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Unmasking the Winchester Mystery House

Debunking Haunted Myths and Exploring Rational Explanations Behind the Paranormal Lore

By Crystal A. WolfePublished 29 days ago 6 min read
Top Story - May 2024
Image of the Winchester Myster House, captured by the author

Hollywood loves capturing our minds and imaginations and showing us visually compelling stories. However, it's important to peel back the layers of truth on cinematic claims that boast "inspired by true events" or "based on a true story." Such is the case with the movie Winchester.

When it comes to the Winchester mansion, two things intrigue me the most: The architecture and the lore. So when I moved to the Bay Area, one of the first things I checked off my bucket list was to visit the famous house. There is no denying the marvel of the Winchester Mystery House. It's unique, and so much history is woven inside the grain. However, it's the house's history - specifically regarding Sarah Winchester - that I could not help but be skeptical about. To remain impartial and keep my bias in check, I visited without researching it before touring it. After compiling some things I noticed during my tour, combined with tour guide information, and later some research, I realized that some things are completely blown out of proportion, especially about Sarah Winchester.

I have heard many rumors about Sarah, such as:

  • She built the house to keep the spirits away,
  • She is a medium,
  • She feared her death if she stopped building and
  • The list goes on.

If you have heard similar statements, continue reading! Below are my findings that might help shed some light on Sarah Winchester and debunk some of the claims about her.

Her Obituary Does Not Claim Anything Supernatural

Sarah Winchester's Obituary, sourced by Newspapers.com

For someone who supposedly devoted herself to building a mansion to appease (or confuse) the victim's spirits from those killed by a Winchester rifle, there is not a single mention of malevolence, dark-sidedness, or creepiness in her obituary. Instead, readers see the complete opposite.

Her obituary does her justice by acknowledging how much she assisted financially with the Connecticut State Hospital that specialized in tuberculosis treatment (a condition that fatally took her husband's life). The obituary also acknowledges Sarah as a kind benefactor who assisted in other charitable contributions while humbly recognizing her 30 years of self-seclusion.

Tourist Attraction After Death

Sarah Winchester died September 5, 1922, and the property was auctioned in December. In April 1923, John and Mayme Brown leased the property, intending to turn the mansion into a tourist attraction. If you do not know who John Brown is, he's the inventor of the "Backety-Back Railway," one of the earliest known wooden Roller Coasters, designed and initially built by John at an amusement park in Canada.

From this point forward, the Winchester Mansion was steered toward becoming a tourist attraction. Even the 2018 movie release, Winchester, claims, "It's inspired by true events" on its poster but takes many creative liberties.

Today, the mansion remains a tourist attraction, with visitors fueled by the rumors of the house or by those who patronize it for its architectural uniqueness.

Even during the tour, guides state not to travel alone and to stick to the group because "you may disappear" (*queue creepy voice*)

I'm throwing the B.S. flag down because they are saying that for a few reasons:

  1. They want to make sure you don't touch anything. The furniture is antique, and California's Office of Historic Preservation protects the building.
  2. There are 160 rooms! Of course, you'll get turned around if you venture alone. To hire the number of employees needed to make sure guests are not destroying this landmark, they have guided tours. Also, employees don't need to go on a man-hunt looking for you. #Liability Spoiler Alert: Even if you turned around, you should be able to get your barrings if you can find a window, which should be easy: There are 10,000 window panes. After all, it's in the heart of downtown. (Plus, there are arrows painted on the floor.)

Sarah's Ailments

Sarah didn't seclude herself from society for mysterious reasons. She did it because she had some debilitating conditions, and she is a private person.

Nothing creepy.

Nothing nefarious.

No conspiracies.

As mentioned above, Sarah contributed significantly to the Connecticut Hospital, which she insisted on doing anonymously. Sarah suffered some painful conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, which disfigured some of her hands and feet, making moving around very painful and challenging.

Due to Sarah's ailments, she kept herself in seclusion and busy building her mansion. Unfortunately, rumors started to spread about her, but she did not respond to the gossip, and her silence likely fueled the gossip.

Probably one of the kindest souls the world has had

As mentioned, Sarah financially provided remarkably for the Connecticut Hospital for tuberculosis patients. Sarah kept to herself and a close-knit circle of family, friends, and employees who stated that the rumors about her were untrue.

