Winchester House
The Strange Tale of a House Possessed

San Jose, Ca

October 27th, 2000

Trivia: what small arms weapon is credited with the killing of more American soldiers than any other weapon of its type? Nope it was not the German Mauser. Nor was it the English musket. Need another hint? The answer can be found in a house in San Jose, Calf. and is believed to have been a constant thought in the mind of the builder of this house. Not surprising, the rifle was manufactured in Connecticut starting around the mid 1800s. It is the rifle that ended the Civil war and is also known as the rifle that won the west. It is the incomparable Winchester lever action repeating rifle, made even more famous than it was when the likes of John Wayne and Gary Cooper added it to their props as they strode across the silver screen bent on ending evil through the fast lever action of this dependable firearm. Notably it is my favorite firearm. When going full-time, I got rid of all my handguns and bought a Winchester Model 94 .308 cal. Although manufactured in 1995,  the gun is from the original 1894 model design. It is the oldest continually manufactured model of any gun in the world. But the story of the gun is not my tale this Halloween eve, for I have far more spooky things to tell. It is a tale of the life of Sarah L. Pardee who at the age of 22, during the opening shots of the Civil War, married William Wirt Winchester, son of the Lt. Governor of Connecticut and manufacturer of the famous rifle. Life was good as they passed through the best of New England society, until in 1866 when her first and only child, a daughter, fell ill only to have the child die of this strange disease a month later. Mrs. Winchester fell into a deep depression from which she never fully recovered. Fifteen years later, in March 1881, her husband died from tuberculosis, leaving her with a little over 20 million dollars and enough Winchester stock to add a thousand dollars a day to her income. It was here that her life was to take a change that bordered on the bazaar. According to some sources, a Boston medium consulted by Mrs. Winchester explained that her family and her fortune were being haunted by spirits, in fact by the spirits of American Indians, Civil War soldiers, and others killed by the Winchester rifle. Supposedly the untimely deaths of her daughter and husband were caused by these spirits and it was implied that Mrs. Winchester might be the next victim. However, the medium also claimed that there was an alternative. Mrs. Winchester was instructed to move west and appease the spirits by building a great house for them. As long as construction of the house never ceased, the evil spirits would leave Mrs. Winchester alone. With this, Sarah packed up and moved to California where, just outside of San Jose she purchased an unfinished 8 room farm house. Thus began one of the most talked about constructions in all of the north-west. Following her mystic's advice to the letter, Sarah hired a crew of carpenters, broke them into shifts, and started building. The workmen worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 38 years. From the very beginning, Sarah paid her workmen double the going rate and in gold at the end of each day. This eliminated any discussion as to what was to be built or how. This paying practice was carried over into the servants and farm staff as the farm grew to 161 acres. At one time she produced dried fruit which was shipped all over the world. At the very center of the house, she created what was called the "Blue room". It was here during the evening that Sarah would come to consult with the spirits who would advise her on the following day's building project. Each day the house would grow, up and out until it had reached a size covering over 4.5 acres and reaching up 7 stories high. The internal design of the house was simply bazaar. A door opens out from the second story into nothing. Stairways leading into the ceiling. or a brick wall. Windows in the floor. Halls that twist and turn going nowhere. All in the hopes of confusing the ghosts who might be looking for her. The 1906 earthquake found her on the third floor in one of the many rooms. Although the house withstood the quake, sufficient damage was done to the tower rooms that the house was reduced to the 4 story structure it is today. The door to the room Sarah was in became jammed and was finally forced open by servants when she was eventually found. In 1922, Sarah Winchester died in her sleep at the age of 82. At that time the house covered over 6 acres of land and was made up of 160 rooms that contained 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, 47 stairways, 47 fireplaces, 13 bathrooms and 6 kitchens. Just walking the 110 rooms open for inspection took over a hour with a distance somewhere over a mile. Beautiful but strange, it was perhaps one of the most intriguing miles I have ever walked.

For more about his adventure check out

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