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Winchester mystery house


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#1 earth_spirit

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Posted 27 July 2005 - 12:35 PM

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Greetings all! I've been away for a few days, but it was for a very good reason. During a recent sojourn along the Pacific Coast of the US I stopped along the way and visited the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California.

From the outside, the building appears to be nothing more than a sprawling Victorian mansion surrounded by meticulously groomed gardens, soothing fountains, and lots of tour buses. Itís pretty, though not particularly shocking. But the interior of the building and the story of its construction are bizarre and fascinating.

The Winchester House has 160 rooms, with a total of more than 10,000 windows, 2,000 doors, 52 skylights, 47 fireplaces, 40 bedrooms, 40 staircases, 6 kitchens, 3 elevators, 2 basements, 1 shower, and 349.7 other impressive-sounding numerical statistics. What makes it most interesting, though, is what it doesnít have any rhyme or reason. The entire house seems to have been randomly assembled, disassembled, and reassembled numerous times, with no master plan or design. And in fact, thatís pretty much what happened. Stairs lead to nowhere; floors have doors and windows in them; doors open into solid walls. All of this and more was due to an inexplicable obsession that drove its owner, Sarah Winchester, to keep the building continuously under construction for 38 years.

The story begins a century and a half ago. Oliver Winchester was the co-owner of a successful shirt manufacturing business. In 1857, just before the U.S. Civil War broke out, Winchester took over the Volcanic Repeating Arms Company. The company, which would later be renamed Winchester Repeating Arms Company, was responsible for revolutionary advances in rifle design. With repeating rifles, a soldier could fire several times without reloading, and sales of the weapons soon made Winchester both wealthy and famous. His son and heir, William Wirt Winchester, married Sarah Pardee in 1862.

Sarah was a diminutive woman at 4 feet, 10 inches (147cm) tall, but was reputed to be charming, intelligent, and beautiful. She gave birth in 1866 to the coupleís first and only child, Annie, who died before she was two weeks old. Annieís death affected Sarah deeply, and for years she withdrew from the public and her family alike. In 1880 Oliver Winchester died, leaving his fortune to his son William. But the following year, William died of tuberculosis. This left Sarah the only heir to the Winchester fortune, an inheritance of US$20 million, plus nearly 50 percent ownership in the company, which paid her $1,000 per day. Not too shabby even by todayís standards, these figures were astronomical in the late 1800s. But the fortune was no consolation to Sarah, who began to believe there was a curse on her family.

Shortly thereafter, Sarah Winchester moved from New Haven, Connecticut to San Jose, purchased a modest farm house, and began building. This is where history ends and speculation begins. Itís also an appropriate time for a brief cautionary digression. Dozens of Web sites, booklets, and brochures (and even the tour guides at the Winchester House) tell variations on the story of why Mrs. Winchester behaved the way she did for the rest of her life. Sadly, most of these stories appear to have been copied from each other and thereís no persuasive evidence to support any of them. This mirrors the situation a century ago, when a fanciful tale about Mrs. Winchester would be told, embellished, and retold until it was impossible to separate truth from fiction. Thus, assume that most of what follows is apocryphal.

What is known is that Mrs. Winchester hired builders to work around the clock, every day, for 38 years. The house was in a constant state of change, with rooms being built and modified on a daily basis. According to legend, Mrs. Winchester had visited a psychic in Boston who convinced her that she was indeed under a curse of sorts. The spirits of those who had been killed by Winchester rifles had sought revenge from her family and were now haunting her. The only way to appease the spirits and prevent her own death, by some odd logic, was to ensure that construction on her house never stopped. One version of the tale has it that the labyrinthine interior of the house, including the stairs to nowhere and the dead ends, were meant to confuse or slow down the spirits. An alternative explanation was that Mrs. Winchester, in daily sťances, received plans for the next dayís work directly from the dead, and simply did as she was told. Whether for one of these reasons, or simply being off her rocker, Sarah Winchester did indeed keep contstruction going for years on end, in what appears to be a completely random manner.

