85 - The Winchester Mansion (Sarah Winchester Was A Bad Ass!)

Ep. 85

Winchester

House


Today's episode examines the life of an eccentric, possibly mentally ill woman and the incredible house she built. We‘ll talk about possible hauntings, impossible architecture and the delusion of a heart broken woman. We are discussing Sarah Winchester and what some less than creative people have dubbed The Winchester Mystery House!



Her birth name was Sarah Lockwood Pardee. She was the fifth of seven children born to Leonard Pardee and Sarah Burns. There are no existing records or any other form of factual information to establish Sarah’s date of birth—even the year remains unknown. The scarce information that survives from the historical record indicates her birth must have occurred somewhere between 1835 and 1845.


At the time of Sarah’s birth, the Pardee’s were a respectable, upper middle class New Haven family. Her father Leonard was a joiner by trade whose shrewd sense of business found him moving up the ladder of polite society as a successful carriage manufacturer. Later, during the Civil War, he made a fortune supplying ambulances to the Union Army.


Young Sarah’s most distinguishing characteristic was that she was everything but ordinary. She was a child prodigy… a fire starter. Ok, no… By all accounts, she was also considered to be quite beautiful. By the age of twelve, Sarah was already fluent in the Latin, French, Spanish, and Italian languages. Furthermore, her knowledge of the classics (most notably Homer… no, not Simpson, and Shakespeare) along with a remarkable talent as a musician was well noticed. It is no wonder that New Haven Society would eventually dub her “The Belle of New Haven.”


In addition to Sarah’s brilliance and respectable place in society, there were several factors about New Haven that presented a unique influence on her upbringing. To begin, there was Yale University (originally known as Yale College). From its inception, Yale (and New Haven) was a hub of progressive, Freemasonic-Rosicrucian thinking and activity. By the way, we’ll most definitely be taking a train ride on the Freemasons.

As a result, Sarah was raised and educated in an environment ripe with Freemasonic and Rosicrucian philosophy. Several of Sarah’s uncles and cousins were Freemasons. But more importantly, at an early age, she was admitted to Yale’s only female scholastic institution known as the “Young Ladies Collegiate Institute.” Two of the school’s most influential administrators and professors, Judson A. Root and his brother N.W. Taylor Root were both Rose Croix Freemasons. In addition to the liberal arts, the Roots set forth a strict curriculum consisting of the sciences and mathematics. Sounds super fucking boring.


Furthermore, two of Sarah’s schoolmates Susan and Rebecca Bacon were the daughters of New Haven’s highly respected Reverend Dr. Leonard Woolsey Bacon (no relation to Francis Bacon, who was an English philosopher and statesman who served as Attorney General and as Lord Chancellor of England. His works are credited with developing the scientific method and remained influential through the scientific revolution, just in case you nerds were wondering.). While Sarah and the Bacon girls were attending the school, Dr. Bacon’s sister Delia, also a New Haven resident, attracted considerable fame and attention for writing her famous treatise that Sir Francis Bacon (with the aid of a circle of the finest literary minds of the Elizabethan-Jacobean Age) was the actual author, editor, and publisher of the original works of Shakespeare. Ah ha! See!

Her work was sponsored by the author Nathaniel Hawthorne and was later supported by the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Mark Twain! Good ol Samuel Clemens.

In addition to her writing, Delia Bacon gave numerous public lectures to the citizens of New Haven; thus, New Haven, Connecticut was the actual birthplace of the “Bacon is Shakespeare” doctrine. We’re here to learn ya, folks!


Given her direct exposure to the Baconian Doctrine, along with her passion for the Shakespearean works, it was inevitable that Sarah was drawn like an irresistible force to a more than passing interest in the new theorem. Moreover, the Baconian-Masonic preoccupation with secret encryption techniques using numbered cipher systems most certainly influenced young Sarah’s world view. This unique backdrop to Sarah’s early development played a crucial role which, in essence, defined what would become her life’s work. So much smarts!


