Winchester Mystery House

The Winchester Mystery House is just that; a mystery. Why would Sarah Winchester have the house built, adjusted, and rebuilt constantly between 1884 and 1922? Was she a genius? Or was Sarah Winchester under the influence of the spirits it is said she was terrified of? Let’s explore Sarah and her mystery house and decide from there.

Sarah Pardee

Sarah Winchester was born Sarah Pardee in September 1839, in New Haven, Connecticut. Sarah grew into a charming, multi-lingual, musically talented that was a petite beauty of only 4’10” tall. Sarah was bred, born, and raised in New Haven.

William Wirt Winchester

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Museum of History San Jose

William Winchester was also from New Haven, Connecticut. William’s father was a shirt manufacturer who took over the assets of a firm that made Volcanic Repeater firearms in 1857. In 1860 the company created the Henry Rifle that averaged one shot every three seconds. The Henry Rifle was a favourite among the Northern troops during the American Civil War.

Two Become One

Sarah Pardee and William Wirt Winchester were united in marriage on September 30, 1862, in New Haven. They were living a life of financial stability due to the success and popularity of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company at the height of the Civil War.

The Winchester’s had a daughter named Annie Pardee Winchester on July 15, 1866. Unfortunately, Annie was not a healthy baby and she passed away on July 24, 1866. The death threw Sarah Winchester into a deep depressive despair that robbed her of the next ten years of her life. Sarah just wasn’t her usual self and she and William did not have any more children. As Sarah emerged from her dark depression, William contracted Tuberculosis. William would pass away five years later of TB on March 7, 1881. William’s death left Sarah distraught again and she would wear Victorian mourning dresses and veils for the rest of her life.

Inheritance

When William died in 1881, Sarah inherited over $20 million plus 48.9% of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company and an income of $1,000 per day. But as they say, money cannot buy happiness.

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Winchester Mystery House

The Mysterious Story of Sarah Winchester

The tour guides at the Winchester Mystery House tell guests that after the death of  William Wirt Winchester, Sarah sought the guidance of a Spiritualist Medium. It is reported that the Medium told Sarah that the Winchester family was cursed and the spirits killed by Winchester guns were seeking revenge against her. The Medium reportedly told Sarah to “move towards the setting sun, and to build a house continually for if she stopped construction she would die.”

As the story goes, Sarah sold her home in New Haven and moved to California. When Sarah reached the Santa Clara Valley in 1884 she found a 6 room house that was being built for a Dr Caldwell. Sarah convinced the doctor to sell the house and the surrounding 162 acres to her and after the sale took place she threw out all of the building plans.

The Winchester Mystery House

For 36 years Sarah Winchester kept 22 carpenters at work building her home 24 hours a day. Sarah paid the carpenters well and was continually ordering building materials from all over the United States and in some cases, the world, so much so that she had her own set of railway tracks running to the building site. The carpenters would build, demolish, alter, and rebuild one section of the house after another all day, every day. (2017, prairieghosts.com)

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seawolfliving.com

Sarah Winchester would meet with the construction foreman every morning and give him the building plans she drew up overnight. It is reported that Sarah would spend a lot of time in the “seance room” at the centre of the house every evening. It was in the “seance room” that she came up with her building plans, most of which were nonsensical. It is reported by the current day tour guides at the Winchester Mystery House that Sarah received the building plans from the spirits within the house.

Over time the Winchester Mystery House grew to be seven stories tall, it contained three elevators, 47 fireplaces, staircases that lead nowhere, a blind chimney, closet doors that open to walls, trap doors, double-back hallways, skylights stacked upon each other, doors that open to steep drops out to the lawn, bathrooms with glass doors, and banisters that are upside down.

Sarah Winchester liked the number 13. So much so that most of the windows in the house have 13 panes of glass, walls contain 13 panels, the greenhouse has 13 cupolas, some staircases have 13 steps, some rooms have 13 windows, and many floors have 13 sections. One exception is the 42 steps of a staircase that only goes up nine feet, two inches at a time.

It is said that “Sarah felt the maze confused the ghosts of the Old West gunslingers and outlaws killed by Winchester guns.”

The Winchester Mystery House is no longer seven stories tall. The house was damaged during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the top three stories collapsed.

