I love horror movies. That statement probably isn’t newsworthy. I’ve voiced that stance before. I’d rather watch a horror movie than anything romantic. Once, I checked out a listing of the top 10 horror movies and I had seen about 15 of them.
I recently watched “Winchester.” Hopefully, I’m not going to spoil it for those of you who haven’t watched it. However, I’m finding it interesting how many people do not know the movie is based on a real house … the Winchester Mystery House.
With my love for horror movies, it stands to reason the Winchester House holds a fascination for me. It was once the personal residence of Sarah Winchester in California. She was the widow of firearm magnate William Wirt Winchester. After his death in 1881, she inherited more than $20 million and received half the ownership of Winchester Repeating Arms Company. She was well off. By today’s standards, she inherited over $500 million.
After the death of her husband and child, she contacted a medium. That meeting convinced Sarah that the victims of the Winchester rifle were haunting her and her family, and that she must purchase a home and continuously build upon it to appease the victims of the Winchester rifle. She did just that.
What is now the Winchester mansion in Santa Clara Valley started out as a little farmhouse. She hired workers who unceasingly worked on it until the day she died in 1922. It was seven stories.
The building itself is known for its size, its architectural curiosities, and its lack of master building plan. Sarah did not use an architect and added on to the building in a haphazard way. It features oddities, such as doors and stairs that go nowhere, windows overlooking other rooms, and stairs that go nowhere and some that have odd-sized risers.
Many attribute the oddities of the home to her belief in what the medium said that the house should be constructed for herself and the rifle’s victims. The fact she didn’t hire an architect suggests that is true. She had money and the house held evidence of that. She had conveniences that were unheard of at that time – steam and forced-air heating, modern indoor toilets and plumbing, push-button gas lights, and a hot shower from indoor plumbing. The house had three elevators. Many of the stained glass windows were created by Tiffany.
An earthquake reduced the house to four stories. However, there are 161 rooms, including 40 bedrooms (it was said Sarah slept in a different bedroom each night to confuse the spirits), 2 ballrooms, 47 fireplaces, over 100,000 panes of glass, 17 chimneys, two basements, and three elevators.
With all the oddities and mystery surrounding the house, I like to watch everything pertaining to it. The movie, to me, was a must-see. If you haven’t seen the movie and you like horror or suspense, go. I’d love to see the actual house, but the movie will have to do.
Standard reporter Lisa Hobbs can be reached at 473-2191.