USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Winchester’
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Winchester Mystery House

BACKGROUND:

A woman from Saratoga, California tells the legend of the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California.

INTERVIEW:

My interview with my source, L, went as follows:

ME: So tell me about your experience with the Winchester House and like what you know.

L: I grew up in San Jose and everywhere as a child were huge billboards for the Winchester Mystery House and it always had this scary image of a skull and this very creepy looking house and it always played up on the mystery and the scariness of it and everyone would talk about it. But as a child I’d never been. And all you would hear was all of the legends and the stories that surrounded it right around the house were several movie theaters. So we were all very familiar with the outside of the house and everyone would talk about oh the Winchester Mystery House and how Sarah Winchester had inherited this vast fortune from her husband on his death that from the Winchester rifle company and that after his death she was devastated. They had lost their only child in infancy and then her husband died. I think typhoid fever. I’m not sure if that’s right but that was the lore as I was told it and that she went to a spiritualist was really big back in those days and they ate hundreds and he told her that all of her sadness and tragedy and misfortune was because all of the money that she and her husband had was blood money because of all the people that had died because of the Winchester rifle and that she needed to move out west and she needed to start building a house to house all of the spirits of the people that were killed by the Winchester rifle and that as long as she would build she would stay alive. She would evade the ghosts and all the tragedies that were befalling her family. But the building could never stop. They had lost their only child in infancy and then her husband died. I think typhoid fever. I’m not sure if that’s right but that was the lore as I was told it and that she went to a spiritualist was really big back in those days and they ate hundreds and he told her that all of her sadness and tragedy and misfortune was because all of the money that she and her husband had was blood money because of all the people that had died because of the Winchester rifle and that she needed to move out west and she needed to start building a house to house all of the spirits of the people that were killed by the Winchester rifle and that as long as she would build she would stay alive. She would evade the ghosts and all the tragedies that were befalling her family. But the building could never stop. And so she left the East Coast and she moved to California and she bought the little farm house and started rebuilding it and built this enormous mansion in its place and that her whole goal was to never ever stop building because she was afraid of the spirits of all the dead. And so she would have workers building 24/7. It never stopped. Night Day there was always someone building on the house and she built stairways that went nowhere and doors that you would open the door and there would be a brick wall behind it and fireplaces that didn’t even go all the way up through to the ceiling. It just went part way and cupboards that were only like an inch deep just strange bizarre stuff. And she was super obsessed with you know the spiritual side of all these ghosts that were chasing her she felt and she had a Seance room built into the house so that she could speak to the dead and she intentionally built this house to be like a labyrinth where you know these doors that open to nothing were to confuse all the spirits that might be coming after her. So the house was built both the house them and yet to keep them from being able to get to her. And so as a kid you know it just was so scary and you would hear all these stories about that you know at night sometimes you would see lights moving through the house like candles flickering through the house because it was the workers still the ghosts of the workers still working on the House. And if you would you know stop and listen which we could do because the movie theaters parking lots right up to the hedges of the house we would stop and listen because they would say you could hear the hammers of the workers still working into the middle of the night you know and she was obsessed with the number 13. You know she had windowpanes that were specifically the number 13 panes in the window and 13 steps in a stairway in the 13th bathroom has 13 windows and she just was. So everything was really cold and creepy and so as a kid it was just so mysterious and scary and the first time I finally got to visit the house I was about 12 and we had friends that came into town from Southern California and they wanted to see them in Winchester Mystery House so my parents said we could all go and it was both fascinating and terrifying. Even though it was just a house because of all the stories that we heard you’re walking through it and it’s beautiful. No expense was spared when she was building this house it’s amazing the craftsmanship that went into all of these things that are kind of pointless because they go nowhere and do nothing but it’s stunningly beautiful. But at the same time there was always all of this scary creepiness about it because of all the stories that we’d heard as children and all the legends that surround just how crazy she was or how afraid she was and her fear and the ghosts and all the weird things that she did.

ME: Wow that’s actually insane.

 

MY THOUGHTS:

I think it’s incredible how knowledgeable this source was. She really was able to give me a thorough explanation of all the crazy stories and legends behind the house. I like how she gave both an account of the stories she got from word of mouth before she visited the house, as well as an account of what she learned after visiting.

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