Whatever the reasoning she employed, it is certain that Mrs. Winchester was superstitious. One indication is her repeated use of the number 13 in features of the house: there are 13 bathrooms; 13 palm trees line the driveway; most of the windows have 13 panes; a sink drain has 13 holes; a chandelier that originally had 12 lights was modified to have 13; and so on. It is also frequently said that she slept in a different bedroom every night.

In 1906 when the great earthquake struck San Francisco, part of the Winchester house was damaged, including the bedroom in which Mrs. Winchester was sleeping that night. Although she was unharmed, she believed the spirits were trying to tell her something. As a result she had the front portion of the house blocked off, and continued construction elsewhere.

Sarah Winchester died in her sleep in 1922 at the age of 82. Construction on the house stopped immediately some stories say carpenters stopped with nails hammered in halfway. In Sarahís will which consisted of 13 sections and included 13 signatures, the house was not mentioned specifically at all, but all her possessions were left to her niece, Frances Marriot. Marriot had all the furnishings removed from the house, a task which took more than six weeks due to the houseís design, then sold it to be used as a tourist attraction. Though none of the original furnishings survived, the house has been refurnished with furniture from that period through donations from several prominent San Jose families.
The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit -- Nelson Henderson

Not A Ghost Of A Chance -- The Story Of My Three Years At The Imperial Casino Hotel <-- Click Here For My Personal Website

#2 earth_spirit

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Posted 27 July 2005 - 12:51 PM

With a name like the Winchester Mystery House, you can bet that I took my trusty Sony Mavica Digicam. All total, I shot 115 pictures, many of which I'll be posting later on. No, the house isn't known to be a hotbed of paranormal activity, but there have been some strange goings-on there:

During the summer, the windows in the mansion are opened to let the wind cool off the house. On one occassion, though wind was strong enough to flip the pages of the book displayed on a nightstand, a tour guide passing by saw the pages flipping slowly, one by one, in the opposite direction!

Another odd occurrence in the house that sometimes happens is when tour guides see one of the faucets running and spilling water on the floor. They'll go get something to clean it up, only to come back and discover not a drop of water anywhere. What makes it stranger is that the house doesn't have any plumbing or running water.

There was also one time when a tourist complimented the tour guide on how they had someone dress up like Mrs. Winchester and sit in the kitchen. Later that day, the tour guide asked her manager if they had hired an actress to portray Mrs. Winchester. The manager said no one been hired to do that.

There's also a story about a couple writing a book on America's haunted houses. For research, the skeptical couple decided to spend one night alone in the Winchester Mystery House, with the doors and windows all locked, monitored with and alarm system and video cameras in each room. They retired to the Daisy bedroom, Mrs. Winchester's favorite bedroom, and went to sleep.

In the middle of the night, the woman woke up because she heard foot steps heading towards the bedroom. She woke up her husband, who told her she must have dreamt it, and to go back to sleep. She did, but an hour later, the husband woke up, because he heard foot steps coming towards the door. He woke up his wife and she said they had probably both been dreaming so they should just go back to sleep.

About an hour later, they both woke up to the sound of organ music, remembering that Mrs. Winchester played the organ and there were three in the house. The organ music stopped with a crash, and the two decided to go back to sleep and check the video tape in the morning. When they did the next day, they saw the organ in one frame, solid and still. Then in the very next frame the keys to the organ were completely shattered and all across the floor. Never a door or window had been cracked, nor the alarm system set off through the whole night! :clap:
The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit -- Nelson Henderson

Not A Ghost Of A Chance -- The Story Of My Three Years At The Imperial Casino Hotel <-- Click Here For My Personal Website

#3 earth_spirit

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Posted 27 July 2005 - 01:09 PM

So how does your infamous moderator, Earth_Spirit come into the picture? No pun intended, of course :clap: It's funny you should ask that . . .

At the very end of the 65 minute visit, the tour guide made her final presentation in what was Mrs. Winchester's personal dining room. The only two people who ever ate there were Mrs. Winchester and her niece, Frances, and as far as anyone knows they were the only two people to dine there since Mrs. Winchester turned away any and all visitors to the house--even Teddy Roosevelt, the President of the United States at the time.