Rooms of The Winchester Mystery House

$25,000 Room– In this room, there is a display of the many fine artisan windows that Sarah Winchester bought. The windows were valued at $25,000 at the time of Sarah’s death in 1922. The windows are now said to be worth millions.

Seance Room– as mentioned earlier in this post, the seance room is located near the centre of the house. The room has one entrance but three exits.

Daisy Bedroom Sarah spent the duration of the 1906 earthquake trapped in the Daisy Bedroom. It is named after its lovely stained glass windows.

Sarah’s Bedroom the bedroom is ornate and large and it is the room that Sarah Winchester died in in 1922.

Grand Ballroom  the grand ballroom cost over $9,000 at the time of construction and was built almost entirely without the use of nails. The parquet floors contain six different hardwoods: mahogany, teak, maple, rosewood, oak, and white ash.

The Corridors of the Third Floor These corridors are avoided by the staff after dark. Why, you ask? Well, they have heard footsteps and even whispers of their names from disembodied voices. This area has never been open to the public.

Witch’s Cap Believed to have been built as an attic storage sGuided Tours

The Winchester Mystery House offers guided tours of the sprawling maze of a house.  Around Halloween time they also offer Hall’ween Candlelight Tours. Click here to learn more.

Winchester The House That Ghosts Built

Yay, a movie about Sarah Winchester and here mystery house! So excited to see this one.

A Different Theory

The tour guides at the Winchester Mystery House will tell their guests about Sarah Winchester and the ghostly reasons for the strange house she had built. That reason has been explained above. Richard Allan Wagner has written about his theory of what drove the continuous construction of the Winchester Mansion.

On thetruthaboutthewinchesterhouse.com Mr Wagner claims that all the folklore about Sarah Winchester has been fabricated to make money. Mr Wagner argues that Sarah was a Rosicrucian and a Freemason and that her beliefs drove the strange construction that was dominated by the number 13. Click here to learn more about Rosicrucian.

It is easy to argue that stories of folklore make money in this situation. I am not convinced that Sarah Winchester was not led by either spirits or spiritualism when having her amazing, huge, and confusing mansion built. Something motivated Sarah to continue with construction for those 36 years. Anyone who has lived through even a small renovation should agree that Sarah was a very motivated and determined lady.

We hope that you have enjoyed this post and that we have shared information that is new to you. Let us know what you would like to learn about next. Have you been to the Winchester Mystery House? If so, please share your experience and impressions with us.

Cheers,

The Other Half

 

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Is Craigdarroch Castle Haunted?

The Craigdarroch Castle is a massive home located in Victoria, BC. It was built as a private family residence but is now a tourist attraction. In this post, we will re-visit the history of the building and of the family that built it and learn of the ghost that resides there still.

Is Craigdarroch Castle haunted? The History

The Craigdarroch Castle was built between 1887 and 1890 for a Scottish immigrant named Robert Dunsmuir. Mr Dunsmuir had gained his fortune through Vancouver Island coal. The castle is a Victorian Style mansion built atop a hill overlooking the City of Victoria. It spans four floors and has stained glass windows, intricate woodwork, and beautiful furniture of the era.

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tripadvisor.com

 

Robert Dunsmuir

Robert Dunsmuir was born on August 31, 1825, in Scotland and passed away on April 12, 1889, in Victoria, BC.

Robert Dunsmuir
Is Craigdarroch castle haunted?

Robert Dunsmuir was born into a coal family and at the age of 16 years, he entered the mines to apprentice with his uncle, Boyd Gilmour. Gilmour was overman for the Hudson’s Bay Company coal-mine by present-day Port Hardy, BC.

In 1851 Robert Dunsmuir indentured himself to the same company and brought his wife and three children to Canada. In 1855 Dunsmuir refused to join a strike with the other miners and as a result, he earned his free-miner’s licence to work an abandoned HBC shaft. Dunsmuir’s fortune began to take shape when he accepted a position with the Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company around 1862. While working for VCMLC Robert Dunsmuir did clandestine explorations for coal in the area surrounding Nanaimo, BC. He discovered the Wellington seam in 1869 and laid claim to it. Mr Dunsmuir then obtained capital from a group of naval officers and insisted on half the shares plus full control over all operations due to his expertise in coal mining. His new venture was incorporated as Dunsmuir, Diggle Limited and by 1878 they were producing more coal than VCMLC was. By 1883 Robert Dunsmuir has acquired another colliery that was working the Wellington seam, and as he kept up with technological advances he also had managed to buy all the shares of the non-family members of his business partnership.

