This week: The Winchester Mystery HouseEdited by: Jeff
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"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known."
-- Carl Sagan
Random Mystery Trivia of the Week: Upon her death, Sarah Winchester bequeathed all of her possessions to her niece and personal secretary. Everything except the house. Curiously, the house was not mentioned in her will and sold (along with its 160-acre grounds) at auction for $135,000 in 1923. It took her niece a full year of eight-hour work days to remove everything from the house.
THE WINCHESTER MYSTERY HOUSE
William Wirt Winchester worked (say that fives times fast! ) for his father's Winchester Repeating Arms Company until his death in 1881. A prominent manufacturer of rifles and other firearms, the company was incredibly successful, so much so that Winchester's death in 1881 left his wife Sarah with more than $20 million and a fifty percent stake in the company. That fortune amounted to an income of more than $1,000/day which, in 2012 dollars would be the equivalent of making nearly $24,000/day!
But it seems that Notorious B.I.G. had it right when he rapped about "Mo money, mo problems." Not only did Sarah lose her husband when he was only 43, but the two of them lost their only child six weeks after she was born. Even more, while specific details of her motivations are the subject of great speculation, Sarah visited a psychic who warned her that her husband and his father (who died only a year before William) were taken by the spirits of people who had been killed by Winchester firearms. In order to escape the same fate as her husband and her father-in-law, she moved across the country and purchase a mansion that she would continue to expand and develop, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, until her death thirty-eight years later.
Why all the construction? Sarah believed the spirits that were after her would eventually find her and kill her... unless she found a way to fool them. And so she undertook the process of constantly building, expanding, and remodeling her home. She knew that spirits wouldn't be confused by mere superficial changes like new cabinets or an added guest bathroom, so she intentionally filled the house with architectural oddities like staircases that lead into ceilings, doors on higher floors that open out into thin air, two chimneys that don't have any discernible fireplaces or other inputs, and interior walls set with windows.
The house did sustain some damage from the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 (and again during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake), but despite currently only being four stories instead of its original seven, the mansion still manages to boast approximately 160 rooms (including 40 bedrooms), 2 ballrooms (one unfinished), 47 fireplaces, 10,000 windows, 17 chimneys, two basements, three elevators, and countless secret passageways, peepholes, and other concealed features. Sarah made a habit of traversing her house by way of these passages and taking roundabout ways of getting where she needed to go, in hopes of confusing any spirits who may be following her.
The house was opened to the public five months after Sarah's death, and it was Harry Houdini who - upon touring the house - first called it a Mystery House. The Winchester Mystery House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and is currently open to the public for tours. For more information about the house or to arrange a visit if you're in the San Jose area, you can read more at their official website: http://www.winchestermysteryhouse.com/index.cfm. I took the tour a few years ago, and it really is a remarkable place to visit with so many mysteries surrounding it! :)
Until next time,
This week, I would encourage you to check out the following mystery items:
My fingers pushed against the rough grain of the wood, my breath catching in my throat when the door cracks open so easily. My eyes quickly scanned the dark front room, the only spears of light coming from the flickering street lamp outside. At first I saw nothing, a bare room covered in dust motes and cobwebs. But I had to do a double take when I thought I spotted something through the doorway towards the back of the room.
“I heard there’s a vampire there!” Summer exclaimed, her short brown curls bouncing up and down. I had asked my two new friends Summer, and Ashley about the creepy house I saw when I came over to Ashley’s house for a sleepover. And now, Summer had began telling me about all what she heard was in the house. I stared at her curiously, even though this was my first sleep over since I moved into town three months ago, this was still pretty bizarre.
The white sheet was stretched over me, quivering with each gust of wind in the drafty room. I shifted a little, and the springs responded, resonating, and that dreadful noise I hear constantly pierces my ears. A million needles it seems pierce my legs in the bitter cold, yet on my forehead form dazzling crystals of sweat, dripping down my neck to form a wet puddle around my head. In the sheer torture I sob, and it allows a huge bit of reassurance. If I laughed, I would know that I had lost my sanity.
the ginger tom
danced with the devil
the silent groom
dealt with the devil
the undead bride
slept with the devil
and they swished
and they swayed
and they laughed
then they prayed
But the devil,
played them all.
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In response to my last newsletter on enduring mysteries:
Great NL Jeff! I remember talking to you about the "mystery box" some time ago. What a cool story to share. I bet you get some great feedback. Thanks for sharing. :) -- Reader? Check out 2233315
Thanks for the kind words! I knew there was someone else I told this "mystery box" story to before!
Sometimes the worst fear is the loss of a child. -- BIG BAD WOLF
This was one of my favorite NL's ever. AWESOME! I love the way you've made me think about mystery and the unknown in almost an everyday way. JJ's speech was incredible. Thank you for sharing that with us. The glimpse into how such an amazing story teller's mind works was a gift! -- Mara ♣ McBain
Thank you so much!
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