Mystery House manager since 2015, relates a story that illustrates how elusive Sarah could be. “There’s a story about Teddy Roosevelt making an appearance in San Jose and wanting an audience with the Winchester widow,” Magnuson said. “He knocked on the front door and was not even let in.”
Construction on the mansion continued up until Sarah Winchester’s death on September 5, 1922. She died of heart failure and was buried next to her husband in Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven, CT. She left behind the 160-room mansion that currently includes 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, 47 stairways, 47 fireplaces, 13 bathrooms, and six kitchens. The house and farm were not listed in Sarah’s will. As part of her estate, her trustees, the Union Trust Company of San Francisco, sold them. Sarah’s niece Marian Merriman Marriott inherited all of her personal property, including household furnishings. Sarah left a generous amount to the Winchester Clinic of the General Hospital Society of Connecticut. Back then, the clinic was dedicated to the treatment of those suffering from tuberculosis, which claimed her late husband. The Winchester Clinic is currently part of the Yale New Haven Medical Center. Winchester also remembered some of her employees in her will.
Shortly after Winchester’s death, a man named John Brown purchased the odd mansion and decided to make it a tourist attraction. According to Vanity Fair , magician Harry Houdini visited the house after Winchester’s death. At the time, Houdini was on a mission to expose spiritualism as fraud. He’s described as unsure of what to make of the house and gave it its now-famous moniker, Winchester Mystery House.
In a 2018 article in USA Today , Bryan Alexander writes that the staff doesn’t have anything to say about personal paranormal experiences but will relate stories about experiences that visitors have had. He quotes Magnuson as saying, “You definitely have folks who are very into the paranormal. They have heard a lot of stories about this place and want to experience it. They may feel something tap their shoulder, things like that. One of Sarah’s workers named Clyde apparently still works here, and some guests see him from time to time with a wheelbarrow.” Boehme told USA Today, “There is a good energy here. Even if none of the ghost stories are true, Sarah Winchester was a truly fascinating person.” Mirren said that, “l feel it is haunted by something very benign. I feel sort of a great…I feel a sweetness in the house, not a horror. There is a sweetness in it. It is haunted by something sweet. If it’s haunted.”
After reading through information available on both the house and its owner, I can say there are many theories and assumptions about its elusive and eccentric owner. Was the house haunted by vengeful spirits who dictated its unusual design through a spirit medium? Did Winchester suffer from guilt over a fortune earned by a weapon that took so many lives? Was the bizarre labyrinth that Winchester Mystery House became a way to elude the angry spirits that she believed followed her? Was she a benevolent person, filled with grief over losing her daughter and husband which caused her obsession with the spirit world? There are so many questions, but all the answers were taken to Sarah Winchester’s grave. Only the enigma that is the Winchester Mystery House remains.
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'Winchester': 5 haunting things that are weirdly true about the Helen Mirren horror movie
A reclusive heir to the Winchester rifle fortune, who is haunted by the angry spirits of those killed by her family's famed firearms is at the center of the ghost story Winchester (in theaters Friday).
Helen Mirren plays the widowed Sarah Winchester, thought to be insane as she orders constant expansion and renovation of her bizarre Victorian mansion .
More: Horror films will be boosted by the 'It' effect in 2018
Also: 10 must-see films of 2018, from the new 'Fantastic Beasts' to 'Mary Poppins'
"There are many things about the movie that are absolutely real," says Peter Spierig, who directed Winchester with his brother, Michael. "But were ghosts haunting Sarah Winchester as people said at the time? There's nothing to confirm that — or deny it, either."
Here's what we know to be true:
There was a real Sarah Winchester. The socialite heiress made a splash when she moved to San Jose from Connecticut in 1884 following the death of her husband, William (and their baby 15 years prior).
Winchester was a highly discussed celebrity even before she began drastically overhauling the home that became known as the Winchester Mystery House.
"She was Bill Gates-rich from this famous family, so people watched her, talked about her, and speculated," says Janan Boehme, official historian at Winchester Mystery House, now a preserved tourist attraction.
Her Winchester House is a marvel in opulent oddness. The home started with eight rooms. By 1906, it was seven stories high with an estimated 90 rooms.
The movie riffs on the oft-repeated legend that Winchester had been instructed by a spiritual medium to keep building to ward off the spirits haunting the house. But there's no indication of that in Winchester's letters or those of her confidantes, Boehme says.
An alternative theory: Winchester was occupying her mind as a way of dealing with her personal grief.
"We may never know why she built like she did," says Boehme. "But people do certainly conjecture."
The home's bizarre features include a door to nowhere. The Winchester Mystery House includes fascinating features. Stairways go straight into a ceiling, a doorway opens to a two-story drop, there's a design preoccupation with the number 13 (closets with 13 hanger pegs, halls with 13 ceiling panels).
Possible explanations vary from an attempt to confuse haunting spirits to design miscues resulting from constant construction.
"But there's nothing definitive. This really is a perplexing house," says Boehme.
The great earthquake rocked it. The infamous 1906 San Francisco earthquake, rather than the film's rampaging spirits, did severely damage Winchester's home, trapping her in a room. "They had to free her with a crowbar," Boehme says.
The terrified Winchester tore down the top three damaged floors and spent more time on her nearby houseboat, but continued building out. In 1922, she died of heart failure in her bedroom at Winchester House at age 82.
Visitors still insist it's haunted. While Winchester herself never mentioned hauntings and friends denied them, speculation was rampant. Harry Houdini himself visited after Winchester's death to debunk spiritualists. But the ghost stories continue today.
Some visitors have sworn to have seen the "wheelbarrow ghost," a kindly apparition in white overalls who apparently works on the house.
"There is a good energy here," says Boehme. "Even if none of the ghost stories are true, Sarah Winchester was a truly fascinating person."
A Smithsonian magazine special report
Take a Free Virtual Tour of the Winchester Mystery House
The California landmark is closed, but you can explore its bizarre architectural features from afar
The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, is one of the nation’s most curious landmarks. Built by a millionaire widow over the course of 36 years, the sprawling mansion features more than 200 rooms , 10,000 windows, trap doors, spy holes and a host of other architectural oddities.
A popular tourist attraction, the house, along with many other cultural institutions in the United States, has closed to help curb the spread of coronavirus. But as Michele Debczak reports for Mental Floss , you can now explore the Winchester House from afar via a detailed video tour posted on the mansion’s website.
The narrated video tour spans more than 40 minutes, providing insight into the property and the mysterious woman who built it: Sarah Winchester , wealthy and reclusive heiress to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, which manufactured an innovative rifle that became a fixture of Westward expansion.
Sarah Lockwood Pardee married into the Winchester family in 1862. Four years later, she gave birth to a daughter, Annie, who died about a month later. Her husband, William Wirt Winchester, died in 1881, leaving his widow with a vast fortune: 50 percent ownership in the Repeating Arms Company and a $20 million inheritance.
Winchester decided to leave her home in New Haven, Connecticut, and head to California, where two of her sisters lived. In San Jose, she purchased an eight-room farmhouse that she began to renovate in 1886. The construction project continued until Winchester’s death in 1922, producing an enormous, labyrinthine mansion filled with logic-defying features: staircases that end at the ceiling, indoor balconies, skylights built into floors, doors that open onto walls. The designs, wrote Pamela Haag for Zócalo Public Square in 2016, were Winchester’s; she sketched them onto napkins or pieces of brown paper, then handed them over to a team of carpenters. Sometimes, she would have features built and plastered over the next day.
Exactly why Winchester embarked on this dizzying cycle of building, undoing and rebuilding is impossible to say. Popular lore has it that she was a keen follower of the Spiritualist movement , which was rooted in the idea that dead souls can interact with the living, and consulted a medium who told her she had been cursed by victims of Winchester rifles . The medium reportedly instructed her to constantly build a house for these ghosts. If construction ever stopped, she would die.
But as Katie Dowd of SFGate points out, there is “scant proof” for this theory. Winchester could have been engaging in an eccentric brand of philanthropy, as she built her home during an economic depression, and the continuous construction project provided jobs for locals. When she died, in fact, the heiress left most of her money to charity.
