There is a very real story of a very real house that many believe was actually responsible for stealing a woman’s mind. Her name was Sarah Lockwood Pardee, a young, vibrant East Coast girl who many would call a member of the “upper crust” of society. She had not a care in the world as she enjoyed her youth in Connecticut, and was eager to live a fabulous life.
Falling in love with a highly intelligent man, Sarah became the wife of William Wirt Winchester, who was famous for being the creator and owner of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Guns and weaponry were his focus, a focus that would one day cost a woman her sanity.
Sarah Winchester was a young mother and a good wife, yet the curse of the ghostly spirits who had been killed and tortured at the end of a Winchester rifle began to slowly take their revenge. After the sudden death of her child, Annie (who survived only a few weeks after her birth), and the loss of her husband to tuberculosis, Sarah began to see the bloody path that lay in front of her.
Seeking out a psychic for help, Sarah was allegedly told that the curse of the Winchester family would continue. This “odd” medium—whose name is still unknown to history—told Sarah she would need to find a house where the spirits of the “victims” could reside. But if construction on the house ever stopped, Sarah would be taken by the ghosts and sent straight to the depths of Hades where she would pay for all eternity.
Sarah’s mind was slowly falling into a rotted state of confusion. In 1884, she traveled to California and purchased an eight-room farmhouse that was already under construction. Located in San Jose, Sarah enclosed herself within the walls of what would become her inner sanctum, and began to listen to the ghosts and goblins that followed her there. The largest construction project ever to be taken on began, as Sarah used her incredible $20 million fortune to continue the round-the-clock building, trying to calm the monsters that were calling out to her morning, noon, and night.
The Winchester Mystery House is an authentic realm that defies explanation. In the very depths of the monstrosity is a séance room, a room where the ghostly talks and visits would occur on a nightly basis. At midnight, every night of Sarah Winchester’s life, the bell in the clock tower of her mansion would ring out (although no one was ever at the very top to make this happen manually.)
But when the bell struck midnight, Sarah would make her way through the maze of rooms, staircases, and hallways to sit at the small table with one chair as she spoke, listening and begging the spirits to forgive her for what happened to them. Across the hallway from the séance room was the grand ballroom—one of the most beautiful and expensive rooms ever created.
Through this door, as she looked up from her table, it was said that Sarah saw the spirits walk past, sneering and screaming, demanding that she do more for them. Music could be heard coming from the antique organ in the ballroom, as the chandelier (with thirteen candles) hanging from above highlighted the bright, transparent orbs that always seemed to float in the air. According to Sarah (and the many tourists who have viewed the orbs on their cameras and cell phones) inside each one of these orbs is a spirit, a ghost that will stay in the house forever in order to make sure Sarah continues to pay for her family’s mistakes.
No one knows where Sarah’s other obsession came from. Perhaps it was the spirits themselves who spoke to Sarah about the power that the number thirteen carried. Whether it came from the “other side” or simply ingrained in Sarah from the talks she had with the medium, she was absolutely fascinated with the number thirteen. The diagrams and architectural plans Sarah would draw while sitting at the séance table every night, always included that powerful numeral. As she created the next room, the next window, or the next staircase in her mind, Sarah made sure that each new building project was somehow an ‘ode to thirteen.’ The house has thirteen bathrooms, thirteen bedrooms, and thirteen hooks in the closets, windows that have thirteen panes of glass, thirteen chandeliers, thirteen drains in the sink, as well as thirteen steps in as many staircases as she could build.
There is a creation in the Winchester House, however, that is barely spoken about: a stained-glass window that is one of the most powerful and haunting creations a person could ever lay their eyes on. Twilight turns to daylight in this magical scene created in a myriad of colors that, unexplainably, makes one’s own mind begin to spin.
Many tourists will simply stare into the window and think about the past, wondering what Sarah Winchester was pondering when it was created. In this window there are thirteen orbs, orbs that seem to represent the celestial bodies in the sky. Here perhaps, is a “shout out” to the original thirteen signs that once made up the horoscope charts, before the Pope threw out the 13th sign as being pure and utter evil.
In 1906, the San Francisco Earthquake hit and trapped Sarah in her bedroom: the 13th bedroom in the house. When she was finally pulled out of the ruins and rose from the ashes of her monstrous home, she told the construction crews to stop working on the nearly completed front part of the house. Immediately it was boarded up. According to legend, Sarah believed that the sprits were angry with her for working on the front rooms and not the ones they wanted to live in that were located in the interior of the Winchester Mansion.
But as with all ghostly tales, Sarah’s finally came to an end. In 1922, the hammers stopped pounding and the rooms were left unfinished, as the construction workers—after thirty-eight years—finally called it a day. Sarah Winchester passed away in her bed, leaving a will that was written in thirteen sections, which she signed thirteen times. The belongings were auctioned and the house was sold to the highest bidder, who then turned it into a place that would be forever known as the “House That Fear Built.”
There are many legends, such as a visit from the President that went awry, as well as a tour taken by Harry Houdini in his heyday, and many fictional accounts of the mighty Winchester Mansion. Included in these fictional tales is a lesser-known story regarding a treasure that is buried inside The Winchester House…
It is told that one night while Sarah Winchester lay in her bed sleeping, yet another predator entered the infamous home. This man was very real: the self-proclaimed Devil, Aleister Crowley. Crowley walked the halls of the Winchester Mansion on his own mission to hide two very specific orbs, orbs that played a part in the 13th sign that Sarah Winchester was so intrigued with. Here, in a staircase that was built directly across the hallway from that mind-bending stained-glass window, Crowley buried his ‘package’ in the 13th stairs Sarah Winchester still in that house?
Is she still trapped in the world that she simply could not depart from during life? There are many such sightings inside the Winchester Mystery House every year. Orbs that simply hang in the air and are caught on camera, as well as sightings of a small woman dressed in white vintage clothing sleeping on Sarah Winchester’s bed. Perhaps the spirits allowed her to become a part of their group. Perhaps Sarah is simply tied to that house because of all that happened to her inside of it for so many years, an albatross around her neck that she simply can’t rid herself of. The final sighting that many visitors have documented is within the small séance room. This is the room where a purely cold, frightening feeling comes over people…perhaps because this was the room where the evil magic happened—where a poor woman was drained of her sanity.
For believers, thrill-seekers, and historians, this 160-room Victorian mansion seems to hold many unexplained feelings, sightings, and emotions. Over time, the Winchester House has proven to all naysayers that the “other side” really exists.
Perhaps Sarah Winchester truly created a gate between Heaven and Hell!
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Happy New Year!