Robert Dunsmuir did not just work in the coal industry, he was also the man that helped the railway to be completed. On August 13, 1886, the “last spike” was driven in by the Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John A. MacDonald. “By September trains were running into Victoria along lines laid from Esquimalt across Indian lands Dunsmuir had managed to have expropriated for his use.” (1982, Daniel T. Gallacher, Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol 11)

Click here to learn about the Ghosts of the White House.

Dunsmuir’s wealth also came from real estate on Vancouver Island, an iron foundry, a theatre in Victoria, agricultural land, and mainland diking. He was a shrewd businessman for sure. In the deal, he made with the Federal Government, for the completion of the railway Dunsmuir was granted a subsidy of $750,000 in cash and two million acres of land.

The land grant came with “all coal, coal oil, ores, stones, clay, marble, slates, mines, minerals, and substances whatsoever in, on or under the lands so to be granted.” Dunsmuir received all foreshore rights for the lands, all mining privileges including the right to mine under adjacent seabeds and the retention of all coal and other minerals taken from the land. As the contractor of the railway, he was able to cut and use whatever timber was needed to build structures along the line. Part of the reason for the vast wealth that Robert Dunsmuir acquired was due to the fact that he employed large numbers of Oriental workers in his mining operations and paid them half of what he paid caucasian workers. He also paid all of his employees’ one-third less than his competitors paid their workers.

Upon Robert Dunsmuir death in 1889 brought strife to the family, for although he had made a promise to his sons he had not changed his will that left his entire estate and business holdings to his wife Joan.  The sons spent years convincing their mother to give them the title to the San Fransisco company and to then sell them the Wellington Colliery. When son Alex passed away six weeks after getting married another quarrel over a will began. This quarrel pitted Joan and her daughters against the remaining son, James. Imagine the ridiculousness of this wealthy family fighting over more money. Joan passed away in 1908 after not speaking to James for years. Joan had left Craigdarroch Castle and her estate to her remaining unwed daughters and her three orphaned grandchildren. It ceased to be a family home for the Dunsmuirs from that time forward.

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Joan Dunsmuir

The Ghost(s)

When we visited Craigdarroch Castle in late 2015 I asked an employee if the home was haunted. The lady responded that she had never seen a ghost there but when it comes to closing time and only a staff member or two were in the building it would feel very large, cold, and spooky. The lady stated that she does not like to be alone in the home. I could understand that completely as it is a grand home and it could take a few minutes to get to an exit.

Other people have reported seeing a woman dressed in a ball gown walking down the grand main staircase. It is assumed that this lady is Joan Dunsmuir.

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Craigdarroch Castle

People have also reported that they have seen a woman wearing a black dress. Again it has been assumed that this is Joan Dunsmuir. A young girl has been seen in the basement and is thought to be another member of the Dunsmuir family. I have also read that this young girl has been seen standing by a top floor window at the closing time of the castle.

Others have experienced sudden and intense changes in temperature and have smelt candle wax coming from the upstairs rooms. People have also heard piano music coming from the unoccupied main dining room. This has occurred even when a piano was not present in the castle.

Many people have reported feeling a definite drop in temperature while in the viewing area of Joan Dunsmuir’s bedroom.  Some have even felt that they were being pushed away from the area by an unseen force.

Whether you believe in the paranormal or not it is worth your time and money to visit and tour the Craigdarroch Castle when in Victoria, BC. The history alone makes the visit worthwhile. The battles among the family members over wealth just add to the allure. The Dunsmuir family was large and their stories are interesting. Take a look and maybe you will discover a lurking spirit, but at the very least you will get to see a beautifully elegant home and get to imagine how the Dunsmuir spent their time when there.

If you have been to the castle please let us know if you felt a presence or not. We are curious to hear your take on it. So…is Craigdarroch castle haunted? What are your thoughts?

Cheers,

The Other Half

 

 

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