10 Facts about Sarah Winchester & The Winchester Mystery House
Dame Helen Mirren’s Winchester (2018) opens nationwide today. The film is a pseudo-bio pic focusing on the eccentric firearms heiress who was supposedly haunted by the ghosts of those killed by the Winchester Repeating Arms. It’s more Hollywood fiction than truth. However, movie-goers love a good ghost story. Here are 10 facts about Sarah Winchester and her labyrinth of a house.
- Sarah Lockwood Pardee Winchester was widowed in 1881 when her husband William Wirt Winchester died at age 43. She inherited $20 million dollars and relocated to present-day San Jose, California.
- Sarah was petite at 4’10” and suffered from arthritis. She was incredibly private, and few photographs of her exist.
- Sarah converted the 8-room farmhouse into a Queen Anne Revival house with 160 rooms. The house was constantly remodeled for 30 plus years, until Sarah’s death in 1922.
- The house sustained extensive damage from the 1906 earthquake. Sarah was inside the house in the Daisy Bedroom at the time of the earthquake and was trapped for several hours.
- The house boasts over 10,000 panes of glass, letting in a lot of natural light.
- The number 13 is repeated in design features.
- Sarah was probably a Spiritualist. She was not haunted by the ghosts of those who fell victim to her husband’s rifles. She was in perpetual mourning for her only daughter who lived less than two months and her husband. Early biographers think she felt closer to her husband by adding onto the house because he was an architectural enthusiast.
- The urban legend that she continually built onto the house originated long after her death and was popularized by psychic Susy Smith in her 1967 book, Prominent American Ghosts.
- More than 12 million people have visited the house. Tours have been updated and new rooms and crawlspaces have been added for repeat visitors.
- The movie company purchased the photography rights; however, most of the movie was filmed in Australia. Sound stages were used since the rooms, stairways, and crawlspaces were too small for filming.