Guns, Ghosts, and Guilt: The House That Sarah Built

Some people have occasional run-ins with spectral forces and lost souls, encounters that often fade as the sun rises. For some people, however, the ghosts never go away. This was the case for Sarah Winchester, which resulted in the colossal monument she built to appease the angry spirits that haunted her.

Sarah Winchester was a New England belle and married as such. Her husband was the heir to a fortune, but it was fortune coated with blood. His name was William Winchester, and his father, Oliver, had literally made a killing in the arms industry. Winchester rifles are as American as apple pie and genocide…and for Sarah, the blood trail didn’t just stop at her door.

Sarah lost everything except the money. Her daughter died in childhood, and her husband passed away from tuberculosis right after inheriting his father’s fortune. In her bereavement, she turned to mediums, people who claim to communicate with the departed. Through this process, she became convinced that she needed to build sacred spaces to house the angry spirits of all the souls whose lives were cut short by the weapons her father in-law had produced.

This would prove to be a lifelong adventure.


The house, which started as an almost humble abode, would end up as a giant, sprawling mansion. A house with doorless rooms, and roomless doors. Stairs that wound their ways like an M. C. Escher painting, and with the exception of a central “blue room”, where Sarah kept her Ouija board, no room that she would visit on any two consecutive days. And so, Sarah stayed and built for 38 years.

If the stories are true, the work went on around the clock. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 38 years.

All of this, just to house the angry ghosts.

So, if you find yourself in San Jose, California, go and check out the Winchester Mystery House.

And should you find yourself on a battlefield, anywhere, ask yourself…

How many rooms will I have to build to house these ghosts?

P.S. Sarah’s answer: 161 rooms, including 40 bedrooms, 2 ballrooms (one completed and one unfinished) as well as 47 fireplaces, over 10,000 panes of glass, 17 chimneys (with evidence of two others), two basements and three elevators. She ain’t afraid of no ghosts!


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