As we’ll see, the Belle of New Haven became a staunch Baconian for the rest of her life. She just LOOOVED HER BACON! BLTs, Canadian bacon, pancetta… she loved it all! A completely strict diet of fucking bacon! Except turkey bacon. Fuck that fake shit.

No, but seriously, She also acquired a vast and uncanny knowledge of Masonic-Rosicrucian ritual and symbolism… SSSYMBOLISM. Additionally, she gravitated to Theosophy.

Theosophy is a religion established in the United States during the late nineteenth century. It was founded primarily by the Russian immigrant Helena Blavatsky and draws its teachings predominantly from Blavatsky's writings.

Author and historian Ralph Rambo (who actually knew Sarah and is a direct descendant of American bad ass and war hero John J Rambo) wrote “it is believed that Mrs. Winchester was a Theosophist.” Rambo didn’t elaborate on the matter, making him and his statement one of the more boring we’ve heard, but since he was close to Sarah he was certainly in a position to know some things about her. It should be noted that most Rosicrucians are theosophists.


Sarah adhered both to Bacon’s Kabbalistic theosophy, which is the eternal belief in the Mortal Kombat franchise no matter how bad their movies are… ok, that was stupid. Anyway, she was also super into the theosophical perspective held by Rudolph Steiner (1861- 1925). Steiner viewed the universe as a vast, living organism in which all things are likened to individually evolving units or cells that comprise a greater universal, synergistic body that is “ever building.” As we shall further see, the “ever building” theme was at the core of Sarah’s methodology.


William Wirt Winchester was born in Baltimore, MD on July 22, 1837. He was the only son of Oliver Fisher Winchester and Jane Ellen Hope. In keeping with a popular trend of the day, he was named after William Wirt, the highly popular and longest serving Attorney General of the United States .


Soon after William’s arrival, the Winchesters moved to New Haven where the enterprising Oliver, along with his partner John Davies, founded a successful clothing manufacturing company. Gradually, the Winchester patriarch amassed a considerable fortune. Later, Oliver channeled his efforts into a firearms manufacturing venture that eventually (1866) evolved into the famous Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Fuckin’ Winchester! Woo!!


According to historical documents, the Winchesters and the Pardees were well acquainted, particularly through the auspices of New Haven’s First Baptist Church. Additionally, Sarah Pardee and William’s sister Annie were classmates at the Young Ladies Collegiate Institute.


Not far away, William attended New Haven’s Collegiate and Commercial Institute—another arm of Yale College. Here, William’s teachers included N.W. Taylor Root (one of Sarah’s instructors) and Henry E. Pardee who was another of Sarah’s cousins. Thus, Young Sarah and William found themselves studying virtually the same curriculum under very similar circumstances. Moreover, like the Pardees, the Winchester family was not lacking in members who were Freemasons.


Sarah and William were married on September 30, 1862. Their only child, Annie Pardee Winchester came into the world on July 12, 1866. Unfortunately, due to an infantile decease known as Marasmus (a severe form of malnutrition due to the body’s inability to metabolize proteins), Annie died 40 days later.


In 1880, Ol Oliver Fisher Winchester died, leaving the succession of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company to his only son. One year later, William died of fucking Tuberculosis at the age of 43. Dammit, TB! The double loss of Annie and William was a staggering blow to Sarah. However, the loss did leave the widow Winchester with an inheritance of 20 million dollars (510 million today) plus nearly 50% of the Winchester Arms stock—which, in turn earned her approximately $1,000 dollars per day (25,000 today) in royalties for the rest of her life—the result of which made her one of the wealthiest women in the world. Get it, girl!


According to Ralph Rambo, john j rambo’s great great uncle, Sarah went on a three year world tour with her new band “Rifles and Posies”, who sold 3 million records worldwide and had a huge hit with their single “fuck tuberculosis” before settling in California in 1884.


“The New Haven Register,” dated 1886, lists Sarah as having been “removed to Europe.” No other information has survived to tell us exactly where Mrs. Winchester went during those years or what her activities consisted of. But we can project some well educated theories.


