Winchester Mystery House is one of the most unusual landmarks in my city. The sprawling mansion covers four acres and stands three stories tall. Sarah Winchester, mired in grief, was convinced that the spirits of innocent people, killed by the Winchester rifles were responsible for the death of her husband and infant daughter. Under the advice of a physic, she continuously built on to her home to confuse and appease the spirits. We took a tour there today with friends and had an interesting time.
I arrived early to take photos of the gardens on the spacious estate, before embarking on the house tour. Sarah Winchester, born in 1884, was ahead of her time. She built an amazing room for watering her house plants, while at the same time conserving water. The second story room has a non-oxidizing metal floor covered with removal wood planks. The floor has a gentle slope, a faucet and a working sink. After removing the planks, plants are set out on the floor and watered in place. The excess water followed the slope of the floor and then drained outdoors to water the garden.
Here is a bit about the house from the official website:
Winchester Mystery House™ is an extravagant maze of Victorian craftsmanship – marvelous, baffling, and eerily eccentric, to say the least.
Some of the architectural oddities may have practical explanations. For example, the Switchback Staircase, which has seven flights with forty-four steps, rises only about nine feet, since each step is just two inches high. Mrs. Winchester arthritis was quite severe in her later years, and the stairway may have been designed to accommodate her disability.
The miles of twisting hallways are made even more intriguing by secret passageways in the walls. Mrs. Winchester traveled through her house in a roundabout fashion, supposedly to confuse any mischievous ghosts that might be following her.
This wild and fanciful description of Mrs. Winchester’s nightly prowl to the Séance Room appeared in The American Weekly in 1928, six years after her death:
“When Mrs. Winchester set out for her Séance Room, it might well have discouraged the ghost of the Indian or even of a bloodhound, to follow her. After traversing an interminable labyrinth of rooms and hallways, suddenly she would push a button, a panel would fly back and she would step quickly from one apartment into another, and unless the pursuing ghost was watchful and quick, he would lose her. Then she opened a window in that apartment and climbed out, not into the open air, but on to the top of a flight of steps that took her down one story only to meet another flight that brought her right back up to the same level again, all inside the house. This was supposed to be very discomforting to evil spirits who are said to be naturally suspicious of traps.” – Read more on the Winchester Mystery House® website
Spider webs figured prominently in many of the homes architectural features. An actual spider made a home in the garden just below these windows. I think Sarah would be proud.