Justifiable reasons for "strange" architecture

Ms. Winchester wasn't trained in architecture. Most women weren't at the time. However, she did love the craft, perhaps because her love to pursue architecture stemmed from her father, a carpenter in the early Victorian period.

She had the money to start, redo, and make changes on the fly. When visiting the Winchester Mystery House, it's impossible to ignore the famed "staircase to nowhere" and the "drop-off door." Considering Sarah is self-taught in architecture, the staircase to nowhere makes sense. She was a woman far ahead of her time. As one of the wealthiest women during the period, she could afford to make eccentricities and experiment with designs. Women during her era were not granted education to be engineers or architects. As a result, she made many mistakes and often made sudden changes as the building occurred.

The famous "stairs to nowhere," captured by the author.

Thus, the stairs lead to nowhere, and the floors/rooms are not properly aligned, with many explanations for the house's structural oddities. Below are some of the explanations:

Strange Door to the Outside

Image of the door to the outside, captured by the author

As for the iconic door that leads outside, it once used to lead to the tower (which collapsed during the San Jose earthquake) and Sarah chose not to rebuild it.

The Winding Staircase

Image of the short stairs, captured by the author

As for the short-stepped, winding stairs, she built them to ease her mobility. She had a debilitating condition that prevented her from lifting her legs more than 4". These stairs gave her a more comfortable quality of life while remaining mobile.

Strange Size Doors

Image of doors, captured by the author

Sarah believed in using every nook and cranny of space possible. This door is a storage closet where the carriage was stored.

"Can't Stop Building" Due to Fearing Ghosts? Nope!

Those who claimed that the construction of the house needed to continue 24/7 are fueling fake news. There was a time when Sarah did not build. In fact, in 1910, she spent most of her time at her second home in Atherton where she could be closer to her sister and niece up until her death in 1922.

Sarah Winchester is an unfortunate victim of false sensationalism. Instead of painting her as a creepy older woman who built a house to appease/confuse the spirits, she should be acknowledged for her humanitarian focus on society.

Her mansion is impressive, and she is an icon. I've enjoyed touring the Winchester Mansion in the evening and during the day. Not once did I get a supernatural sensation at the Winchester Mystery House. Instead, I felt pride and appreciation, and no nefarious tingling up my spine occurred.

I hate to burst some of your bubbles, but let's call it like it is: Today, the Winchester "Mystery House" is a tourist trap. If you go there, go for the appreciation of a woman who thought outside of the box and to give acknowledgment to a woman who shared (and suffered) so much in her life. This begs the question: Is it fair to label one of America's most genuine benefactors as a seance-going, ghost-fearing, creepy woman when she gave so much to others? Therefore, I agree with Richard Alan Wagner, who wrote The Truth About Sarah Winchester: The Belle of New Haven, who said, "This is hardly the legacy Sarah wanted to leave to posterity."

If the Winchester Mystery House is haunted, it's by Sarah Winchester, who likely returns as she pours her heart, soul, imagination, and creativity into her home.

Add to the Karma Jar to provide some 'Good Vibes.' Hearts ❤️ and tips ️💸 are always welcome and much appreciated as they help support my writing and contribute to the next adventure I can share with you! 🙏

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About the Creator

Crystal A. Wolfe

Blogger | Creative Writer | Traveler | Full-Time RVer

You can find all of my articles on my blog as well on Medium where I'm most active in Humor, Lifestyle, and Travel. I've self-published one fantasy fiction with the sequel in the works.

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Comments (7)

  • Esala Gunathilake24 days ago

    Hey you did a great job, congrats.

  • Nicho Carson28 days ago

    Congrats on your top story.

  • Anna 29 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story! :)

  • angela hepworth29 days ago

    Ooh how interesting this was! Great writing & story!

  • Margaret Brennan29 days ago

    I've read so many stories and have seen so many documentaries on this house. Your story is as amazing as those written by others. Well done.

  • Carol Townend29 days ago

    This is a fantastic and intriguing story about Sarah's life. You have included some wonderful information about her history, and thank you for helping to debunk the myths that plague news about special people like her.

  • Lamar Wiggins29 days ago

    Wow! Nice entry! Never heard of her. I was intrigued by the possibility of ghosts at first, but you properly debunked that. It's amazing how information twists and turns over time. This does, however, make me want to go read a good ghost story, lol.

Crystal A. WolfeWritten by Crystal A. Wolfe

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