“She had a social conscience and she did try to give back,” historian Janan Boehme told Robin Abcarian of the Los Angeles Times in 2017. “This house, in itself, was her biggest social work of all.”
The true nature of Winchester’s motivations is likely to remain a mystery. But as the video tour points out, the house she built was not only bizarre—it was innovative. Take, for example, the north conservatory. Winchester loved to garden, so the conservatory featured an indoor watering system and wooden floorboards that could be lifted up to water plants resting below.
Though visitors can watch the video tour for free, the Winchester Mystery House is asking visitors to consider purchasing a voucher for use at a later date.
“Like many other [Bay Area] businesses, closing our doors until April 7th will severely impact the employees who maintain the estate,” the website explains . “Come when you are ready, but please come!”
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Brigit Katz | | READ MORE
Brigit Katz is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her work has appeared in a number of publications, including NYmag.com, Flavorwire and Tina Brown Media's Women in the World.
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- What Is Cinema?
Winchester : The True Ghost Story Behind Helen Mirren’s Haunted House Thriller
By Joanna Robinson
In 1924, Harry Houdini visited a rambling architectural oddity in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley. Though a magician by trade, Houdini was devoted, at this time in his life, to debunking what he considered a scourge of fake spiritualists and mediums. The massive estate, partially demolished by the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, had a reputation for being haunted—and not even Houdini himself could shake the sense that something inside those walls was wrong. Picking up on some popular nicknames of the day, Houdini dubbed the building “Winchester Mystery House” after the late Sarah Winchester, the secretive woman who built and lived in it. A Bay Area brand was born.
There have been over 12 million visitors to the house since its mysterious architect died in 1922. Part historical preserve, part spooky theme park oddity, the Winchester Mystery House has now inspired a new horror movie, Winchester, starring Helen Mirren as the titular, reclusive heir to a massive rifle fortune. Believe it or not, this ghost-packed film could be the closest mainstream audiences come to understanding that Winchester was far from just a “crazy” lady who built a crazy house.
Your mileage may vary when it comes to believing there are, in fact, spirits lurking in the corridors of the Winchester Mystery House. But there are certainly enough unsettling sights within—a stairway the leads to nowhere, a repeating motif of the number 13 baked into the elaborate decorations, a second-story door that opens out to nothing—to convince Houdini, the friendly Winchester tour guides, and scores of Bay Area residents who visited the house as children (this writer included) that something is awry here. But as it turns out, the most curious object inside the mansion was actually Sarah Winchester herself. “This legend grew up around her of her being crazy,” Mirren told me, sitting inside the very parlor of the misunderstood woman she plays. “But I think, in fact, she was someone with great empathy.”
Having lost first her baby and then her husband, the widowed Winchester heiress left everything she knew of East Coast society behind in order to strike out on her own in San Jose, California, then a very rural area. Under the influence of what many considered madness and most, now, would understand as all-consuming grief, Sarah Winchester built a reclusive life for herself that centered almost entirely on her great project: building a Queen Anne revival house where, during the 38 years she lived there, construction and renovation never stopped. Before his death, Sarah and her husband had worked together building their large home in New Haven. Day in and day out on a large plot of land in San Jose, she built and built.
Some say Winchester’s personal grief was compounded by her guilt over the lives taken by the rifles that built her family’s fortune—that she believed herself to be cursed. But Winchester house historian Janan Boehme dismisses this theory: “People back then didn’t have a massive guilt complex over guns. They were a useful tool, something that people needed for survival.” If the real Sarah Winchester did have a problem with where her money came from, she certainly would have a problem with the jaunty shooting gallery that tourists can use when they visit the house.
By Julie Miller
By Karen Valby
By Katey Rich
The real Sarah Winchester was aware how her building project looked to outsiders. In a 1906 letter she wrote after the earthquake destroyed a third of her work, she confessed that the house looked like a crazy person built it. It’s unclear whether Winchester was actually taking her building directions from “spirits,” as legend would have it. What was true is that she held occasional nighttime séances in an eerie, peaked turret of the house known, now, as “The Witch’s Cap,” and would deliver new building plans to her foreman in the morning. “Wherever these plans came from,” Winchester tour guide Nicole Calande told me with an excited gleam in her eye, “they came at night.”
It wasn’t just the architectural oddities that earned Sarah Winchester her eccentric reputation. After her husband’s death, the heiress dressed in stifling black dresses even under the baking hot San Jose sun. “She went into mourning and stayed in mourning for the rest of her life,” Mirren explained. “A bit the way Queen Victoria did when she lost her husband. It was a kind of Victorian thing to do, wasn’t it?” Mirren also sees Winchester’s fascination with spiritualism as a byproduct of that grief: “When you lose someone, the losses can be so unbearable, so difficult. That the only way you can deal with your grief is by feeling they are still with you in some way or another.”
But while Sarah Winchester’s mourning habits may have been old-fashioned, she also drew a lot of unwanted attention for her fascination with technology—not the kind of thing women of her era were supposed to care about. The Winchester mansion was equipped with three elevators and high-tech devices that heated the house, allowed Sarah to communicate easily with staff, and even cut down time on washing the car. Other curious aspects of the house—like narrow, low-rise, claustrophobic switchback stairs—were built to accommodate the diminutive Winchester, who was not only 4-feet-10 but also suffered from crippling arthritis. What looks like curious construction to some was merely practical to her.
The heiress was enormously accomplished—she spoke four languages and played three instruments. But the House’s marketing director Tim O’Day concedes that, thanks to Sarah Winchester’s reclusive ways and eccentric housing project, the legend of her being unhinged became a popular one in the valley. In truth, the audacity of an intelligent woman grieving openly and spending her vast fortune the way she wanted to is what landed Sarah Winchester with a reputation she never deserved.
The mystery around Sarah Winchester grew all the more intense thanks to the unusually close-knit bond she shared with her staff. Winchester spent an unusual (for the time) amount of money on making sure her servants lived in comfort, and reportedly treated them almost like family. In return, the staff gave her unquestioning loyalty and never spoke to journalists about their unusual boss’s habits or motivations. On the day she died, Sarah Winchester’s servants walked away from the property—and, in a move that would be unheard of in today’s era of tell-all book deals, never spoke a word about what went on in the house. “I think they probably felt very identified with this house,” Mirren theorizes. “Because it was as much their house as it was her house.”
So, what can Mirren’s Winchester, a thriller with ghosts galore and an invented character in the shape of Jason Clarke’s skeptical San Francisco psychiatrist Dr. Eric Price, do to reveal the truth about this misunderstood woman? Boehme, who has spent her life studying Winchester, says, of course, that she doesn’t expect a documentary: “I understand the artistic license in making a film based on a story, so I don’t expect it to be the true story.” But O’Day is adamant that the movie does justice by Sarah Winchester, even as she is terrorized by specters: “She’s not depicted as a crazy lady. She’s all of the things that we've talked about. Her education and everything come right through in the script.”
As for the ghosts of the Winchester Mystery House themselves, Mirren, herself a skeptic, is unwilling to say for certain that the walls of this San Jose mansion are spirit-free. “If it is haunted,” she says, looking around at the well-appointed rooms that Sarah Winchester built, “l feel it is haunted by something very benign. I feel sort of a great . . . I feel a sweetness in the house, not a horror. There is a sweetness in it. It is haunted by something sweet. If it’s haunted.”
Joanna robinson is a senior staff writer at *vanity fair.*.
By Laura Bradley
By Betsy Golden Kellem
By Erin Vanderhoof
By Kase Wickman
By Eve Batey
By Hadley Hall Meares
By Charlotte Klein
History All Day
The Strange and Curious History Behind the Winchester Mansion
Posted: October 24, 2023 | Last updated: October 24, 2023
For over 40 years, Sarah Winchester sought to appease the ghosts she thought were haunting her by constructing the mysterious Winchester Mansion in San Jose. With bizarre specifications, the mansion's secrets remain unsolved to this day.
Uncover the mystery and explore the spooky history of Sarah Winchester's haunted home.
