Picture this: A beautiful Victorian garden replete with flowers, shrubs, trees and everything else a garden ought to have, plus a palatial Victorian construction right in the middle of it. This magnificent mansion houses 40 bedrooms, 6 kitchens, 13 bathrooms, 47 fire places and several hundreds of doors and windows, to list a few of its features. This house, which is now a four storied one, had as many as 7 floors before the earthquake that rocked California in 1906.
Labelled California Historical landmark 868, this stately structure is known by the name Winchester Mystery house and is better known for much more than just its size and architectural style. Situated less than 6 miles away from Downtown San Jose, this place is home to doors that open into walls, stairs that go right up to the ceiling and a cupboard that opens to several rooms of the house. Several visitors to the mansion and some of the staff who work on the upkeep of the house are said to have sighted apparitions, so much so, that two years ago, when Travel Channel made its list of Top 10 Creepiest Places in the world, Winchester Mystery House found a place there, and even ranked second.
Now a major tourist attraction in San Jose, CA, Winchester Mystery house was once a home. What was once a farmhouse was turned into what it is today, by Sarah Winchester who was the wife of the second president of the Winchester Rifle Company. The most popular story goes that when Sarah Winchester lost her husband and infant daughter to untimely deaths, she approached a medium who told her that these misfortunes were the doing of those people who were killed by the Winchester rifle and that they were out to get her too. As such, the only way she could keep them at bay was to have constructions going on in the house on a continuous basis. And so she had carpenters remodelling the place and making additions. Their job just went on and on all year round, as long as she lived. That explains the numerous rooms, windows, doors, stairs et al, that this house is known for.
A few days ago, Travel Channel had aired a repeat of its Most Creepiest Destinations and when it came to `Number 2,' there was this psychic who said there seemed to be several ghosts in the building, most of them workers who were still hammering away in an attempt to to keep the constructions going on. Watching this part of this programme made my urge to see the place only stronger. I suddenly remembered a story, also in connection with the mystery house that had appeared in the local newspaper last year, around Halloween, if I am not mistaken. Here a psychic was quoted mentioning the presence of the spirit of the person who drove the Wincheshter carriage. "Interesting" thought I.
Last Sunday, hubby and I -- along with our little one, strapped to my belly in a baby carrier --made our way to the Winchester Mystery House and did that mansion tour I eagerly looked forward to. Our tour guide Nicole took us through the corridors and doors of this majestic mansion and showed us Sarah Winchester's carriage, the bedroom in which Sarah Winchester died, her famous 13th bathroom. Some of the other bedrooms, several bathrooms some kitchens, the 4-floor chimney, a room with one entry and 3 exits, one of which opens into a kitchen 8ft below and some other weird attractions in the house.
We were told that Sarah Winchester had begun her constructions in the year 1888 and all this building went on till 1922 when she died of heart failure. In the 38 years of continuous building, she had spend a whopping 5.5 billion, good for her that she was left with the Winchester fortune. Nicole also told us that that room with 3 exits was where Mrs Winchester had had her interactions with several spirits. It is believed that the house had no blue print and that the constructions were the commands of the spirits she spoke to. During her conversations with them, she would just draw out the plan in whatever she could find, sometimes even pieces of cloth. The craftsmen who worked for her were not allowed to question the work she asked them to do or give suggestions of any kind. If they did try to, it meant the end of their employment there. Difficult as she was, Sarah Winchester paid her workers on a daily basis so that she could hire and fire people as she wished.
It is believed that Sarah Winchester had 13 carpenters on the roll. This wealthy lady seemed to have taken the spooky `number 13' very seriously, only adding to the mystery of her house. Nicole pointed out that the ceiling panels had 13 parts, there were13bathrooms and the 13th one had 13 windows. Then there is a chandelier with 12 bulbs that had a 13th one added to it. She is also said to have made her will in 13 parts and signed on it 13 times, in 13 different places.
Why 13? Nobody really knows. Some people say the features in this house are so bizarre because it was planned by spirits, others say this was a means to confuse the ghosts who were targeting her. Which one of these is true, nobody can say. Now if she had done all this to keep the ghosts at bay, or even confuse them, as the other story goes, why did she have meetings with spirits in a room that was meant for that alone? Why is it that some people say they have felt energies and seen apparitions while others see nothing paranormal.....Oh !! With Mrs. Winchester long gone, there will always be a whole lot of questions and no real answers. Her `Mystery' house just might remain a mystery.