Standing in the seance room at Winchester Mystery House in San Jose recently, 12 of us listened as our guide explained how the house came to exist.
Sarah Winchester, wife of the heir to the Winchester rifle fortune lost her infant daughter in 1866. Her husband died of TB in 1881, leaving her grief stricken. Sarah consulted a medium in Boston who suggested that her family and her fortune were being haunted by spirits including American Indians, civil war soldiers and others who had been killed by Winchester rifles.
To offset these malevolent spirits, Sarah was advised to move west and build a large house for them, to appease these spirits. In 1884 she purchased an unfinished farm house and 24 hours a day over the next 38 years, a team of builders extended the house to its current 160 rooms.
Over the years she gradually became more eccentric, never sleeping in the same bed for two nights in a row, in order to confuse any evil spirits that might be waiting for her. Did it not occur to her that spirits might follow her to bed in any room she chose in a particular evening?
The house contains staircases which lead to walls, magnificent leadlight windows in rooms which are in the centre of the house and which receive no direct sunlight and doors which open to reveal solid walls.
Keen on the number 13, she designed rooms with 13 windows which are accessed by staircases of 13 steps. It’s a home which would be the envy of the Addams family.
The seance room was where Sarah Winchester communicated with the spirits alone each night, asking for guidance about construction. As we stood in this room I felt sorry for a woman who had no peace in her later years, and who was probably contacting lost spirits and receiving little or no actual guidance.
Experienced clairvoyants and mediums never invite spirits of the deceased in via seances, as they have no control over who turns up. It’s like opening your car door to collect a hitchhiker on a moonless night on a lonely stretch of road.
If Sarah Winchester spent time every night in her seance room for 38 years, then she experienced almost 14,000 seances in search of guidance, the result of which is house littered with spiders web leadlight windows, doors to nowhere and a window in the floor of one room. Would this qualify as an addiction, or perhaps a compulsion?