Unfinished House Transformed with No Plan
The lot is in the heart of San Jose, California, and is home to a majestic transformation. Despite no official blueprints, no architectural vision, and no plan, a once-unfinished house took shape.
Inside, the staircases seemed to ascend to the heavens, doorways opened to blank walls, and corners rounded to dead ends. The house (despite its chaotic beginnings) was now a masterpiece of craftsmanship and creativity. It was a sight to behold, a living testament to the power of determination and will.
A Mansion of Mysteries: Unraveling the Secrets of the Winchester House
Since 1884, the Winchester House has been shrouded in mystery. Built by Sarah Winchester, the heiress to the Winchester firearms fortune, the building has been intriguing visitors with its seemingly endless maze. What secrets does the household have? What stories lie within its walls?
It's time to unravel the mysteries and uncover the truth behind the Winchester House. From its construction to its inhabitants, this mansion of mysteries has been a source of fascination and curiosity for generations. Let's find out what lies within its walls.
Unraveling the Mystery of Sarah Winchester's House
For generations, the Winchester Mystery House has mystified visitors with its eccentric design and peculiar history. But, the house was once known by a different name: Sarah Winchester's House.
Sarah Winchester was the widow of William Wirt Winchester, the heir to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Fueled by her immense wealth and sorrow, Sarah spent 38 years constructing a residence that would honor her family's legacy while providing a spiritual refuge from her grief. To this day, the Winchester Mystery House continues to captivate visitors with its remarkable architecture and mysterious past.
Sarah Winchester - A Legacy of Tragedy and Wealth
The life of Sarah Winchester was one of privilege, wealth, and tragedy. Born in 1840, she was raised in an affluent family and spoke four languages, receiving an education from some of the best schools around. In her late twenties, Sarah married William and had a daughter, Annie.
Sadly, tragedy struck when Annie passed away, and William died more than a decade later, leaving Sarah alone and heartbroken. Though she continued to live luxuriously, her life was forever changed by the losses of her loved ones.
A Fortune of Epic Proportions: The Incredible Legacy of Sarah Winchester
When William Winchester died in 1881, his wife, Sarah, was left with a legacy of epic proportions. She inherited a whopping $20 million, equivalent to over $500 million in 2019 dollars. On top of that, Sarah also received half of the Winchester Arms Company, amounting to a daily income of $1,000 - or $26,000 in today's money.
Such a fortune was unprecedented and has cemented Sarah Winchester's name in history.
Seeking Guidance from Beyond: Sarah Winchester's Journey
Sarah Winchester was a woman of deep sorrow yet newly possessed immense wealth. She had tragically lost her husband and daughter, leaving her to face the future alone. In an attempt to find solace, Sarah sought out the advice of a medium, hoping to gain insight from beyond the physical world.
She questioned what she should do with her fortune and how she should live without her beloved family. Sarah's decision to seek advice from the metaphysical was a brave and inspiring act of resilience. She was determined to find a way to heal her wounds and continue on her path.
Haunted by Grief: The Mysterious Tale of Sarah Winchester
Sarah Winchester was a woman of immense wealth but also immense grief. After her husband William passed away, Sarah sought solace from a medium who channeled her beloved William. He advised her to leave her home in Connecticut and move to California.
What followed was a strange yet heartbreaking story - William advised Sarah to use her fortune to build a home for the spirits of those who were killed by Winchester rifles and protect herself from being haunted by them. This story is a testament to the power of grief, as Sarah followed William's advice to the letter, leading to the creation of the famous Winchester Mystery House.
Uncover the Mysteries of The Winchester Mystery House
Have you ever heard of the Winchester Mystery House? Its mysterious history dates back to 1884 when Sarah Winchester purchased an unfinished farmhouse. Little did she know, this humble abode would soon become renowned for its mysterious secrets.
Over the years, Sarah continued to construct the house, adding more and more features like secret passageways, stairs that lead to nowhere, and even a seance room. Today, this house is a popular tourist attraction, and visitors can explore the site to uncover the mysteries that still linger. So, if you're looking to explore the history and uncover the secrets of the Winchester Mystery House, look no further!
A Mansion of Bizarre Oddities
Sarah Winchester, the heir to the Winchester firearms fortune, dreamed of creating a never-ending mansion. She employed a team of carpenters to work around the clock and expand her small house into a seven-story behemoth.
With no plans and no overseeing architect, the house was constructed haphazardly. There were rooms added onto exterior walls, windows looking into other rooms, and staircases of all shapes and sizes. The resulting mansion was a bizarre collection of oddities and a testament to Sarah Winchester's eccentricity.
Mysterious Maze: The Unexplained Structural Changes
Have you ever come across a building with unexplained architectural changes? Staircases that ascend several levels then abruptly end, doors that open to solid walls, and hallways that turn a corner and result in a dead-end, leave you to wonder why all this was done in the first place. Such strange occurrences have been witnessed in many buildings, and while they may seem pointless, they can be quite intriguing.
Could they have resulted from an error during construction, or are they part of some hidden mystery? Whatever the reason, these structural changes are sure to leave you perplexed and fascinated.
Mrs. Winchester's Unbelievable Redwood Mansion
Sarah Winchester, the heiress of one of the wealthiest families in the world, had a unique vision for her home: it had to be built entirely out of redwood. However, Sarah didn't like the look of the wood, so she ordered it to be covered with an artificial grain and a paint stain.
This resulted in an astonishing 20,000 gallons of paint covering the entire mansion! Her dedication to her vision created an iconic masterpiece, and her mansion still stands – a testament to her creative brilliance.
The Mysterious Mansion of Sarah Winchester
At the turn of the century, Sarah Winchester had created a house like no other. This peculiar mansion had a total of seven stories, 161 rooms, 47 fireplaces, 10,000 panes of glass, two basements, three elevators, and an enigmatic fun-house-like interior.
Every detail of the house exudes luxury, from the expensive materials to the intricate design. It was like stepping into a world of mystery and amazement, where no expense was spared. The Sarah Winchester mansion was truly a marvel worth beholding.
Heavenly Illumination: Captivating Chandeliers and Stunning Stained-Glass Windows
The hallways of this grand estate were awe-inspiring, with glimmering gold and silver chandeliers hung from the ceilings and intricate hand-inlaid parquet flooring beneath. To add to the majestic atmosphere, dozens of artfully designed stained-glass windows crafted by Tiffany & Co. decorated the walls.
Among them, some of the windows were even designed by the famous Louis Comfort Tiffany himself, including one intended to cast a prismatic rainbow reflection across the floor. Unfortunately, the window ended up on an interior wall, and the effect was never achieved. Nonetheless, this luxurious and captivating estate was a stunning sight to behold.
A Mansion of Modern Luxuries: The Winchester Mystery House
Step inside the luxurious Winchester Mystery House and discover modern amenities rarely seen in the late 1800s. From hot running water to push-button gas lighting to forced-air heating, this mansion was built with the latest amenities to provide a blissful living experience. With such an incredible range of features, the Winchester Mystery House was something special.
Delight in the convenience of indoor plumbing and bask in the glow of the gas lighting. Enjoy the warmth of the forced-air heating, and marvel at the engineering that made it all possible. Experience the elegance of the Winchester Mystery House, and see why it remains an unforgettable piece of history.
Saved from the Earthquake: The Story of the Winchester Mystery House
In 1904, an earthquake shook the ground in San Jose, wreaking havoc on the city and leaving many homes in ruins. One of these homes was the Winchester Mystery House, but thanks to its floating foundation, it was saved from collapse. This foundation is designed to equal the weight of the surrounding soil, stabilizing the building and allowing it to stand tall even in the face of destruction.
After the earthquake, the top three floors were removed, leaving the house with only four stories, as it stands today. Despite the damage, the Winchester Mystery House remains a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.
Unveiling the Mystery Behind Sarah Winchester's Haunted House
Whether Sarah Winchester was deliberately constructing a haunted house or not, stories and rumors about the Winchester Mystery House spread like wildfire throughout San Jose. After years of construction, the mystery surrounding the mansion and its purpose remained unsolved.