Although Freemasonry has traditionally barred women from its membership, there are numerous documented cases in which some head-strong women have gained admittance into liberal, Masonic Lodges as far back as the 18th Century. A movement in France called Co-Freemasonry, which allows for male and female membership was already underway when Sarah arrived in that country. Given her social status, a predilection towards Freemasonic tenets, and a mastery of the European languages, Sarah could easily have been admitted into any of the permissive French Masonic lodges.


Another possible scenario involving Mrs. Winchester’s activities while abroad could well have included visits to esoteric, architectural landmarks such as the French Cathedral of Chartres. Sarah’s Masonic-Rosicrucian interest in labyrinths would have drawn her to Chartres with its 11 circuit labyrinth, a puzzle-like feature that stresses the discipline of the initiatic tradition of the ancient mystery schools. Likewise, she would also have found inspiration in the Freemasonic symbolism and the mysterious structure (including a staircase that leads nowhere) of Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland .


In 1884, Sarah took up residence in the San Francisco Bay area—eventually moving inland to the Santa Clara Valley (now San Jose) to buy an eight room farmhouse from one Dr. Robert Caldwell. Her apparent motive for the move was to live in close proximity to her numerous Pardee relatives, most of whom had come to California during the 1849 Gold Rush, and were scattered from Sacramento to the Bay area.


One of these Pardee relatives, Enoch H. Pardee, had become a highly respected physician and politician while living in Oakland. Later his son George C. Pardee followed in his father’s footsteps rising to the office of Governor of California (1903- 1907.


It is interesting that Wikipedia makes particular note of Enoch Pardee having been “a prominent occultist.” Most likely the occult reference has to do with the fact that both Enoch and his son George were members of the highly secretive and mysterious ( California based) Bohemian Club which was an offshoot of Yale’s Skull and Bones Society. Moreover, Enoch and George were Knights Templar Freemasons.


Also interesting, is the fact that President Theodore Roosevelt (another member of the Bohemian Club) came to California in 1903 to ask Governor Pardee to run as his Vice Presidential candidate in the 1904 national election. The offer was turned down. During the same trip, Roosevelt attempted to visit Sarah Pardee Winchester. Again, Roosevelt’s offer was turned down.


THE STORY BEHIND THE HOUSE


The story goes that after the death of her child and her husband she moved to California and bought the 8 room farmhouse and began building. It is said once construction started it was a continuous process. Workers in the area would work in shifts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We're going to explore the stories about her mental state, the construction of the house, and the reports of ghosts and spooky stuff.


The story supposedly starts like this:

There was no plan – no official blueprints were drawn up, no architectural vision was created, and yet a once-unfinished house took shape on a sprawling lot in the heart of San Jose, California. Inside, staircases ascended through several levels before ending abruptly, doorways opened to blank walls, and corners rounded to dead ends.


The house was the brainchild of Sarah Winchester, heir by marriage to the Winchester firearms fortune, and since the project began in 1884 rumors have swirled about the construction, the inhabitants, and the seemingly endless maze that sits at 525 South Winchester Blvd.



Today, the house is known as the Winchester Mystery House, but at the time of its construction, it was simply Sarah Winchester’s House.


Newly in possession of a massive fortune and struggling with the loss of her husband and daughter, she sought the advice of a medium. She hoped, perhaps, to get advice from the beyond as to how to spend her fortune or what to do with her life.


Though the exact specifics remain between Sarah Winchester and her medium, the story goes that the medium was able to channel dearly departed William, who advised Sarah to leave her home in New Haven, Connecticut, and head west to California. As far as what to do with her money, William answered that too; she was to use the fortune to build a home for the spirits of those who had fallen victim to Winchester rifles, lest she be haunted by them for the rest of her life.

So there's that… Spirits from beyond told her to build!


After this is when she ended up in San Jose and purchased the farm house.


