The Winchester Rifle was invented by Oliver Winchester in 1866. Oliver pioneered a “spring-closed loading port on the right-hand side of the frame” which resulted in a rifle that could reliably fire several shots without having to reload.
It was commonly known as the “repeating rifle” as well as historically known as “the gun that won the West.”
While the rifle’s invention itself is interesting, far more fascinating is the story of Sarah Winchester. Sarah married William Winchester, the son of Oliver who followed in his father’s footsteps and manufactured the rifle.
Sarah & William had a daughter, Annie, who died of a mysterious illness in infancy. William also died prematurely of tuberculosis. Distraught by her loss and riddled with grief, Sarah sought guidance from a Spiritualist in Boston.
The Spiritualist told Sarah that she and her family were being haunted by the spirits of the dead who had been killed by the rifle. The spiritualist told Sarah that the deaths of her beloved Annie & William were because of malicious spirits seeking revenge…and that she was next!
The Spiritualist proposed a solution-to build a grand house as tribute to the dead and to never cease construction on it or the spirits would get her.
Sarah took the Spiritualist’s advice to heart. She bought a house and land in Santa Clara Valley, California and began the 38 year construction of her home. When she died in 1922, her mansion had grown to “160 rooms, 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, 47 stairways, 47 fireplaces, 13 bathrooms, and 6 kitchens.”
It is quite a sight to see-with staircases leading nowhere and windows built into the floor.
You can visit her mansion today, which I highly recommend. I had the opportunity to tour it and it is a marvelous wonder. One of my favorite details is the green/sustainable ways the house’s guttering system reuses and recycles water. The gutter will water the myriad of plants under windows and around the exterior of the mansion.
There is also an abundance of Tiffany & Co. stained glass windows-each one more breathtaking than the last.
What struck me most about the Winchester Mansion was what they found inside the safe after Sarah’s death. And if you want to know what it was, you’ll just have to take the tour yourself!
The Winchester Mystery House website (where you can learn more & plan your visit)