It’s amazing what loneliness will do to a person. Right now, Russians are doing these insane tests on people to gauge a person’s reaction to extensive periods of isolation. They’re doing this because everyone is on the long road to see who gets to land a manned spacecraft on Mars but getting there will take months with current propulsion technology. So basically three or four astronauts will be packed into a tiny craft and flown out further than any person has ever gone, totally cut off from help. Fucks with your mind, doesn’t it? Beyond help, stuck way the hell out in space and your only companions are a couple of people who are as terrified and isolated as you. Anything can happen out there. Tonight’s story is about what happens when a woman is left alone after the death of her husband and the crazy shit she did to honor his memory.
Winchester rifles are frequently known to enthusiasts as “the gun that won the west”. The 1873 model of the rifle was a pretty important gun in that they were extremely dependable and fired straight as an arrow. The introduction of the Winchester Repeating Rifle to the market in 1866 introduced an entirely new concept in firearms. Winchesters are famous for introducing the idea of a lever-action repeating rifle. No more cap and ball shenanigans. This was the real deal. A series of bullets could be loaded into the magazine and fired off rapidly meaning you could kill a whole hell of a lot more injuns out on the plains when you waged a campaign of aggressive insistence that you take their land. When the company treasurer, William Winchester died in 1881, it’s said that his grieving wife took advantage of the burgeoning industry of hucksterism that deceived a million people under the guise of spiritual mediumship. During one session with a medium, the medium reported back to Sarah Winchester, wife of the late William Winchester, that the spirits of victims that had fallen from bullets projected from his families’ guns, were pretty pissed off about the whole concept of Winchester Repeating Rifles and that her family had a curse on it. The only way to satisfy the spirits and the curse was if she was to leave her home in Newhaven, Connecticut, and move west. There was another caveat, though. She couldn’t just buy a house, she had to build one and build one and build one. She was told to build a home for herself and the spirits and if she stopped construction, the spirits would get her. If she did not stop, then she would live forever. Naturally, Sarah got to work.
Beginning in 1884, the Winchester Mystery House construction began and didn’t stop until Sarah’s death in 1922 when the workers finally called it quits. Are you counting? That’s 38 years of continuous construction. This house still exists in San Jose, California to this day where it’s reported to be haunted but the paltry ghost stories of the house are nothing in comparison to the tremendously spooky qualities of the house, itself.
The Winchester house contains 160 rooms. Stairs ascend into the ceiling. Doors open to reveal a wall behind them. Hallways zig-zag wildly. Connecting some of the rooms are secret passage ways. A set of stairs descends seven steps before ascending eleven. There was no plan. Ever. Sarah never had a chance to explain herself, either. After her death and the interior of the house became a matter of public record, theories abound about what she was actually doing in there. Coupled to the story about angry ghosts chasing her, many believe that the house was deliberately built to confuse anyone who entered, including the ghosts, so that they could never keep up with her. To know what to build, Mrs. Winchester held nightly seances wherein spirits guided her hand in drawing new sketches for building ideas and the next day, her foreman would carry out the task. Because of the Winchester fortune, the money never ran out and in the end, adjusted for inflation, the total cost of the home was somewhere in the neighborhood of $70m. Mad loot spent on crazy-ass ideas. Sarah was said to have been guided by good spirits whose ideas were to deliberately design the house to be nuts so that evil spirits would become confused and wind up lost in the halls forever.
It looks like it worked, too. Sarah Winchester died in 1922 at the age of 83. The ghosts never managed to catch up with her and according to the staff of the house/museum today, they’re all still hanging out, trying to find their way out of the maze she set up for them.