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Old 23-12-2008, 10:24 PM   #43
chattanova
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'The Most Mysterious House Ever Built'
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The Winchester House began with a curse, was built under the guidance of "spirits" and has the creepiest architecture of any American home.
William Wirt Winchester was the son of famed gun manufacturer Oliver Winchester and heir to his substantial fortune. The Winchester rifle - the famed Henry Rifle - was a revolution in gun design and was dubbed "the rifle that won the West." At the outset of the Civil War, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company began to amass an incredible fortune from government contracts. And such was the beginning, some say, of a family curse that has resulted in a bizarre architectural legacy that stands to this day.
In September of 1862, at the height of the war between the states, the Winchester family of New Haven, Connecticut, hosted an elaborate wedding for William who took as his bride Sarah Pardee. Small in stature but full of charm and charisma, Sarah was the belle of New Haven and the light of the city's social scene.
It was Sarah Pardee Winchester who built the now-famous - some would say infamous - Winchester House. But it was not for her prestigious family that the house was constructed. Sarah had entirely different and superstitious reasons for building the great house, and it was these reasons that has given the Winchester House its extraordinary design and its paranormal reputation.


The Curse


In July 1866, Sarah gave birth to the couple's first child, a daughter they named Annie. The blessing would soon be darkened by tragedy, however, when Annie contracted a children's disease and died. This, for Sarah, would be the beginning of what she would later think of as a curse on her family. Traumatized by her child's death, Sarah slipped dangerously close to madness, shunning society and withdrawing into sorrow. The Winchesters never had another child.
Eventually Sarah returned to her home and husband and tried to resume a normal life, but then tragedy struck again. William was stricken with tuberculosis and died in March of 1881. As William's widow, Sarah inherited the then-incredible sun of $20 million and nearly half ownership of the still successful gun manufacturing company. But the money did little to sooth the anguish Sarah felt over the deaths of the two people she loved most in the world. She was so distraught and nearly inconsolable that a friend recommended she seek the counsel of a medium. Spiritualism was extremely popular during this period of American history, and so for a person of Sarah's position and resources, this was not an unusual recourse.
Sarah's visit to this medium would, however, reinforce in her mind the idea that the Winchester family was cursed, and would change her life forever.


The Medium

Through a friend, Sarah was put in contact with a medium who agreed to conduct a séance for the rich widow. In a darkened room, the medium fell into a trance and announced that Sarah's husband, William, was present - and that he knew the cause of the awful curse that seemed to befall her. The medium, supposedly relating what was being told by William's spirit, said that there was a curse on the Winchester family, brought about by their guns that had taken the lives of so many people. The spirits of the dead, the medium said, had exacted their revenge by taking the life of William and their infant daughter.
What could stop the curse? Sarah was instructed to sell her home in New Haven and follow the setting sun to the west. There, she was told, her husband's spirit would guide her in finding a new home for herself and the spirits that were haunting her life. When she found the home, the medium said, Sarah should buy it and continually build upon it. "If you continue building you will live," some legends quote the medium as saying. "Stop and you will die."
Sarah promptly sold her New Haven home and headed west, eventually reaching her destination in the Santa Clara Valley, which is today about an hour's drive south of San Francisco. She found a 17-room home, owned by a doctor, under construction and negotiated its purchase from him, which included the 162 acres of land on which it sat. With no formal plans, Sarah took over construction of the house and, in keeping with the medium's advice, continually built upon it until her death.
It remains today one of the most bizarre - and some say haunted - houses ever built.

The House

It was said that the new Winchester House contained a séance room in which Sarah regularly consulted with good spirits about the home's continued construction. Its many oddities were designed, it is reputed, to confuse and repel the evil spirits that were responsible for the curse on the Winchester family.
Sarah hired several building contractors who worked on the house literally day and night, all year 'round. She would provide them with crude plans she had hand drawn, and the builders would go about their job constructing every strange element, no matter how illogical. They would build rooms, tear them apart at Sarah's instruction and rebuild them. Eventually, the home would reach a height of seven stories and contain a bewildering maze of 40 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, five or six kitchens, two ballrooms and much more. Here are some of the more eccentric characteristics of the house, many of which were dictated by Sarah's obsession with the number 13:

* 40 staircases, several of which lead absolutely nowhere, ending at a ceiling.
* Some of the stairways have 13 steps.
* One room features a window in the floor.
* Two closet doors open to blank walls.
* One door opens to an eight-foot drop to a kitchen sink.
* The door of another room opens to an 14-foot drop to an outdoor garden.
* There are 47 fireplaces, four of which have flues that go nowhere (Sarah might have believed that ghosts could enter and leave a house through its chimneys).
* Many of the bathrooms have glass doors.
* Most windows have 13 panes, many walls have 13 panels and some rooms have 13 windows.

The Winchester House was somewhat damaged in the "Great San Francisco Earthquake" of 1906 and lost a few of its top floors, but it was quickly rebuilt to its present size: an astonishing 160 rooms covering 4.5 acres. (The room count is only an estimate because the house is so convoluted and confusing that an accurate room count has proved virtually impossible.)
Sarah didn't die when work on the house stopped, yet it didn't stop until she died on her sleep in 1922 at the age of 82.
Today, officially known as "The Winchester Mystery House" in San Jose, California, the mansion is a tourist attraction that offers a variety of tours of its many eccentricities. There are even, occasionally, "flashlight tours" of the house, usually conducted around Halloween. Despite its many bizarre features and spiritualist history, is the Winchester House haunted? If you ever get to San Jose, visit the house and you can find out for yourself.

http://mysterytopia.com/search/label/Bizarre
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