Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Winchester House

Since childhood, I have had a fascination with the paranormal and so I typically try to include a ghost walk or a visit to a purported haunted house in many of my trips. With that in mind, when I visited San Francisco a few years ago, a drive down to San Jose to visit the Winchester Mystery House was a must. The house is well-known to viewers of the Travel Channel, the History Channel, SyFy, and so on so I won't delve too deeply into its history, except to say that it was built over a period of 38 years by Sarah Winchester, widow and heir to the rifle fortune. Guided through her grief by psychics, she was convinced she must continually add to the mansion so as to appease the spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles. Doors lead to walls, stairs to ceilings, and there are believed to be rooms which remain unreachable. The above picture shows the Door to Nowhere, so called because it opens to...space.

The house and gardens are absolutely fascinating. Being used to massive English estates, I always find it interesting when houses such as this are literally on a main road, most of the surrounding land having been sold off over the years. Guides lead you through the house, highlighting the seance room, the many fireplaces, and features that were extremely modern at the time they were installed (including indoor plumbing, forced air, elevators). I'll be honest, as oddly misshapen as the house is, I actually thought it would be wonderful to live there.

But is it haunted?
Obviously, I can't say without a shadow of a doubt. I can only give my impressions, and those impressions are that at no time did I sense anything out of the ordinary or otherworldly. Rather, I came away suspecting it had the haunted reputation because of its unusual style and history.

Was Mrs Winchester the victim of charlatans who took advantage of her grief? Or was she really receiving messages from the spirit world? Who can say? 

All I can say is that the Winchester House is definitely worth a visit. I fell in love with the gardens, and the house is an incredible reminder of the power of grief.

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