Was it her guilt at all the deaths caused by Winchester rifles that saw her build the seven story house?
Was the nonsense construction used to fool and trap spirits?
A Very Confusing Building
"In the last century Sarah Winchester was the happy wife of a wealthy man [William Wirt Winchester of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company]. Winchester died, and his widow's grief was overwhelming. She took to fortune tellers in an attempt to communicate with her husband.
Finally, so goes the story, she was told by a crystal gazer that she was destined to build a beautiful palace, and that she would die when it was completed. She went to California and began building her ‘palace’ near San Jose. She determined that it would never be finished, and she would live forever. That, in brief, is the history of the extraordinary building that still stands in its grove of trees near San Jose.
Mrs. Winchester hired carpenters and other artisans by the year. Day and night the sound of their hammers and saws was never stilled. They built new wings. They tore down old ones. They constructed elaborate staircases which led from nowhere to nowhere. Day in and day out, summer and winter, they worked. The house is still incomplete, despite its 160 rooms."
That is one version of the events that inspired Sarah Winchester to build the erratic building.
So we have slightly conflicting stories, one saying she was to house the spirits, the other that she was to fool the spirits (maybe she was to house and fool them?).
In 1884 Sarah moved to California and purchased a large block of land with a pre-existing farmhouse. It is this small home which would grow into the Winchester Mystery House.
Building the 'Mystery House'
She hired a man named John Hansen as the construction foreman, and every morning she would convey new building plans and would make changes to old ones. There were no blueprints, and if Hansen was lucky, Sarah would have a brief sketch of what she wanted - but other than that, it was word of mouth that conveyed the ideas that would be turned into a sprawling mass of rooms and corridors.
Day by day and night by night work continued, never ceasing. It is estimated that up to 600 rooms were constructed over a 38 year period.
However, rooms were constantly being demolished to make way for new ones.
The house was filled with nonsense architecture, including doors and staircases that led to nowhere, windows in the floors, seventeen chimneys, forty-seven fireplaces, thousands upon thousands of windows, a double basement and several elevators. And of course, the 160 rooms.
Many of the hallways and staircases double backed onto themselves, and there were numerous secret entrances and rooms. These were built so that Sarah Winchester could quickly move from room to room, double back, hide and fool the ghosts who were apparently following her.
Much of the home was built from expensive redwood, being the material Sarah preferred, but she did not like the look of it so had it all covered up with paint!
It took six trucks working all day for six weeks to empty the house of its belongings.
In 1906, a massive earthquake hit San Francisco damaging much of the mansion, which went from seven stories to just four. The house was not mentioned in Sarah Winchesters will and was considered worthless. A local investor purchased the estate for $135,000 and it was soon opened to the public.
The mansions caretaker has reported hearing footsteps and breathing on many occasions. He has also heard the sounds of screws being turned in the walls, followed by it falling to the floor... however no screw was to be found.
One of the more mischievous pranks played by the spirits concerns the doors. At the end of a long day seeing tourists through the house the doors would be locked, (how many there are I do not know but there must be heaps!) and the alarms would be set. However, at times after the setting of the alarm, the caretakers would find all of the doors unlocked again.
Sometimes, during the night, all of the lights on a single floor would mysteriously turn on.
It is said the ghosts of some of the construction workers, and Sarah Winchester herself still take up residence within the 'mystery house'. And then there is, of course, the vengeful spirits who watched the construction of the house in the first place.