Sarah Winchester was a wealthy woman because she married William Winchester, the maker of the “gun that won the West.” Sadly, both her husband and young daughter died in quick succession, and Sarah was told that the souls of murdered people were responsible for her loss.
But that’s not even the weird part….
William Winchester changed America (and a big part of the world) with his technological breakthrough known as the “repeating rifle.” Now that men had access to a gun that could fire faster than any other weapon in human history, they were free to wreak havoc on one another…and that’s just what they did. The gun was used by members of the US Army, but it was also used by bandits, murderers, cattle rustlers, hostile tribes of Native Americans, and many others bent on destruction.
By the time Sarah lost her husband Will and their daughter Annie, thousands and thousands of others had already died at the “business end” of the Winchester Rifle. Sarah, a resident of New Haven, CT, turned to “spiritualists” for answers to her suffering, and the fortunetellers of the day told her that she was being tormented by the souls of those who were killed by the (in)famous Winchester gun.
If Sarah ever wanted peace from the ghosts that disturbed her during the night, the spiritualists said, she would have to buy a new home as far from New Haven as possible…and remodel it often so that the evil spirits would stay confused and be unable to torment her. The mediums told her, “As long as you keep building your home, you will never face death.”
So, in 1884, Sarah moved across the country and bought a nine-bedroom house in San Jose, CA. Almost immediately, she began reconstruction projects using 20-30 carpenters, masons, and builders who labored 24 hours per day, every single day of the year. For more than three decades, the construction was unceasing. She added a mind-blowing 750 rooms to her mansion, but tore them down as quickly as they were built, so that her net gain of indoor space was “only” 160 rooms.
But since her “building plans” came from conversations with friendly ghosts during after-hour séances, the architecture was a bit strange. For instance, some of the chimneys were fake, having no flues. Many of the staircases led nowhere. Some of the home’s doors were 8’ tall while those just a few steps away were only 5’ tall. Some of the indoor windows were lockable while some windows leading outside weren’t.
When Sarah joined the spirits in 1922, she had spent a total of $5,000,000 (at a time when workmen earned 50 cents per day) in renovations. The messed-up mansion had roughly 160 rooms, 13 bathrooms, 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows…and there were enough building supplies on hand to carry on the construction for another 80 years!
Today, the “house” is a tourist attraction. It’s an unusual testament to the fear of death that holds millions of people in bondage. But based on Hebrews 2:14-15, there is no need to fear death.
By his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
Jesus would have been a much better choice for Sarah Winchester.
The Magnificent Builders and Their Dream Homes by Joseph J Thorndike, Jr. American Heritage Publishing CO., 1978, Pages 176-179.
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(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)