What did Sarah Winchester have in mind when she created this intriguing house? Was it a haunted house? Or was it something else entirely? To uncover the truth, one must delve deep into the history of the Winchester Mystery House.
Appeasing the "Victims" - The Strange Story of Sarah Winchester
The strange story of Sarah Winchester and her sprawling mansion is shrouded in mystery. Contractors who worked on the house reported Sarah's daily seances with local mediums to contact 'good spirits' and find out how to appease the spirits that she allegedly built the house.
Even after construction was completed, Sarah continued to make efforts to placate the victims of her family's Winchester rifles. Her efforts were said to be behind the seemingly illogical additions to the house. What exactly was Sarah trying to achieve? Was she reaching out to the dead? We may never know the answer.
Outsmarting the Ghosts: Sarah Winchester's Creative Tactics
When Sarah Winchester inherited the famous Winchester Mystery House in the late 19th century, she quickly implemented unique tactics to ensure no spirits could haunt her home. Out of the 13 bathrooms in the house, only one was functional enough to make it difficult for any ghosts to find a spigot.
She would also sleep in a different room each night and travel through secret passageways to avoid being followed by spirits. While some may be skeptical of her methods, Sarah Winchester's creative approach to outsmarting the ghosts in her home has become a legend in and of itself.
A House of Mystery and Legend: The Story of Sarah Winchester
The story of Sarah Winchester has been shrouded in mystery for centuries. In the years she inhabited her house in San Jose, rumors of its peculiar construction and her odd behavior abounded. But, since her death, the stories surrounding her life have become even wilder and more fantastical.
From tales of secret passageways and ghostly inhabitants to her supposed attempt to keep the spirits of her dead family members at bay, Sarah Winchester and her house have become a source of great fascination. Could it be that the truth is even stranger than fiction?
Unraveling the Mystery of Sarah Winchester's Final Gift
Sarah Winchester's death in September of 1922 left many questions unanswered. Among her belongings, her niece, Marion, who had served as her secretary later in life, was the lucky recipient of all her possessions. However, the Winchester Mystery House was not mentioned in her will, leading to further speculation and curiosity.
Are there hidden secrets lie within the walls of this house? What was Sarah Winchester's true intent in not including the mansion in her will? Perhaps we will never know the answers, but the Winchester Mystery House is certainly a unique and enigmatic gift that Sarah Winchester left behind.
Unbelievable! The Incredible Journey of Sarah Winchester's Niece
When appraisers declared Sarah Winchester's house worthless due to its strange design, earthquake damage, and long-winded construction, her niece, Marion, was determined to get something out of it. Taking everything from the house, Marion auctioned it off, an undertaking that was no small feat.
Reports claim it took an amazing six weeks to clear the house of all its furniture, a fact that has yet to be corroborated. Nevertheless, it is a remarkable story of resilience and determination that continues to intrigue all who hear it.
Uncovering the Surprising Secrets of the Winchester Mystery House
The Winchester Mystery House has been a long-standing fixture for San Jose, California. After the house was emptied and purchased for $135,000, it was opened to the public for tours just five months later.
To the surprise of many, the Winchester Mystery House still held secrets waiting to be uncovered. Despite being emptied and re-furnished, the house had plenty of intriguing stories. From its unique architecture to its mysterious past, visitors can discover something new every time.
Uncovering the Hidden Attic of Winchester's House
The year 2016 was remarkable for uncovering the secrets of Winchester's House. After years of speculation, a secret attic was discovered in the building. The attic contained interesting items, including a pump organ, a Victorian-era couch, a dress form, a sewing machine, and a selection of paintings.
Although there is no definitive proof that this was the same secret storage room that had been talked about for years, the discovery of this hidden attic certainly added to the mystique of Winchester's House.
Uncovering the Mystery of Sarah Winchester's Iconic Mansion
Ninety-five years after her death, the secrets of Sarah Winchester's iconic mansion remain shrouded in mystery. From the eerie rumors of hauntings to the untold secrets of her unfinished home, the Winchester Mystery House has captivated the attention of pop culture.
In 2018, the story was brought to life on the big screen when Helen Mirren starred in Winchester , a movie depicting Sarah Winchester's crazed obsession with the ghosts of Winchester rifles. Now, for the first time, sections of the house that were never opened to the public are being put on display, giving a chance to uncover the secrets of this mysterious mansion.
The Haunted Home: An Inspiration for Supernatural Horror
Enter the Haunted Home, where supernatural horrors come to life and nightmares become a reality. For centuries, this mysterious abode has been the source of inspiration for some of the world's most spine-tingling horror movies and novels. Its spooky atmosphere and eerie vibes have captivated the imaginations of fans and filmmakers alike, sparking a plethora of tales about ghosts, ghouls, and otherworldly creatures.
From old-fashioned ghost stories to modern-day slasher films, the Haunted Home is a timeless source of inspiration for horror and suspense. Step inside, if you dare, and explore a world of terror and terror-filled thrills.
Uncovering the Mystery Behind Sarah Winchester
For centuries, Sarah Winchester's life has been a mystery. Since her death, little has been uncovered about her and the reasons behind her obsession with building the Winchester Mystery House. She never spoke to the press nor did she leave behind any journals. Even her family remained silent about her.
Despite this lack of evidence, the story of the Winchester Mystery House lives on, full of speculation and intrigue. Was Sarah Winchester haunted by the spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles? Was she driven by a fear of her family's wealth running out? Or was it something else entirely? The only certain thing is that the mystery behind Sarah Winchester will remain unsolved.
Still Haunting the Winchester Mansion: Could Sarah Winchester be Amongst the Spirits?
Are ghosts still haunting the Winchester Mansion? For centuries, visitors of the mansion have reported feeling the presence of paranormal entities. Though investigations have failed to confirm any supernatural activity, Sarah Winchester herself may be still lingering in the abode.
After all, she built the house as a refuge for the restless dead, so why not join them? Perhaps, the spirits of the Winchester Mansion are still as alive today as they were in the past.
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- Military and History
Winchester Haunted House
- Jack Collins
Photo courtesy of daveynin
If you watch most horror movies, you’ll notice one thing. Most of the time, the main characters aren’t packing heat and if they were, the movie would be pretty short. But what if one of the world’s most recognizable names in firearms actually contributed to a real-life haunting? In fact, there may be one of the most prolific hauntings in the world at the Winchester House. We’ll look at the spooky story of the haunting of Winchester house here.
The Haunting of Winchester House: the Origins
Although it may not be common knowledge, the Winchester House is one of the most haunted places not only in California but in the entire world. The house traces its origins back to Sarah Winchester, the widow of William Winchester (the son of the company’s founder, Oliver Winchester). In 1880 and 1881, Sarah experienced several deaths in her family, including William’s. This was about 14 years after the death of the Winchesters’ only child.
Afterward, Sarah was left with copious amounts of money. Suffering from arthritis, she moved from New Haven, Connecticut to California, thinking that the warmer climate would help her condition. After moving there, she began building the Winchester House. After initially completing the house, Sarah continued to build more and more additions to the mansion. Some rumors at the time said that she thought if she ever completed construction on the house, she would die. As a reclusive widow, she quickly drew the attention of local newspapers and gained a reputation for being insane.
Winchester Haunting: the Events
Visitors to the house have reported strange experiences. Some say they’ve heard ghostly music, footsteps, and other odd sounds, along with the smell of cooking. Others say they’ve had more malicious experiences, like walking through cold spots and hearing slamming doors and windows, whispers, or the sensation of being watched. No one is exactly sure who or what haunts the property, but some believe that it’s the spirits of all the people that Winchester weapons killed.
A view of the house from above, which really lets you see all of the additions Sarah Winchester made over the years. Photo courtesy of Onasill .
Is the winchester house still haunted.
While several purported paranormal investigators have visited the house and dismissed the claims of a haunting there, it hasn’t stopped the reports from flowing in. Today, the Winchester House is actually a tourist attraction that sees thousands of visitors every year. The building even spawned a 2009 indie horror movie called The Haunting of Winchester House . I haven’t watched it yet, which is a disservice to you, dear reader. But the reviews say it’s pretty bad, so you’re on your own there.
