Sunday, March 7, 2010

Winchester House, San Jose California

This mansion is a very opulent and mysterious home of the Victorian era. Its owner, Sarah Winchester, was heiress to the Winchester Rifle fortunes. The rifles and guns made by this company were advertised as having the "Hammer of Thor" when its bullets hit the intended victim. They were also touted as being able to be discharged sixteen times without needing reloading or taking down from the shoulders. A "resolute man armed with these rifle particularly on horseback cannot be captured". Well, it seems Sarah Winchester was captured. She was taken by the spirits of those killed by the bullets of this rifle. Sounds strange but in a way it is true. Story has it that she was driven by grief over the death of her only child and fifteen years later by the death of her husband, that she sought out a psychic to help her. She was informed by this person that to appease the spirits she had to build a house and never stop building it until she died. She was living out East at this time but went to California and within six months had turned an eight-room farmhouse into a 26 room mansion. She did not stop there, the house grew into 160 rooms over the years. We toured 110 of its rooms yesterday and it is an architectural bizarre wonder. The house has a window built into a floor, staircases that lead to nowhere, doors that open into blank walls and upside down posts. And that is only a few of its many oddities.
Sarah was forever tearing down the rooms and rebuilding them. Supposedly that was to keep the spirits confused and unable to find her. She kept sixteen carpenters busy for 38 years(1884-1922). To keep in touch with the spirits she built a seance room in the house. In the thirteenth bathroom there are thirteen windows. Many of the Tiffany glass windows in the house have a spider web in their decorative patterns. Thirteen fan palm trees were planted in the front lawn. Her doctor and employees claimed that she was of sound mind until the end. She was just a sweet old lady not eccentric or mentally unbalanced. It can be seen that a lot of creativity and energy went into the building of the house. It also had many innovative features not common in the houses of the era. It had modern heating and sewer systems, and gas lights turned on by pressing a button. There were also three working elevators in the house. Touring the house was fun but we also enjoyed the gardens. Sarah Winchester collected plants,trees and shrubs from around the world. Below is a picture of a Heavenly Bamboo tree from China.

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