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L A D Y   O F   M Y S T E R Y

We must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind us to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and mystery --H. G. Wells

Sarah Winchester

 

Sarah L. Winchester... they called her the "Lady of Mystery," and she was a haunted woman in every sense of the word. Her mysterious obsessions with the spirit world lead her to construct what would be the biggest, most complex private residence in the United States... the perplexing house that would become known as the "Winchester Mystery House."

Born Sarah Pardee, she married the only heir of the Winchester Repeating Arms Co., and was by all accounts living a very happy and comfortable life. Yet, fatefully, tragedy cast it's dark shadow over Sarah as sudden death claimed first her month-old infant daughter, Annie, and then her beloved husband, leaving her grief-stricken and alone. It also left her an incredibly rich woman. Heart-broken, she consulted a medium in Boston only to be told that vengeful, angry spirits of all those souls slain by Winchester Rifles had placed a curse upon the Winchester family. Then she was advised to move out West and begin construction on a house. As long as the construction continued, the wrathful ghosts would be thwarted, the medium told Sarah. In 1884, she followed the medium's advice and moved out to San Jose, California, where she purchased an 8-room farmhouse and commenced the bizarre construction that would continue for the next 38 years unabated, employing 16 carpenters at a time, some working for over 20 years without change. The construction only stopped upon word that Sarah had passed away in her sleep on the dark quiet night of September 5, 1922. One can still see the half-driven nails protruding from the walls where the carpenters stopped their hammering at the news of her death.

It was said that Sarah conspired over the construction of the house with the very spirits themselves, whom she consulted in her infamous Blue Seance Room. However the designs were conceived, the house became an ever-expanding entity unto itself, complete with miles of twisting corridors, false passageways, stairways dead-ending into the ceiling, trick doors, and self-intersecting balconies. Sarah never slept in the same bedroom two nights in a row, presumably to confuse the tormenting wraiths she sought to avoid. During the earthquake of 1906, she was sleeping in the room known as the Daisy Room. The ground-rattling tremors shifted the walls of the house, causing the door to jam tightly shut and trapping Sarah inside the room. It took the confused servants 7 hours to locate her, and once they did, they used a crowbar to pry open the door and free their shaken mistress (the pry marks from the crowbar can still be seen on the door today). The same earthquake also toppled the upper 3 floors of the residence, reducing it to the 4 stories still standing.

Currently, the Winchester House sprawls across 4 lushly gardened, palm tree laden-acres. It was opened to the curious public in 1923. A seemingly endless maze of winding passageways and twisting staircases are contained within the walls of the sprawling Gothic Victorian mansion Sarah built. It's non-stop growth cost $5,500,000, with a million alone spent on it's construction materials. Within it's walls: 160 rooms, 10,000 windows, 5-6 kitchens, 47 fireplaces (all hand-carved with no two alike), 17 chimneys, 5 different heating systems, 2 elevators (one hydraulic and one electric), 40 staircases (with a total of 367 steps), 52 skylights, 13 bathrooms, and 2 ballrooms. Also, Sarah favored the number 13 and used it everywhere throughout the construction and decoration of her amazing house. 13 tall, slender palm trees shaded the driveway. 13 lights blazed atop every chandelier. The greenhouse had 13 cupolas, ceilings had 13 panels, rooms had 13 windows. Curtain rods had 13 rings, while the sinks had 13 drainage holes. Sarah incorporated the number 13 (or it's multiples 26, 39, 52) into every aspect of her ever-growing mystery house; she even divided her will into 13 sections with 13 signatures.

For more history, directions, information about rates, schedules, tours of the mansion, it's gardens, and other special events...visit WinchesterMysteryHouse.com. Tell 'em Sarah sent you *wink*

 

Click here to check out Shady & Liz's pix from their visit to the Winchester Mystery House

 

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