Winchester hired carpenters to work around the clock, expanding the small house into a seven-story mansion. The construction of the House was an “ever building” enterprise in which rotating shifts of workers labored 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. the House gradually mushroomed outward and upward,By the turn of the century, Sarah Winchester had her ghost house: an oddly laid out mansion, with seven stories, 161 rooms, 47 fireplaces, 10,000 panes of glass, two basements, three elevators, and a mysterious fun-house-like interior. It was built at a price tag of the $5 million dollars in 1923 or $71 million today. Due to the lack of a plan and the presence of an architect, the house was constructed haphazardly; rooms were added onto exterior walls resulting in windows overlooking other rooms. Multiple staircases would be added, all with different sized risers, giving each staircase a distorted look.


Gold and silver chandeliers hung from the ceilings above hand-inlaid parquet flooring. Dozens of artful stained-glass windows created by Tiffany & Co. dotted the walls, including some designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany himself. One window, in particular, was intended to create a prismatic rainbow effect on the floor when light flowed through it – of course, the window ended up on an interior wall, and thus the effect was never achieved. Even more luxurious than the fixtures was the plumbing an electrical work. Rare for the time, the Winchester Mystery House boasted indoor plumbing, including coveted hot running water, and push-button gas lighting available throughout the home. Additionally, forced-air heating flowed throughout the house.


Adding further to the mysterious features, the prime numbers 7, 11, and 13 are repeatedly displayed in various ways throughout the House—the number 13 being most prominent. These numbers consistently show up in the number of windows in many of the rooms, or the number of stairs in the staircases, or the number of rails in the railings, or the number of panels in the floors and walls, or the number of lights in a chandelier, etc. Unquestionably, these three prime numbers were extremely important to Sarah.


In 1906 something happened that would change the landscape of california and the Winchester house. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck the coast of Northern California at 5:12 a.m. on Wednesday, April 18 with an estimated moment magnitude of 7.9 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of XI (Extreme). High-intensity shaking was felt from Eureka on the North Coast to the Salinas Valley, an agricultural region to the south of the San Francisco Bay Area. Devastating fires soon broke out in the city and lasted for several days. More than 3,000 people died. Over 80% of the city of San Francisco was destroyed. The events are remembered as one of the worst and deadliest earthquakes in the history of the United States. The death toll remains the greatest loss of life from a natural disaster in California's history and high on the lists of American disasters. Although The impact of the earthquake on San Francisco was the most famous, the earthquake also inflicted considerable damage on several other cities. These include San Jose and Santa Rosa, the entire downtown of which was essentially destroyed. Since if the damage in San Jose was located at, you guessed it, the Winchester house. Standing 7 stories at the time, the house was damaged badly and the top three floors were essentially reduced and the house said at for stories from then on due to the damage.


Aside from its immense size and Victorian style architecture, the House has a number of unique characteristics. To begin, it is undeniably a labyrinth. There are literally miles of maze-like corridors and twisting hallways, some of which have dead ends—forcing the traveler to turn around and back-up. There are also some centrally located passages and stairways that serve as shortcuts allowing a virtual leap from one side of the House to the other. Traversing the labyrinth is truly dizzying and disorienting to one’s sensibilities.


The House abounds in oddities and anomalous features. There are rooms within rooms. There is a staircase that leads nowhere, abruptly halting at the ceiling. In another place, there is a door which opens into a solid wall. Some of the House’s 47 chimneys have an overhead ceiling—while, in some places, there are skylights covered by a roof—and some skylights are covered by another skylight—and, in one place, there is a skylight built into the floor. There are tiny doors leading into large spaces, and large doors that lead into very small spaces. In another part of the House, a second story door opens outward to a sheer drop to the ground below. Moreover, upside-down pillars can be found all about the House. Many visitors to the Winchester mansion have justifiably compared its strange design to the work of the late Dutch artist M.C. Escher.


Practically a small town unto itself, the Winchester estate was virtually self sufficient with its own carpenter and plumber’s workshops along with an on-premise water and electrical supply, and a sewage drainage system.


On September 5, 1922, she died in her sleep of heart failure. A service was held in Palo Alto, California, and her remains lay at Alta Mesa Cemetery until they were transferred, along with those of her sister, to New Haven, Connecticut. She was buried next to her husband and their infant child in Evergreen Cemetery, New Haven, Connecticut. She left a will written in thirteen sections, which she signed thirteen times.