Today, the Winchester Mystery House is a designated California Historic Landmark. In a bizarre coincidence, its Landmark Number is 686 – the same number as a model of revolver produced by Smith & Wesson, a company that Winchester founder Oliver Winchester purchased and rebranded as his own company, Winchester Repeating Arms.
Learn More About Firearms History and Technology at SDI
The story of Winchester House is just one of the many tales in the annals of firearms lore. And SDI can help you get to work penning your own chapter. To get started, explore all of the programs we offer here .
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- September 30, 2019
A Haunted History
Mystery is a well-earned middle name for this San Jose Victorian mansion built by owner Sarah Pardee Winchester to, allegedly, appease spirits— specifically those who had fallen to the famous Winchester rifle.
Ghostly tales are one matter. But real-life encounters are entirely different; and at the Winchester Mystery House, both visitors and employees claim spectral sightings.
A number of employees—and a few visitors—claim to have crossed paths with “Clyde,” a mustached man sometimes seen pushing a wheelbarrow in the basement, or trying to repair the fireplace in the Ballroom. He’s been described to management roughly like this: “We really like the actor who was “repairing” the ballroom fireplace, wearing white overalls and a Victorian boater hat.” Huh? We didn’t hire an actor.
Then, there are the gentle tugs of shirts or skirts during tours, and the report from long-time maintenance worker Denny. One crisp morning, after entering the water tower, he heard the patter of footsteps above. He ascended to let the trespasser know the three-story structure was off-limits. But the footsteps always seemed to be one step ahead of him, and, one floor above. His search culminated on the roof, with no one in sight.
Ever since Houdini came to the house in 1924 during his nationwide tour to debunk Spiritualism, other experts have followed. Winchester Mystery House has thrown out the welcome mat for paranormal investigator Zak Bagans of Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures,” noted psychic Sylvia Browne , TK, and famed medium James van Praagh who channeled Sarah at a séance dinner. He claimed that she expressed happiness that the house had so many visitors.
As recently as this April (2019), an architectural historian met with our house historian, Janan Boehme, to present his findings on who had most likely created the amazingly beautiful stained-glass windows in the mansion. Boehme was convinced that at least one of the mysteries of the house had finally been solved. But there was no hard evidence.
“Then, the strangest thing happened,” recounts Boehme. The very next day, a restorer uncovered a perfectly preserved envelope that had been hidden inside wall for 125 years. Addressed to Mrs. S. L. Winchester, it bore the elaborate logo of the Pacific American Decorative Company—the very company the researcher had concluded was the maker of Sarah’s windows! (If you are one of those people who believe there are no coincidences … dig into that. Janan, Sarah’s got you covered.
Should you want to get a taste of the paranormal in the house frequently dubbed in top 10 “Most Haunted” lists, come to an after-dark experience that unlocks rooms and explores the fictional side of the paranormal on “Unhinged.” Until November 2. Click below for tickets!
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What Do We Know About the Winchester House? Paperback – August 15, 2023
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- Publisher : Penguin Workshop (August 15, 2023)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 112 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0593519299
- ISBN-13 : 978-0593519295
- Reading age : 8 - 12 years
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Emma Carlson Berne is the author of many books for children and young adults. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband, three boys, one grumpy cat, and one friendly cat. She enjoys hiking, reading, and horseback riding.
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McKamey Manor Hulu documentary: 5 things we learned from controversial Tennessee haunted house
There are immersive haunted houses and then there is McKamey Manor.
The Summertown horror house, that touts itself as a place for participants to live out their own personal horror movie, has been put under the microscope after Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti sent a letter to Russ McKamey , owner and operator of McKamey Manor, about a documentary on the horror house released by Hulu on Oct. 12. Skrmetti stated there were serious concerns about his “business practices” in the operation of the “extreme haunted attraction”.
The Hulu original Monster Inside: America's Most Extreme Haunted House , looks at three individuals who signed up for McKamey's brand of horror and believe he took things too far.
Monster Inside takes footage taken during the interviewees' time at McKamey Manor that was uploaded to a YouTube channel intermixed with interviews from the three participants, people who considered themselves friends on McKamey and professionals in the field of psychology, torture and deviancy.
What is Hulu's Monster Inside: America's Most Extreme Haunted House about?
Monster Inside takes a look at three participants of McKamey Manor; Melissa Everly , Gabi Hardiman and Brandon Vance . Kris Smith , who was reportedly friends with McKamey and was also interviewed by USA TODAY in 2019 where he stated he was a volunteer with the Manor, is part of the interviews talking about the man behind the horror house.
The use of found footage and sound bites is sprinkled between the interviews of these participants.
Russ McKamey did not participate in Hulu's show, but soundbites from him were used throughout the 1.5-hour show.
We watched the Hulu Original, and here are five things we took from it.
Searching for fame and something...more
Melissa and Gabi both stated in it that they were looking for their shot at fame.
"The normal routine gets dull. I’m not going to lie, I honestly thought this was going to get me a little bit of fame. And I wanted a video of me up on YouTube," Melissa said in the film.
And Gabi, from California, had similar goals.
The up-and-coming actress wanted to get her own YouTube channel going and saw McKamey Manor as a way to kick-start that social media dream.
But one thing that all three of the participants interviewed wanted was something more.
"If a felony is not going to be taking place I don’t want to go," Brandon said.
Getting into McKamey Manor takes some harrowing feats
Before participants can even make into into the Manor, they reportedly have to go through an interview of sorts. And these tasks aren't for the faint of heart.
After contacting McKamey through the website or on social media, future participants are invited to a private Facebook group where they are given tasks to record before they even sign the 40-page waiver McKamey Manor has.
Melissa described sending a video to McKamey as her introduction that had her dangling by her ankles eating night crawlers mixed with toothpaste and mustard.
”I wanted to stand out from the rest," she said in the Hulu Original.
After that, all three were pulled to continue doing more "endurance" tests leading up to signing a 40-page waiver to participate in the interactive horror house. Gabi remembers the adrenaline and excitement leading up to signing the waiver, but being told she couldn't even look at the person who was holding the waiver.
Some of the comments made by the three in the show also caught the attention of the Tennessee AG's office.
"Former participants describe the adrenaline and pressure they felt when reviewing the waiver at the start of the tour. One interviewee from the Hulu documentary stated, ‘I had too much excitement going through my veins at the time. If [the waiver] would have said that a man is going to come out of the woods and murder you during this event, I would’ve signed it'," read the AG's letter.
TN AG investigation: Hulu's McKamey Manor documentary prompts Tennessee AG investigation
McKamey Manor, just a YouTube video away
Brandon, who was interviewed by The Nashville Scene in 2018 and was described as a repeat participant, described himself as a thrill seeker after his days in the Army.
He pushed the boundaries trying to find new thrills and participated in many interactive and extreme horror houses. He was excited to participate in McKamey Manor until he wasn't.
"(I would keep) telling them to do worse, worse stuff. Deep down I know they aren’t going to kill me. Trust was broken with Russ McKamey," Brandon said.
During one of his times a McKamey Manor, Brandon was put through different scenarios involving water. Including one of him being locked in a cage as water came pouring in and he soon had little to no room to breathe. All of this was caught on film by McKamey.
Each participant is filmed by McKamey as they go through these extreme horror scenarios, most so graphic that YouTube has warnings before people can look at them.
Gabi's video depicts her being chained up before a tarantula, which she states she is terrified of, is held before. In another scene, she is locked into what appears to be a freezer and can be heard asking to be let out.
"Russ is there the entire time, recording it, and the joy and like pleasure he was getting out of it was extremely weird," she said.
Interactive horror house or a torture chamber?
That is a debate put forth.
McKamey Manor came to Tennessee in 2017 after public outcry in California (and from what the Hulu show states, possible tax issues) sent McKamey across the country. But the call for looking further at what was happening at McKamey Manor continued.