With that in mind, I'm sure you can imagine my surprise when I downloaded the pictures from my camera and saw this:
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I just about fell over when I saw not one, but two orbs in the picture. You can see a larger one on the man's shoulder and a small one directly below it at his waistline. Hmm . . . let's see now. Only two people have ever really other inhabited this particular room since the house was built. Do you suppose . . . ???


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More pictures coming up!

Edited by earth_spirit, 28 July 2005 - 04:56 PM.

The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit -- Nelson Henderson

Not A Ghost Of A Chance -- The Story Of My Three Years At The Imperial Casino Hotel <-- Click Here For My Personal Website

#4 watcher

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Posted 27 July 2005 - 01:22 PM

Looks like you got a good case there. Good luck with it.
Can't wait till we see more pictures.

#5 earth_spirit

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Posted 27 July 2005 - 01:27 PM

Thanks, watcher. The rest of the pics are mainly shots of the mansion, so if anyone is interested in that sort of things, I encourage them to check it out. I may just setup an album on one of the photo hosting sites rathering that assaulting everyone on GV with my vacation pictures :clap:

I should have them up by the end of the week, so keep your eyes open :D
The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit -- Nelson Henderson

Not A Ghost Of A Chance -- The Story Of My Three Years At The Imperial Casino Hotel <-- Click Here For My Personal Website

#6 watcher

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Posted 27 July 2005 - 01:49 PM

=) i'll be keeping an eye out for them. thanks

#7 Oniix

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Posted 27 July 2005 - 04:09 PM

There are umm... three orbs in the photo. One above the man roughtly, against the ceiling.

#8 Daewen

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Posted 27 July 2005 - 05:07 PM

wow, I just love the Winchester Mystery House...I can't wait to see the rest of the photos!
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#9 earth_spirit

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Posted 27 July 2005 - 06:14 PM

I wish I could say that the pics were chock full o' spooky stuff, but there was only one with any orbs in it. I did have a strange experience in the seance room, though. More about that, later . . .

Unfortunately, the house is full of all sorts of windows and glass, so I got tons of reflected light in many of the pictures. To add to that, they have naked light bulbs in many of the rooms that really messed up some of my pics. So, I really had to play Devil's Advocate when searching each picture.

A good example is what might be an orb on the ceiling of the picture. LifeafterDeath pointed it out, but I suspect it's a flash reflection bouncing off nearby smoke detector. I really need to get a hi-res monitor and search each picture a little closer.

OK, I'll be posting the rest soon. Hope I don't bore everyone to tears :)
The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit -- Nelson Henderson

Not A Ghost Of A Chance -- The Story Of My Three Years At The Imperial Casino Hotel <-- Click Here For My Personal Website

#10 jenbrown

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 01:46 AM

Great pics earth_spirit. I hate to be a fly in the ointment but.....

I've been to WMH many times and I just don't feel its haunted. If there is any residual energy left in that house it is very minimal. More so, I do believe that the stories are embellished by the publicity department so to get more tourist business. I've talked to a few ghosthunting groups and a parapsychologist that live in the area and they feel the same way.

Truthfully, its the coolest house I've ever seen. But just look at how it's run. I have never seen such an elaborate tour set up of any historic or old home. It's pure big business. I also have never experienced anything strange. I too have taken photos with orbs in them there, but everything in that house is highly reflective. The floors, windows, ceiling, everything. I have to dismiss any photos I take as purely reflection because I have no other evidence to back the photos up.

Someday I would like to take their flashlight tour and maybe I will have an experience there but unlike other places I've been I just don't feel anything at all.

I would love to hear your experience though. I want to believe in the place so any first hand accounts will help me to, but for now I just think it's a cool house and nothing more.
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#11 bathory313

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 02:53 AM

Great photo, Earth Spirit. At least you got one good photo, eh? Lucky you, you got to see the Winchester House!
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#12 Oniix

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 07:51 AM

Very neat none the less. I only see the photos and video they show on Travel Channel. So any unique photos are refreshing to see.