In accordance with her will Sarah had her entire estate divided up in generous portions to be distributed among a number of charities and those people who had faithfully spent years in her service. Her favorite niece and secretary, Marian Marriott, oversaw the removal and sale of all of Sarah’s furnishings and personal property. Roy Lieb, Mrs. Winchester’s attorney of many years, had been named in her will as executor to her estate. He sold the House to the people who, in 1933, preserved it as a “living” museum—today, it is known as the Winchester Mystery House also known as California Historical Landmark #868. Although no mention has ever surfaced as to any specific guidelines or special instructions by which Mr. Lieb would select a buyer for the property, one gets the distinct impression that Sarah wanted the House to stand intact and perpetually preserved… and so it does.


SOME OF THE FOLKLORE


Some of this stuff we've touched on already but here's a rundown of the folklore behind the house.


Despite the fact that Sarah Winchester was extremely secretive about herself, nearly all of what the public thinks it knows about her reads like a mish-mash of gossip out “The National Enquirer.” some refer to this body of misinformation as “The Folklore.” Indeed, on a research visits to the Winchester Mystery House, a senior tour guide informed one writer that “in the old days, the tour guides were encouraged to make up stuff just to give some spice to the story.”


The Folklore about Sarah says that, after William’s death in 1881, the highly distraught Mrs. Winchester sought the advice of the then famous Boston medium Adam Coons. During a séance with Coons, Sarah was told that because of the many people who had been slain by the Winchester Rifle, she was cursed by the Winchester fortune. Coons further instructed Sarah that the angry spirits demanded that she move to California and build them a house.


Upon her arrival in California, Sarah began holding her own séances every midnight so that she could receive the next day’s building instructions from the spirits. Her séances allegedly involved the use of a Ouija board and planchette, and 13 various colored robes she would ritualistically wear each night (for the edification of the spirits) within the confines of her “Séance Room.”


To further appease the angry spirits, Mrs. Winchester made sure the construction of the House went on, nonstop, 24 / 7, 365 days a year for fear that should the building ever stop, she would die.


For some inexplicable reason, however, Mrs. Winchester took precautions in the building design so as to incorporate all of the strange features of the House to “confuse the evil spirits.” Moreover, she would ring her alarm bell every night at midnight to signal the spirits that it was séance time, and then again at 2:00 am, signaling the spirits that it was time to depart. Which begs the question “who was in charge of whom?” And, why would spirits’ have an inability or need to keep track of time?


Whenever people make mention of Sarah Winchester the typical response you get from people is “Oh yeah…wasn’t she the crazy lady who built that weird house because she was afraid the spirits would kill her?” Many of these people have never been to the Winchester House. Their source is usually television. “ America ’s Most Haunted Places” tops the list of TV shows that grossly reinforces the Folklore of the house.


The misinformation is further compounded by the “Haunted House” tour business thriving in San Jose as the commercial enterprise known as the “Winchester Mystery House” which profits by perpetuating the Folklore myth. In fairness to the management of the “WMH,” they try to present Mrs. Winchester in a positive light. However, their Halloween flashlight tours, along with booklets, postcards, coffee mugs and other sundry items being sold in the WMH souvenir shop displaying the title “The Mansion Designed By Spirits” only enhances the Folklore version of Sarah Winchester’s life. You’ve got to hand it to them, they’ve created a highly effective marketing strategy for a very lucrative commercial enterprise. These are good people who mean well—but this is hardly the legacy Sarah wanted to leave to posterity. Even in more recent times the house keeps giving up secrets. In 2016, a secret attic was discovered. Inside the attic were a pump organ, a Victorian-era couch, a dress form, a sewing machine, and various paintings. There was a rumour that Sarah had a secrecy room full of undisplayed treasures and large amounts of cash, it was thought this attic may have been that room but there is no concrete proof of this.


