Have you heard of the Winchester Rifle, “The Gun That Won the West?” Perhaps you have, but have you listened to the weird, discomfiting tale of the heiress of the Winchester gun fortune?
William Wirt Winchester, was the son of Oliver Winchester, the founder of Winchester Repeating Arms Company. William died of tuberculosis in 1881 after amassing an impressive fortune from his involvement in the family business.
William's wife, Sarah Winchester, had also lost her baby daughter, and shortly after William's death, sought out a Medium to communicate with her dead husband. The Medium told her to leave her home in New Haven, Connecticut, and build a house out West, so she relocated to San Jose, California.
Some sources claim the Medium told her the new home was for the ghosts of those killed by her husband’s guns. She purchased an eight-room farmhouse and, with the equivalent of a $550 million inheritance and an income of $27,000 a day in today’s money, she began construction.
The house remained in a nearly constant state of construction until Sarah died suddenly of heart failure in 1922. Because there was no master plan, the house now has doors that lead to nowhere, stairs that end abruptly at walls, and other oddities that leave some saying Sarah attempted to make a maze to keep her husband’s ghostly victims busy and confused.
The home only had one working bathroom with the others constructed as decoys, and Sarah is said to have slept in a different bedroom each night to further confuse the ghosts. Spider motifs and the number 13 exist throughout the house, another attempt to ward off the spirits.
Today the house contains 161 rooms, including 40 bedrooms, two ballrooms, 47 fireplaces, and three elevators. Our favorite part about this story is that the Winchester House is the inspiration for The Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland.