“The tender word forgotten, The letter you did not write, The flower you might have sent, dear, Are your haunting ghosts tonight” – Margaret Elizabeth Sangster
You’ve heard of haunted houses, but what about a house designed by the haunted to keep the ghosts at bay?
In San Jose, California, a house just of this nature exists. It all began back in 1862, when Sarah Pardee married William Wirt Winchester, the manufacturer of the infamous Winchester repeating rifle. Sarah gave birth to a daughter Annie, who soon died from marasmus at only 42 days old. This fact is intriguing, as marasmus is caused by a lack of nutrients, displayed as energy deficiency (wasting away). Could the haunting of Sarah by spirits, already been around her at this time, depleting her energy and resources while pregnant? Her husband William later died from tuberculosis. Alone and grief stricken after losing her only child and husband, Sarah journeyed to Boston to speak with a spiritualist medium, seeking advice on why her life had been filled with such great misfortune.
The spiritualist medium reportedly told Sarah that she was haunted by the spirits of hundreds of ghosts, the spirits of those who had been killed by a Winchester repeating rifle. These spirits included soldiers from the Civil War, Native Americans and cowboys in the Wild West.
The medium went on to explain that in order to escape the continued hauntings, Sarah would need to move out west and to build a house. The house would not be an normal type of house, rather the construction must never cease. According to the medium, as long as construction was ongoing in the home, it would keep the angry spirits disoriented, while providing a place for the good spirits to commune with Sarah and protect her from further danger. In addition, the architectural design was meant to be complicated and confusing in order to vex and confuse the angry spirits, which would distract them from finding and further haunting Sarah. Sarah took this advice to heart and moved from Connecticut to San Jose, California and bought over 160 acres of land, where she began and continued construction on a home, which is now referred to as the Winchester Mystery House.
After her husband’s death, Sarah received twenty million dollars along with shares of stock in the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. It is reported that the dividends that she received averaged about one thousand dollars a day, along with her millions in the bank. This was in the late 1800′s, into 1900′s, when there was no income tax and the average rate of pay was less than a dollar a day.
With this unlimited amount of cash in hand, Sarah hired the best carpenters available and proceeded with construction 24 hours a day non-stop. The craftsmanship and Victorian design are stunning and quite a tribute to the men who built the home. She built a house seven stories tall with stairs leading up to nowhere, doors that opened to a two story drop into a kitchen, windows built into floors, staircases with forty four steps that are only two inches high each, a seance room, secret panels and passageways inside the walls of twisting hallways and the presence of the number 13 in a myriad of examples including windows with 13 panes, 13 bathrooms and 13 hooks in her seance room. As extravagant as it was bizarre, the decor included elaborate Tiffany glass windows, gold and silver chandeliers, and rare woods throughout including intricate parquet floors. Her favorite pattern, the spiderweb can be seen in many windows and other designs in the home.
Though beautiful, the house exudes a macabre energy. In some rooms, the sense of fear is palpable, such as the daisy bedroom, which was Sarah’s bedroom until the 1906 earthquake damaged the front thirty rooms of the house. During the earthquake, Sarah was trapped in this bedroom until staff could remove fallen debris and reach her. Once she was pulled from the room, she stated that the spirits had punished her for spending too much time working on the front rooms, so she ordered that these thirty front rooms be bordered up and closed. These rooms remained closed up until her death.
As a psychic paranormal investigator, I visited the Winchester Home in September 2000. I was looking forward to spending some time in the seance room as well as the rest of the home and grounds to see what energy and spirits were around. Walking through the house is a maze at best and provides insight into the mind of Sarah Winchester and the decisions she reflected on each day as she gave new instructions to the workers each morning for the continued construction.
While in the home, I assumed that the seance room would be where I would feel the most intense energy if something was there, but during my time at the house, I experienced no paranormal activity in the seance room. I did however sense the presence of a spirit twice during my time at the Winchester House. The first encounter was while walking through the house. I was focused on the many twists and turns throughout the house and walked to a window to see how high up we had climbed. Looking out the window, I saw a crescent shape hedge on the grounds below. Standing by the hedge was the ghostly figure of a woman who was looking directly back at me. I stepped back to lift my camera to take a photo and by the time I had the camera in place, she was gone. The figure wore a white gown and appeared to be in her late 30′s or early 40′s. She did not appear to me to be Sarah, who was always described as wearing black, including a veil covering her face most of the time, with her hair pulled back in a bun. This women was dressed in white and her hair was free flowing around her.
The second encounter was in the bedroom described on the tour as Sarah Winchester’s bedroom, though it is reported that she slept in many different bedrooms throughout the years. In this bedroom, to the right of the bed seen in this photo here, I saw the same figure I had seen at the hedge outside. Could it perhaps be the niece who cared for Sarah?
Paranormal investigators and enthusiasts continue to investigate and tour the Winchester Mystery House for the house itself is as fascinating as the history. The Winchester Mystery House is located at 525 South Winchester Boulevard, San Jose, CA and the website is www.winchestermysteryhouse.com
Consider it to be a must see should you be in the Bay area. During the month of October and on every Friday the 13th (Sarah’s favorite number), the house holds candlelight tours in the evening. Since my last visit, new areas of the house have been opened and are available to tour, including the basement, which is reportedly one of the most active areas for haunted activity, with the presence of a worker in coveralls seen by staff and visitors repeatedly.
About Kala Ambrose:
Noted wisdom teacher, author, intuitive, inspirational speaker, and host of the Explore Your Spirit with Kala Radio and TV Show, Kala Ambrose’s teachings are described as discerning, empowering and inspiring. Whether she’s speaking with world-renowned experts on the Explore Your Spirit with Kala Show, writing about empowering lifestyle choices, reporting on new discoveries in the scientific and spiritual arenas or teaching to groups around the country, fans around the world tune in daily for her inspirational musings and lively thought-provoking conversations.
Kala is the author of four books including the award-winning 9 Life Altering Lessons: Secrets of the Mystery Schools Unveiled, Ghosthunting North Carolina, The Awakened Aura: Experiencing the Evolution of Your Energy Body and coming September 2012, Spirits of New Orleans: Voodoo Curses, Vampire Legends and Cities of the Dead.
A highly interactive teacher on a mission to educate, entertain and inspire, Kala writes for the Huffington Post, the Examiner, AOL, Yahoo and Fate Magazine and presents workshops nationally on the Mind/Body/Spirit connection including Auras and Energy Fields, Developing Business Intuition, Haunted History and Wisdom Teachings at the Omega Institute, John Edward Presents Infinite Quest, the Learning Annex, LilyDale Assembly, and Daily Om.