As an anniversary present (don't ask which one...been married longer than many of you have been alive), my husband and I took a trip to San Francisco. The last day we rented a car and drove to San Jose to the Winchester House. I have been wanting to see it since I was a kid and I discovered a book of unusual architecture that had a few pages covering the home. The sad and creepy story fascinated me, as did the pictures of the house.
This beast of a Queen Anne Victorian was built by Sarah Winchester starting in 1884. I say starting because until she died, construction was constant. Apparently old Sarah was a bit....um...eccentric. The death of her only child as an infant and then her husband left her so depressed she went to a psychic medium. The psychic convinced her that she was being haunted by spirits killed by Winchester rifles, which were the source of the vast wealth she inherited from her husband. Because rather than...oh.. I don't know...being mad at the person who actually shot them....the spirits were going to come looking for the heir of the gun inventor. Seems legit.
So our girl Sarah had all the ingredients for a first class haunted house: a psychic, spirits with an axe to grind, a ton of cash, and no husband to tell her she was bat crap crazy and needed to stop. She figured as long as she kept building, the spirits would be appeased. Every night she would conduct a seance in a secret room and drawn plans under the direction of the spirits. The next morning she would hand them off to the workers who were told not to question her under any circumstances and they built whatever she requested. No matter how insane. The result is a huge sprawling monster of a Victorian with 160 rooms, stairs and doors to no where, secret passages, twisted stairs that turn multiple times, a door that opens to an 8 foot drop, and more.
While we were there a couple of odd things occurred. It was a nice sunny day and they had several windows open, but some rooms were freezing cold. Not just a little chilly, but "make your guts shiver" cold. Not all of them...just one or two. Even my husband noticed, and he doesn't notice anything...hehe.
I also noticed shortly after entering the house that my hips and knees began to ache terribly. I really hurt! We had gone hiking in the Muir Woods the day before so I thought it might have something to do with that...until it completely stopped when I left the house. It was like a switch had been flipped. I felt just fine walking through the gardens with no pain at all. During the tour we learned that Sarah suffered from arthritis in her legs...that is why she designed some of the stairs with very low risers. To make it easier on her aching legs.
Yeah. Creeped me out just a bit.
Then, I sent my husband off to buy a couple things from the gift shop while I checked out a display of antique Winchester rifles in a small room nearby. I heard the floor creak with footsteps behind me and so I turned to say something to my husband, only to find I was totally alone. No one else in sight. I had been so sure it was him coming up behind me....but no. There he was...walking up a minute later and asking why I had such an odd look on my face.
So...make of it what you will. I am generally skeptical by nature, but the Winchester house was a bit spooky. And inspiring! Even though the proportions are all wrong, I love the idea of a wonky, cobbled together, creepy kind of build. Maybe I like to think I could come up with something a little nicer than a sad old lady doing nightly seances to get building instructions from the spirits. Add this to the list of planned builds....a Simchester house, so to speak.