Sarah Winchester was married to William Wirt Winchester, owner of Winchester Repeating Arms Company. They had one child, a daughter named Annie Pardee Winchester. This child had a rare disease, called Marasmus, that didn't allow nutrients to be absorbed into the body. Sarah and William could only sit by and watch as their daughter starved to death. Not long after the infant died, William died from tuberculosis.
Shortly after that, Sarah moved to San Jose, California. As the window, she had inherited more than $20.5 million, and almost half of the rifle company. She earned $1,000 ($23,000 in today's money) a day from the company. There, she began building the Queen Victoria Style Mansion. She began building the house because a Boston medium supposedly channeled her late husband and said she should travel west and build a house for herself and the ghosts killed by the Winchester guns.
She did just that. She bought an unfinished farm house and had carpenters begin working. The mansion once stood seven stories high, but the 1906 earthquake brought it down to four. She never used an architect, and added to the house haphazardly. Because of this, there are doors that lead nowhere, windows looking down on other rooms, and even a staircase with seven flights and 44 two-inch high steps that lead up to the next floor (known as the Switchback Staircase).
Inside, there are 160 rooms (40 of which are bedrooms), 2 ballrooms (but only one was finished), 3 elevators, 47 fireplaces, 10,000 panes of glass, and 17 chimneys (though there is evidence of two more).
Sarah was never one to pay for cheep thingswhen the best was out there. Many of the stained glass was made by the Tiffany Company. Sarah was a gifted artist and made some windows herself, though there are some windows designed with Sarah in mind. Tiffany himself made a window that showed a prism effect when light shown through it,but it was put into an interior wall where no light fell on it, so the effect could not be seen. The Spider Web window was one window made by Sarah. It was never installed. It can be seen in the $25,000 storage room, so called bcause its contents were appraised to be worth $25,000 ($352,237 in today's money). The Spider Web window featured Sarah's favorite web design and the repetition of the number 13.
When Sarah died, her niece and secretary gainned all possessions the widow previously owned, excluding the house. Today, Winchester Investments LLC, owns the house.
The home still has touches, and some say the ghost,of Sarah Winchester. It is said that her need to ward off malevolent spirits was part of the reason for the house's layout. Also, you can find the number 13 everywhere. A chandelier inside the house originally had 12 candle holders but was fixed to hold 13, wall coat hooks are in multiples of 13, a spider web patterned window houses 13 jewels, and sink drains have 13 holes.
In honor of Sarah and her spiritual connection to the number, the current groundskeeper made a topiary in the shape of the number 13. Also, on Friday the 13th, a large bell on the property is rung 13 Tim's at 1300 hours (1 p.m).
This house was the inspiration for many people, including Stephen King, who used it as inspiration for Rose Red, a murderous house featured in the TV Movie of the same name. It was the inspiration for a house in the manga and anime, Ghost Hunt. Members of the Mythbusters visited the house and watched the "most frightening movie of all time" in one of the ballrooms. They later took their sweat samples in for study.
Here are some videos for your enjoyment.