#13 earth_spirit

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 12:04 PM

Thanks for the feedback everyone! I'm probably one of the bigger skeptics on GV, so I take everything I see and read here with the proverbial "grain of salt." I tend to do most of my investigating with historical documents rather than a meter and camera, and the Winchester Mystery House is a prime example of that. I noticed our tour guide downplayed the story that Mrs. Winchester was motivated by a Boston psychic to build the house the way she did by saying that she was just an eccentric old lady who was studying architecture in her spare time, but at the end of the tour the guide was more than happy to chat about suspected paranormal activities in the house.

It helped that the house has a documented history of sorts. I would have dismissed the orbs if they had been taken in any other room of the house because of all the windows and glass throughout the house, but as you can see in the picture, there is one window off to the right next to a shaded area, and the whole room is paneled in dark wood. Then again, I used a flash, and all it takes is to stir up a little dust . . . what was interesting was that the tour guide stated that Mrs. Winchester and her niece were the only people to ever use that room while she was alive.

The tour guide also told the story about how only three people to ever use the front door of the house were Mrs. Winchester and the two carpenters who installed it. One day Teddy Roosevelt was in San Jose, and he stopped by to pay his respects. The servant who answered the door, not recognizing it was the President of the United States, told him matter-of-factly that he could come around to the servants entrance like everyone else. Being the President, Mr. Roosevelt took offense to that and left in a huff :wow:

It's good to know the history of the house, though, because that helps to focus on any residual energy that might be lingering there. I might as well tell you about what happened to me in the seance room while I'm at it. It seems Mrs. Winchester never drew up any blueprints for the house, choosing instead to hold a nightly seance in a room especially built for that purpose to ask the spirits what was the plan for the next day. She'd then write down the information she received on a napkin or scrap of paper, one time even using the hem of her dress. She'd deliver the plans to the carpenters the next day, and they would begin to build.

Well, the moment I walked in that room I felt something very odd. It was like low voltage electricity started to flow from the base of my spine all the way to the top of my head, and my hair felt like it was standing on end. I looked over at a friend of mine, a shamanic practitioner who was on the tour with me, and asked if she could feel it too. The surprised look on her face told me I was not the only one picking up on the energy. The feeling subsided after leaving the seance room, but it would start up again periodically as I passed through the house. IMHO there is definitely some type of energy flow going through the center of the house. Of course, the seance room was kind of creepy looking by itself, sitting in a tower of sorts with iron bars on the windows!

I suspect I'll being going back in the future to take the "behind the scenes" tour. As jenbrown mentioned, there's also a flashlight tour you can take on Halloween or any Friday the 13th.

Here's an example of some the problems I encountered in the house. No, that's not four orbs and a vortex. It's me taking a picture of a mirror through a plate glass window!!!

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Edited by earth_spirit, 28 July 2005 - 02:04 PM.

The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit -- Nelson Henderson

Not A Ghost Of A Chance -- The Story Of My Three Years At The Imperial Casino Hotel <-- Click Here For My Personal Website

#14 earth_spirit

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 12:28 PM

I might as well add some seance room pictures while I'm at it. It isn't all that big (about 12 feet by 12 feet.) For some reason, there were no door knobs installed on the inside of the front door or the back side of the rear door. The room could only be entered from the front door and could only be exited by the rear door.
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Mrs. Winchester didn't want the servants going into the room, either, so she had iron bars blocking the windows.
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I get the shivers just looking at these . . . brrrrrrrr :wow:
The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit -- Nelson Henderson

Not A Ghost Of A Chance -- The Story Of My Three Years At The Imperial Casino Hotel <-- Click Here For My Personal Website

#15 earth_spirit

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Posted 28 July 2005 - 12:46 PM

Doubting Thomas that I am, I did some research online and found this picture of a mist that was supposedly taken at the Winchester Mystery House:

http://www.geocities...109/photo3.html
The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit -- Nelson Henderson

Not A Ghost Of A Chance -- The Story Of My Three Years At The Imperial Casino Hotel <-- Click Here For My Personal Website




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