A Change.org petition started in 2019 by Frankie Towery, asks the Tennessee and Alabama governments to shut down McKamey's operation has more than 190,000 signatures at this time.
The three interviewed by Hulu, have their own concerns about McKamey and his brand of immersive horror.
Gabi, Melissa and Brandon, all acknowledged that they signed up for what McKamey had in store, but looking back they believe that a boundary was crossed and continues to be crossed as long as McKamey is still in operation.
But in a 2019 USA TODAY article , McKamey said that McKamey Manor is no longer that physical anymore and he's the only one who interacts with contestants during the tour. It's a mental game now.
"They're not getting hurt," he said at the time. "I use a lot of hypnosis, a lot of mind control techniques. If you can hypnotize people, you can make them think whatever you want. I don’t need to rough anyone up. Hypnosis is a powerful mind tool. I can put somebody in a pool with 3 inches of water and tell them there’s a great white shark, and they’re going to believe they're swimming (in the ocean) with a great white shark."
Bonus: Does Russ McKamey really work at Walmart?
In the Hulu show, some of the interviewees stated they believed McKamey now spends his days working at Walmart. Even adding in a video of an unidentified woman going into a store, going through a line and exiting stating it was "totally him".
None of McKamey's social media states that he works for Walmart, but he did post a video on Facebook sporting a vest with what appeared to be the company's logo on it.
Proof of his employment status or just McKamey trolling "haters"?
Top 10 most popular haunted US locations to visit for a Halloween road trip
Halloween is prime time for those who love a good ghost story. Whether you're a skeptic or an experienced ghost hunter, a little chill down the spine is only right during the spookiest season of the year.
Of course, Halloween is not the only time to enjoy spooks and spirits; after all, haunted houses don't stop being haunted after the calendar flips over to Nov. 1. While ghostly walking tours and haunted history attractions are most active leading up to All Hallows Eve, a spooky road trip can hit the spot any time of year.
Whether you plan to take to the road before Thanksgiving rears its head or want to start planning your post-holiday season, those looking for a ghost-filled trip through the U.S. have plenty of potential pitstops.
In a report released by Camping World, researchers analyzed Google inquirers for more than 60 famously haunted locations, using search volume to determine the hottest stops. If you're interested in a paranormal romp across the U.S., check out these top 10 haunted locations.
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Winchester Mystery House
If you're even a passing fan of haunted history, you've heard of the Winchester Mystery House. Located in San Jose, California, the building was first purchased as a two-story farmhouse by Sarah Winchester in 1886. Known for its unusual and rambling architecture with staircases going nowhere and doors that don’t open, the house was eventually expanded into a 7-story Victorian mansion.
As the legend goes, Sarah Winchester, wife of the heir to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company William Winchester, ordered never-ending construction on the house after she came to believe ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles were haunting her family.
Stories say that Sarah believed the continuous and seemingly nonsensical expansion of the home would confuse the spirits, distracting them from their ghostly duties. According to the house's website , thirty-six years of construction only ended when Sarah died in 1922.
Eastern State Penitentiary
The Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is known for being one of the most haunted places in the U.S. and has appeared on a number of ghost-hunting TV shows. Visitors and investigators have reported all kinds of paranormal activity, from disembodied voices to shadowy apparitions.
Al Capone was famously locked up in the prison, which housed 85,000 people between 1829 and 1970, when it closed. Capone was known to speak adamantly of his encounters with the paranormal while serving his term there, and you can still visit his cell today.
Main Street in St. Charles, Missouri
This road in St. Charles, Missouri is chock full of historic places and is alleged to have a number of spirits roaming around. While there is plenty of history to explore without mention of ghosts and ghouls, such as the Lewis and Clark Boat House and Museum or the many buildings originally built to serve as homes and businesses for early fur traders and blacksmiths, the area is also known for its "lost cemetery."
Rumors say that the town's cemetery was moved in 1853, but many bodies were left behind. Now, according to legend, those lost graves are empty and their inhabitants roam up and down Main Street at night. While those hoping to hit all the best hotspots can sign up for a haunted walking tour, the town also has a haunted community college, a haunted high school and a haunted forest to drop in on.
Located in Wimberley, Texas, Jacob's Well is a little scary for more than just its haunted lore. Swimming is not currently allowed in the watery hole, and it is known as a potentially dangerous spot for divers, thanks to its series of chambers and the thick, sticky soil at the bottom.
The sinkhole houses an underwater cave system 140 feet deep and over 4,300 feet long, fed by an artesian spring. According to the Houston Chronicle , at least 12 people have died trying to explore the treacherous waters, making it the prime haunting grounds for restless spirits who met a tragic end. Some thrill-seekers come to the infamously dangerous sinkhole looking for hints the drowned spirits still inhabit the spot.
The Stanley Hotel
This sprawling Stanley Hotel, opened in 1909, is perhaps best known for inspiring Stephen King's "The Shining." King, like many other guests over the years, reported otherworldly experiences while staying at the hotel, which has likewise been the subject of several ghost-hunting televisions shows.
Visitors claim to have experienced everything from unseen hands touching their hair to messages communicated in ghostly whispers. One of the most famous stories is that of head chambermaid, Elizabeth Wilson, who lit a candle in room 217, which had built up quite a bit of gas from a leaking lantern. The ensuing explosion miraculously didn't kill Wilson, and she later returned to work at the hotel. According to legend, she continues to work there today, inhabiting infamous room 217.
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White Horse Tavern
The White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island is believed to be the oldest tavern in the United States, having opened for business in 1673.
With sites this old tend to come the legendary and the haunted. The tavern served a number of purposes over the years, lending a meeting place for city council, the colony’s general assembly, the criminal court and quartering British troops during the Revolution.
While it's difficult to tell fact from fiction in a place so old, the bar reportedly is home to an elderly gentleman ghost, who died while renting a room upstairs in the 1720s, and a young girl who is often heard crying.
Masonic Temple Detroit
Known as the largest Masonic temple in the world, the Masonic Temple Detroit is home to several buildings. Construction on the massive building began in 1923, when the first brick was laid using a trowel George Washington used to lay the first bricks at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C.
In 1926, the temple opened to the public and, being associated with an organization often regarded as mysterious, stories began to swirl. As the legend goes, George Mason himself went bankrupt building the temple, causing his wife to leave him. Distraught by this turn of events, Mason then allegedly jumped from the top of the 210-foot building, dying by suicide.
While records show this to be a tall tale, guards, members and visitors have still claimed to see Mason’s ghost causing mischief, engaging in typical antics like closing doors and windows, relocating items and, most creepily, climbing the stairs to the top of building where his death allegedly occurred.
Located in the Hamakua District of the Big Island of Hawaiʻi, the Waipi'o Valley is known for its natural beauty, breathtaking scenery and abundance of hiking trails.
It is also known for the many myths and legends of deities, demons and demi-gods. One myth, the story of Nanaue, speaks of a shark man who once inhabited the area as a cannibal in ancient times. Some ancient Hawaiian religions believed the Waipi'o Valley to be a door to the land of the dead, housing a cliff that was said to be the spot where decease souls jumped to enter the afterlife.
Other stories speak of lost tombs and treasures, ghosts roaming plantations and echos of the past coming from the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum.
More: 10 best haunted hotels in the US, according to readers
St. Roch Chapel, Yellow Fever Shrine
Located in one of the most haunted cities in America, the St. Roch Chapel has stood in New Orleans, Louisiana since 1874. The 19th-centruy chapel is a strange sight to newcomers, as it is filled with prosthetic body parts hung from the walls and placed on surfaces inside as offerings.
As the story goes , yellow fever began spreading in 1817, killing more than 40,000 in New Orleans over half a century, ravaging entire neighborhoods as citizens desperately, but unsuccessfully, tried to find a way to put an end to the deaths.
In 1867, Reverend Peter Thevis began throwing desperate prayers to Saint Roch, Patron Saint of Good Health, who was said to have saved many from wicked deaths during the times of the black plague. After this, it was said the reverend's parish suffered no further fatalities from the fever, inspiring the building of the chapel in 1875 to honor the saint.