So these are the stories about Sarah Winchester and her house, now comes the sad news, most of what you think you know, and most of what you've just heard, are myths. Stories that have grown over the years about the woman and the house.


Early on we talked about president roosevelt trying to visit Sarah and the house. If you forgot, the story goes that Theodore Roosevelt attempted to visit Sarah at home in 1903, but was turned away. This is used as an example of her alleged weirdness. It is said the rumors likely started about Sarah because in life she was extremely private, refused to address gossip and did not engage much in the community. This infamous presidential visit never occurred. Eyewitness accounts state that the President's carriage never stopped at the Winchester place. Furthermore, Winchester had rented a house near San Francisco that year to prepare for the wedding of her niece. She was not at home.


There is another myth that Sarah would spy on her employees. It is said that some employees believed Sarah could walk through walls and closed doors. The claims are that Sarah had elaborate spying features built into the house. There is no evidence she spied on her workers. Would a suspicious employer retain the same workers for decades? Would she name them in her will? Would she buy them homes? Would they name children after her? All these things happened. In short, there is no evidence that she ever spied on her employees.


Then there is the fascination with the number 13 and several other numbers. Since websites detail the occurrences of 13 in the house: 13 robe hooks in the seance room, 13 panes of glass in several windows, a stairway with 13 steps, just to name a few. These facts are used as evidence to prove the woman was ruled by superstition. References to the number 13 were added after Sarah's death, according to workers at the time. The 13 hooks were added not long ago.


Then we have some of the crazy architecture. The story goes that she built crazy things like hallways to nowhere, stairs to nowhere, doors that lead to walls, and doors that lead to several story drops, to confuse spirits. Some websites make much of the architectural "oddities" of the house, such as doors and flights of stairs leading into walls, and how they were supposedly built to confuse vengeful ghosts. Some say there is a more natural explanation—the 1906 earthquake. Research uncovered the fact that there was massive damage to the house in the trembler and that Sarah never fully repaired it. The stairs and doors that lead to "nowhere" are merely where damage has been sealed off or where landings have fallen away. After the earthquake she moved to another house. She did not want to make the necessary repairs—it had nothing to do with spirits. Not to mention she herself admitted that with her being the architect and having no formal training, things often did not go as planned. "I am constantly having to make an upheaval for some reason,” Winchester wrote to her sister-in-law in 1898. “For instance, my upper hall which leads to the sleeping apartment was rendered so unexpectedly dark by a little addition that after a number of people had missed their footing on the stairs I decided that safety demanded something to be done." Far from an exercise in spiritualism, Winchester’s labyrinth arose because she made mistakes — and had the disposable income to carry on making them. It didn’t help her reputation that she was naturally reserved. While most Bay Area millionaires were out in society, attending galas and loudly donating to charities, Winchester preferred a quiet life with the close family who occasionally lived with her. In the absence of her own voice, locals began to gossip.


One of the biggest myths however is the stories of how construction started and kept in going 24-7. There were actually many instances of Sarah sending workers away. Many times in the summer months she would send them away for a couple months because it got too hot. And in the winter she would send them away for a little break for everyone. This has been uncovered in Sarah's own writings. The Feb. 24, 1895 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle ran an article that almost single-handedly laid the foundation for the Winchester Mystery House legend.



"The sound of the hammer is never hushed,” it reported. “... The reason for it is in Mrs. Winchester's belief that when the house is entirely finished she will die."


So aside from appeasing spirits with the continued building this article states that she believes that if she ever finished the house that's when she would die, so that's why she kept building.


"Whether she had discovered the secret of eternal youth and will live as long as the building material, saws and hammers last, or is doomed to disappointment as great as Ponce de Leon in his search for the fountain of life, is a question for time to solve,” the story concludes.


Some modern-day historians speculate one of the reasons Winchester kept building was because of the economic climate. By continuing construction, she was able to keep locals employed. In her unusual way, it was an act of kindness.


"She had a social conscience and she did try to give back," Winchester Mystery House historian Janan Boehme told the Los Angeles Times in 2017. "This house, in itself, was her biggest social work of all."


