William Wirt Winchester revolutionized the firearms industry with the improvement of The Volcanic Repeater, a rifle (1857) easier to reload because it contained a mechanism to load bullets into the breech. The new design was created in 1860, it was called the Henry Rifle. This model had a tubular magazine located under the barrel making reloading far easier allowing for more rounds fired. It is said The Henry could fire on average, one shot every 3 seconds. This rifle became the favorite of Northern troops during the civil war.
On September 30, 1862 William married a beautiful society girl named Sarah Pardee in a grand celebration in New Haven. The couple amassed great wealth with the sale of the rifle in the war effort. A secure future was assured. The family would never want for anything.
What should have been a fairy tale ending became a series of tragedies for Sarah. On July 15, 1866 she gave birth to a baby girl she named Annie. While still an infant, she contracted
marasmus. Sarah was helpless as her baby wasted away before she died nine days later.
Grief stricken, Sarah withdrew into herself, avoiding family and friends for a decade before the heartache began to subside.
In 1881, William succumbed to pulmonary tuberculosis and died. He left Sarah with an estate worth 20 million dollars. The wealth meant nothing to Sarah as she lost her greatest treasures and no amount of money could replace them. Lost in depression, a friend suggested Sarah speak to a medium. She hoped connection with her husband's spirit might ease Sarah's pain.
Sarah consulted with a medium who told her she had a message from William Winchester. She went on to describe her husband. "He says for me to tell you there is a curse on your family that took the life of he and your child. It will soon take you too. It is the result of the terrible weapon created by the Winchester family. Thousands of persons have died because of it and now the spirits are seeking vengeance." the medium told her. "You must start a new life and build a home for yourself and the spirits who have fallen from this terrible weapon too. You can never stop building on this house. Continue building and you will live, stop and you will die."
Sarah spent 38 years building the house in California. Stairwells led nowhere, sky lights were built one on top of the other. Sarah had a curiosity about the number 13 as nearly all the windows contained 13 panes of glass. The walls contained 13 panels, the floors were made of 13 sections. The greenhouse had 13 cupolas. Every staircase but one had 13 steps. The original mansion was seven stories high. Seven is considered the number of spiritual perfection.
Tragedy struck again with an earthquake in 1906. The top three floors of the mansion caved in, never to be rebuilt. Portions of the lower floors were destroyed. The Daisy room was the room Sarah was sleeping in when the earthquake struck. A chimney collapsed trapping Sarah inside the room. She saw this as a sign from the spirits. They were angry because Sarah bricked up 30 rooms of the mansion, trapping the spirits dwelling within those rooms forever.
Sarah died in 1922. It is said strange lights and noise come from the mansion to this day. Did she finally have peace in death or is her spirit still seeking absolution for the pain her family caused?
The Winchester Mansion is located in central California, USA and is considered an historical landmark and curiosity even today.
Sarah Winchester was the wife of William Wirt Winchester