Many came to believe in the power of Saint Roch to cure their ailing health and began placing prosthetics and other items representing their illness in the chapel, asking the saint to bring them healing.
Of course, with that many deaths, there are bound to be a few ghosts hanging around. Reports of a woman's ghost spotted rising from her grave began as far back as the 1930s, and residents in homes surrounding the chapel and accompanying cemetery reported curious phantoms appearing in or even rapping at their windows. Still others say voodoo rituals are often performed in the area around the chapel, summoning spirits late at night. As if all the prosthetic limbs weren't creepy enough!
More: 2 in 5 Americans believe ghosts are real and 1 in 5 say they've seen one, survey says
It will come as no surprise to many to see a plantation on this list. Built in 1796 by American Revolutionary War general David Bradford, the Myrtle Planta tion, located about two hours northwest of New Orleans, has long since been known as one of the most haunted in the U.S., thanks to its troubled past.
While the Bradford family experienced their own tragedies in the home, such as the deaths of two young children, the most well-known story is that of an enslaved woman on the plantation allegedly named Chloe. As the legend goes, Clarke Woodruff, the husband of Bradford's daughter and owner of the property after his father-in-law's passing, was known for making sexual advances on enslaved workers held on the property.
It is said that Chloe was forced into a sexual relationship with Woodruff for a number of years, and, nervous the mistress of the house would find out, she was caught eavesdropping on a conversation between the Woodruffs. In response, Woodruff cut off Chloe's ear, forcing her to wear a now well-recognized turban around her head.
Folklore says Chloe then slipped poison into the dinners of the Woodruff family. In some tellings, she did so in order to nurse them back to health and re-earn favor in the household, while in others, she simply wanted revenge. Either way, Mrs. Woodruff and two of the Woodruff children died after consuming the poison, so the story goes, and, fearing blame for the murders, the other slaves on the plantation hung Chloe from a tree before throwing her body into a river, according to the stories.
Another such piece of lore tells of a man who, a few generations after the property had passed hands, was shot in the chest leaving the house. He managed to climb back inside and die on his wife's lap, says the legend.
While these stories, like others on this list, have proven more fiction that fact, the many reports of ghost sightings have persisted since the 1970s. Some insisted they saw the apparition of a young girl in a turban, while others heard noises of the typical ghost fare such as footsteps and whispers. It is even alleged that one of the ghosts was caught on camera, though the picture is as blurry and vague as any other ghost photo. Still, people report seeing the visages of young children, former slaves and a man, presumably the one allegedly shot and killed, in the home.
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From haunted history to home sweet home: The story of The Allen House in Monticello
by Emma Allen
MONTICELLO (KATV) — Rebecca Spencer and her family were visiting Monticello from Oklahoma for her husband's job interview.
While driving around the town, they stumbled upon a staple piece of Monticello's history.
"When we got to this house, I made my husband stop," said Spencer. "We just stopped the car. I thought the house was just so beautiful but sort of a ruin, and I told him right then before he had ever interviewed for the job that I would only move to this town if he bought me that house."
It was The Allen House, known for its charming and unique architecture.
But as the years have passed, the house that sits on Main Street has become known for something else.
"Every time I talked to somebody about the house I would say, 'We found a house, we just do not know when we can move in,' Spencer said. They would ask us which house it was and when we told them instantly everyone said, 'You do not want that house.' Either it is haunted or it has history."
That haunted history begins with the Allen family.
Jolie Allen, a businessman, built the home in 1906 for his wife Catty and their three daughters Lonnie Leigh, Ladell, and Loui.
But tragedy struck on Christmas night in 1948 when their middle daughter Ladell tried to commit suicide.
"Her mother was throwing her annual Christmas party.," said Spencer. "They could not find Ladell. They went looking for her and found her in the master bedroom. She had taken mercury cyanide."
Ladell would die a week later at a hospital just two doors down from where the family lived.
To this day, Ladell is believed to still roam The Allen House.
"Right after Ladell's death, her mother sealed up Ladell's room because she told different people in town that it was to keep Ladell in her room because she was causing disturbances in the house," Spencer said.
There was always a mystery behind why Ladell wanted to commit suicide.
Years later, the answers would come from a stack of letters hidden under floorboards in the attic.
"This is where the letters were found right here in this little space, up under the floor," said Spencer pointing to floorboards that had lifted.
The letters would reveal a secret love affair Ladell had with a high school sweetheart that ended tragically.
Spencer says Ladell's spirit is not the only one that has hung around the house after all these years. She claims she has seen others, including spirits that are doppelgangers of her own family members.
Multiple paranormal investigators have been in the house and even they have confirmed there is activity in the house.
"We definitely have seen spirits or apparitions in the house, not very often, but have. Shadow figures for sure," said Spencer.
The Spencers have decided to make the house their home while still keeping the same charming touch that the Allens brought years ago.
"I have a very eclectic taste in things," said Spencer. "We just have not stopped ourselves from bringing in whatever we wanted from our travels or from whatever antique shop we happen to stop in. It is not really a style it is just sort of us."
Although the home is known to be haunted, Spencer says her family has never had any negative experiences with what she calls the paranormal.
"We do not really have a fear of the spirits or the ghosts in the house. If you want to have a fear in something it should be the living," Spencer said.
The Allen House is on the market for anyone interested in purchasing.
What an actual house of horrors looks like
The scariest haunted house might be closer than you think. have you checked your refrigerator lately.
A Halloween-themed “Stranger Things” house in South Jordan on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2022.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
I’ve spent most of October trying to get a good spook. I’ve watched several classic horror movies, visited graveyards at night, swapped stories about paranormal encounters, and even flown to a reportedly haunted ranch . The movies have been good for jump scares, and the graveyards for letting my imagination run wild, but nothing has delivered a real, lasting haunt. I haven’t even bothered trying any of the local haunted houses because I’m not interested in being touched by teens who may or may not have washed their hands in the past week, and the few times I have gone I’ve felt nothing more than shame for having wasted 20-plus dollars.
Now, as the Halloween season comes to a close, and none of my efforts have delivered true terror, I’ve realized that no purchased or manufactured frights can come close to the horror that everyday life occasionally has to offer.
So I’ve imagined a true house of horrors. Tour it with me, room by room.
The mailbox is full of political mailers, an insurance statement that is either an invoice or just an FYI, it’s impossible to tell which, and an ominous, plain white envelope with Internal Revenue Service as the return address.
A few houses down, you spot a male who looks to be in his early 20s, wearing a black polo shirt embroidered with a logo. He’s holding a clipboard. If he spots you, you’ll have to think of a good excuse for why you don’t need solar panels. You need to get inside and hide.
Once we enter the house, the first room on our right is the study. Someone is sitting at the desk, staring at the computer monitor. They’ve somehow found your LiveJournal from 2005 and every post is a poem you wrote about what you thought was unrequited love but was really just a few Gchat conversations.
Next, they open your Facebook profile and scroll through your posts all the way back to when you opened the account and find the post from the time you thought you were typing someone’s name in the search bar but accidentally posted their name as a status update.
A Slack message appears in the corner of the screen. It’s from your boss, and it just says, “Call me.”
You have half a gallon of milk with a sell-by date of 10 days ago. It’s probably fine? It smells fine. You need the milk to make dinner in the next hour, and the internet says the only acceptable substitution is cream and you’re out of cream. Normally you would just throw your hands up in defeat and declare you’re going to In-N-Out again, but you did that last night and you’ll feel very guilty and financially irresponsible if you do it again. So you decide to just use the milk, a decision that will either be totally fine or catastrophic. Like Russian roulette but scarier.
Also, while you were debating whether or not you were willing to play fast and loose with dairy, you spotted a forgotten container in the top corner of the fridge and you don’t know what’s in it. Is it bulging? It kind of looks like it’s bulging.
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School starts in 20 minutes, and no one has clean underwear. The sock basket is full of one sock of every color. The clean pile is full of shirts that need to be ironed.
Also, what is that smell coming from the washing machine? Oh my gosh, you forgot to move the whites to the dryer again.