As far as all of the supernatural talk, most of it started after her death. The famed Winchester mansion fell into the hands of John H. Brown, a theme park worker who designed roller coasters.


One of his inventions, the Backety-Back coaster in Canada, killed a woman who was thrown from a car. After her death, the Browns moved to California. When the Winchester house went up for rent, Brown and his wife Mayme jumped at the chance and quickly began playing up the home’s strangeness.


Less than two years after Sarah Winchester’s death, newspapers were suddenly beginning to write about the mansion’s supernatural powers.


“The seance room, dedicated to the spirit world in which Mrs. Winchester had such faith, is magnificently done in heavy velvet of many colors,” the Healdsburg Tribune wrote in 1924. “... Here are hundreds of clothes hooks, upon which hang many costumes. Mrs. Winchester, it is said, believed that she could don any of these costumes and speak to the spirits of the characters of the area represented by the clothing.”


(It is worth noting here: There are no contemporary accounts of Winchester holding seances in the home, and “Ghostland” writes that the “seance room” was actually a gardener’s private quarters.)


The myth took hold, though, and the home, with its dead ends and tight turns, is easy to imagine as haunted. Although the spirits are fun, the ghosts shroud the real life of a fascinating, creative woman. Winchester was "as sane and clear headed a woman as I have ever known,” her lawyer Samuel Leib said after her death. “She had a better grasp of business and financial affairs than most men."


Speaking of supernatural, let's get into the haunted history. Dozens of psychics have visited the house over the years and most have come away convinced, or claim to be convinced, that spirits still wander the place. It was even named one of the “Most Haunted Places in the World” by Time magazine. Here are just a few tales, courtesy of Winchester tour manager Janan Boehme.


The Case of the Ghostly Handyman


Some of Sarah Winchester’s loyal workmen and house servants may still be looking after the place, according to sightings of figures or the “feeling of a presence” reported many times over the years, by tour guides and visitors alike. One frequent apparition is a man with jet-black hair believed to have been a former handyman. He’s been seen repairing the fireplace in the ballroom, or pushing an equally spectral wheelbarrow – if wheelbarrows indeed linger in the beyond — down a long, dark hallway.


The Secret of the Invisible Hand



Several years ago, a man working on one of the many restoration projects in the mansion started his day early in a section with several fireplaces, known as the Hall of Fires. The house was dead quiet before tours got underway, and he was working up on a ladder when he felt someone tap him on the back. He turned to ask what the person wanted. No one was there.


Reassuring himself he’d just imagined the sensation, he went back to his work, only to experience what felt like someone pushing against his back. That was enough. He hurried down the ladder, crossed the estate and started on another project, figuring that someone — or something — didn’t want him working in the Hall of Fires that day.


The Sign of the Heavy Sigh



A tour guide named Samantha recently led visitors to the room the Daisy Bedroom, where Sarah Winchester was trapped during the 1906 quake. Samantha was about to begin her spiel when a very clear “sigh” came from the small hallway outside the bedroom door. Thinking one of her guests had merely fallen behind, Samantha turned to call the person into the room but saw no one. Then, as her eyes adjusted to the darkened hallway, she did see something. The form of a small, dark person slowly emerged, gliding around a corner. Samantha quickly stepped around the corner and again saw nothing but heard yet another deep sigh. She felt sure it was the tiny form of Sarah Winchester herself, perhaps peeved to find people in her favorite bedroom.


You can find a surveillance video that seems to show a ghost or something moving around in a balcony late ate night on the fourth floor. Just as unexpected things turn up on video, the same is true of photographs. The Winchester Mystery House's own Public Relations Coordinator reports that he took several photos of the mansion in 2015. When he downloaded the photos he deleted what he didn't need. But, one caught his eye. In one window of the house, Tim O'Day spotted something. Was it a shadow? A reflection of a cloud? Or something else?


Visitors to the Winchester Mystery House also report taking photos with strange shapes in the windows. A few even shared their snapshots on Facebook. If you visit, study all photos carefully before hitting the delete button. You never know what you will find!


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