In 1884, Sarah Winchester began construction on the Winchester Mansion, also known as the Winchester Mystery House. The mansion was under constant construction for 38 years – stopping only due to the death of Sarah Winchester – and it is widely reported as a haunted house. During those 38 years of construction, Sarah directed all construction on a day-to-day basis, with no master plans to follow. The mansion cost $5.5 million to build, which would be the equivalent to $71 million today.
Sarah Winchester lost her daughter in 1866 to marasmus, and then she lost her husband, William Wirt Winchester, in 1881. Fearing that a curse was on her family, she sought help from a psychic medium. The psychic told Sarah Winchester that “thousands of people have died because of [your husband’s guns] and their spirits are now seeking deep vengeance.” When Sarah asked what she should do, the psychic said to “build a home for yourself and for the spirits who have fallen from this terrible weapon, too. You must never stop building the house. If you continue building, you will live forever. But if you stop, then you will die.” And that’s exactly what Sarah did.
After her husband’s death, Sarah Winchester inherited more than $20.5 million, and she also received 50 percent ownership of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The ownership of the company gave her an income of $1,000 per day, which would be equivalent to $22,000 today. With this money, she could easily afford the constant construction of the Winchester Mansion.
Today, there are 160 rooms, 40 bedrooms, two ballrooms (one incomplete and one complete), 44 fireplaces, 10,000 window panes, 17 chimneys, two basements, three elevators, and it stands four stories tall. It used to be seven stories tall, but an earthquake in 1906 destroyed some of the upper floors. Most of the halls, doors, and windows lead nowhere and end suddenly. There is a huge array of colors and materials throughout the house, and it took 20,500 gallons of paint to cover the whole house.
If you find yourself in San Jose, California, take a stop by the Winchester Mansion. It is open for tours and you will never see another house quite like it. Just be sure not to get too lost. There have been reports of people getting stuck in there for hours.