This room is scariest at night, a few hours after everyone has gone to bed. You’re deep in a REM cycle when suddenly a dark shadow appears in the doorway. Slowly it enters the room, inching closer to your bed, until it’s mere inches from your face. “Mom, I frew up,” it says. Turns out the milk was not fine.
Then, a second, slightly taller shadow appears in the doorway. This one, in a panicked tone, says, “My science project is due first period tomorrow. I need poster board and hydrogen peroxide.” Walgreens is closed and 7-Eleven doesn’t sell poster board. You know because this has happened before.
To access Disney+ you need the input set to HDMI1, but you can only find the remote that controls the volume. The remote that controls both channel and source is nowhere to be found, and while you wait, the weird Samsung channel that only plays “Dateline” on repeat is running ads for the moderate to severe plaque psoriasis medication. You’ve seen these ads so many times that you’ve become convinced the algorithm knows you better than you know yourself so you must have moderate to severe plaque psoriasis despite having none of the symptoms listed on WebMD.
You start the car to drive to the store because now you know for sure that the milk is bad and you need a fresh gallon. But the tire pressure light blinks on even though you just filled your tires last week. Which means you need a new tire. Or four.
Also, what’s that sound outside? It’s the garbage truck driving past your house. You forgot to take the blue can to the curb.
So you back out past the already over-filled garbage can that will somehow need to hold another week’s worth of trash, and head out to get not just milk, but tires as well, making what was originally a $5 errand a $500 errand.
I’d like to see any haunted house deliver a horror like that.
See how scary Delaware is, plus you might be surprised by its most haunted location.
You might be a fan of all the haunted houses and Halloween attractions around town, but some less-obvious spots have a macabre history of their own. Why not visit the most haunted place in Delaware and one of the top five haunted places in America? It may not be a place you'd immediately think of.
The most haunted place in Delaware
SmokyMountains.com analyzed 10 to 30 knowingly haunted locations per state and the number of search results for each of them, excluding ghost towns or cities, to determine the most haunted place per state.
Delaware’s most haunted location is Woodburn in Dover, the official residence of the governor of Delaware since it was purchased by the state in 1965, with 585,500 searches, according to the study.
The other haunted locations in Delaware are:
- John Dickinson Mansion in Dover, with 799 searches.
- Dead Presidents Pub & Restaurant in Wilmington, with 905 searches.
- Rockwood Museum in Bellevue, with 3,590 searches.
- Lums Pond State Park near bear, with 11,550 searches.
- Addy Sea Inn in Bethany Beach, with 17,120 searches.
- Fort Delaware in Delaware City, with 28,500 searches.
- Belmont Hall in Smyrna, with 40,100 searches.
- Crabby Dicks in Delaware City, with 95,930 searches.
- Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes, with 46,450 searches.
- The Cannonball House in Lewes, with 60,550 searches.
- Cooch’s Bridge in Glasgow, with 21,200 searches.
- Deer Park Tavern in Newark, with 213,450 searches.
Not only is Woodburn the most haunted location in Delaware, but it’s also one of the top five haunted houses in America, according to the study, flanked by Ravenswood Mansion in Bunceton, Missouri; Cliveden in Philadelphia; Hay House in Macon, Georgia; and Liberty House in Frankfort, Kentucky.
What is Woodburn?
Woodburn is a middle-period Georgian house built in 1798 by Charles Hillyard III that housed gentleman farmers, landowners, two U.S. senators, two doctors, an abolitionist, a dentist, a judge and eight recent Delaware governors, according to the state of Delaware website.
Why is Woodburn haunted?
The eerie history of the residence dates back to around 1815, when the Woodburn Ghost first appeared.
As the tale goes, Dr. Martin Bates and his wife, owners of the residence at the time, were entertaining a local preacher, Lorenzo Dow, when he asked the couple over breakfast if they should wait to begin the meal prayer until the other guest in the house was present.
Bates, confused by the question, explained to Dow that there were no other guests in the house, to which Dow replied by sharing a story about a gentleman he met on the staircase. According to Dow, the gentleman wore a powdered wig, knee britches and a ruffled shirt. It was an exact description of Dow’s father-in-law and builder of the home, Hillyard.
Since then, Hillyard has been spotted by others in the home, according to Dover history, and “was known to enjoy a strong drink.” If a glass of wine was left downstairs at night, an empty glass in the morning would be a giveaway that Hillyard had treated himself, according to the State of Delaware website.
Another owner of the house, Frank Hall, claimed to pass Hillyard on the steps, describing him in the same way others had in the past. Jeanne Tribbitt, wife of former Gov. Sherman Tribbit, was known to regularly check the stairway for Hillyard’s presence. She also left out a glass of wine for him multiple times but saw no results.
How to visit Woodburn
Want to visit Woodburn and the ghost of Hillyard for yourself?
Free tours of Woodburn are offered Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. by appointment only. To book your tour, contact Kristy Huxhold at (302) 739-5656 or by email at [email protected] .
All aboard!: Enjoy fall views with these 3 seasonal, Halloween rides at Wilmington & Western Railroad
How scary is Delaware compared with other states?
Smoky Mountains gave each state a spooky ranking, which used the search results from the haunted locations combined with the number of Spirit Halloween stores and haunted houses per state. This data was then used alongside the average reviews for the haunted houses to create the Spookymeter used for the study.
The Spookymeter rankings are as follows:
- One and 1.5 equal “not so scary.”
- Two and 2.5 equal “somewhat spooky.”
- Three and 3.5 equal “I’m a little scared...”
- Four and 4.5 equal “nightmare fuel.”
- Five equals “AHHHHH!”
According to this methodology, Woodburn’s 585,000 searches plus five statewide Spirit Halloween stores plus six statewide haunted houses brings Delaware’s total score to 585,011. The average haunted house review of Woodburn, Delaware’s most haunted location, is a 4.5 out of 5.
This information is now used to give each state a rating on the Spookymeter using the following formula:
- Zero to 149,999 points plus a four/4.5-star rating equals a 1 on the Spookymeter.
- Less than 150,000 to 199,999 points plus a four-star rating equals a 1 on the Spookymeter.
- Less than 150,000 to 199,999 points plus a 4.5-star rating equals a 1.5 on the Spookymeter.
- Two hundred thousand plus 499,999 points plus a four-star rating equals a 2 on the Spookymeter.
- Five hundred thousand to 599,999 points plus a four-star rating equals a 3 on the Spookymeter.
- Five hundred thousand to 599,999 points plus a 4.5-star rating equals a 3.5 on the Spookymeter.
- Six hundred thousand to 999,999 points plus a four-star rating equals a 4 on the Spookymeter.
- Six hundred thousand to 650,000 points plus a 4.5-star rating equals a 4 on the Spookymeter.
- Six hundred and fifty thousand to 999,999 points plus a 4.5-star rating equals a 4.5 on the Spookymeter.
- One million points and above plus a 4.4-star rating and above equals a 5 on the Spookymeter.
Combining the above results and using the scary scale, Delaware is a 3.5 on the Spookymeter, placing it above the majority of the states, including our neighbors New Jersey, which scored a two on the Spookymeter, and Maryland, which scored a 1.5 on the Spookymeter.
The top 10 scariest states, according to the Spookymeter are:
- California, which scored a five on the Spookymeter.
- Utah, which scored a five on the Spookymeter.
- New Hampshire, which scored a 4.5 on the Spookymeter.
- Missouri, Ohio, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, Nevada and Pennsylvania, which all scored a four on the Spookymeter.
Got a tip or a story idea? Contact Krys'tal Griffin at [email protected] .
A haunt to check out: Ghosts love this Delaware place so much it's sold out until 2024. But why is it so scary?
ICYMI: Ghosts attack Delaware 'Ghost Hunters' TV star at his home, he says
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‘We Sensed Her Spirit’: Spooky Stories About Living in Haunted Homes
Wsj readers share paranormal experiences, from an eerie playdate to ‘ghosts’ who didn’t want the owners to leave.
Oct. 30, 2023 9:00 pm ET
And you thought 8% mortgage rates were terrifying.
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