Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Winchester Mystery House

PD Photos: Winchester House which was under construction, nonstop, round-the-clock, from 1884 until the death of the owner Sarah Winchester on September 5, 1922.

The Winchester Mystery House, located at 525 South Winchester Blvd. in San Jose, California, was under continuous construction for 38 years, and it is reported to be haunted. It was the residence of Sarah Winchester, the widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester.

The Queen Anne Style Victorian mansion was built without any master building plan. Winchester thought the house was haunted by the ghosts of individuals killed by Winchester rifles.

After the deaths of her daughter and later her husband, Sarah Winchester consulted a medium (psychic) who told her that she must build a house and never cease building it; otherwise the spirits that killed her family members would kill her too. So, she began the construction of the mystery house full of twists, turns, and dead ends, so that the spirits would get lost and never be able to find her.

The Winchester Mystery House has about 160 rooms - 40 bedrooms, two ballrooms, 47 fireplaces, 10,000 window panes, 17 chimneys, two basements and three elevators. Initially built on an estate of 162 acres (650,000 sq meters), now the property is only 4.5 acres (24,000 sq meters). The house has gold and silver chandeliers and hand inlaid parquet floors and trim. There are doors and stairways that lead nowhere.

The number 13 and spider web motifs reappear around the house. An expensive imported chandelier with 12 candle-holders was altered to accommodate 13 candles, wall clothes hooks are in multiples of 13, and a spider web-patterned stained glass window contains 13 colored stones, and sink drain covers have 13 holes in each. The house's current groundskeepers have created a topiary tree shaped like the number 13. On every Friday the 13th, the large bell on the property is rung 13 times at 1 P.M. (13:00) in tribute to Sarah Winchester.

The Winchester Mystery House has a floating foundation that is believed to have saved it from total collapse in both the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 (the gravest natural disaster in California's history that killed about 3,000 people) and the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake (that killed 63 people, injured 3,757, flattened buildings and left thousands of people homeless).

The Winchester Mystery House is popular tourist destination, especially for people believing in haunted houses, bad luck due to number 13 and Friday the 13th. Several arranged tours of the house are available, including flashlight tours at night on dates around Halloween and each Friday the 13th.

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