(part Four of five)
Humanity has a notoriously nasty habit of glossing over the bad things that might upset them when concerning heroic historic figures. We seem to forget that they were human and had as many faults as they did graces. Every grade school kid learns how Benjamin Franklin is one of America’s early founders and left a legacy of wisdom and innovate invention that changed the country for the better but don’t know he was also a crusty old lecher riddled with sexual disease. In 1492 Columbus may have sailed the ocean blue but he also systematically wiped out the natives in search for gold. Let’s take a look at some other well known figures who were less than stellar human beings:
4. The Boston Medium
It’s weird to think that something good can come from something inherently bad but that is exactly the case with the Winchester Mystery House; one of the greatest, and strangest, architectural marvels on the western coast of the U.S. The story of the Winchester Mansion is proof that truth is stranger than fiction.
Sarah Winchester was the widowed heiress of the Winchester fortune; you know, the gun that won the west? Sarah grew up in a normal, if well off, family in New Haven, Connecticut and married William Wirt Winchester (say that ten times fast) in 1862. A normal life was not meant to be alas; her infant died soon after childbirth and soon after that depressing turn of events she lost her husband as well to tuberculosis.
Normally when tragedy of that magnitude strikes you go on with life the best you can and try to fill the rest of your days with charity or gardening or taxidermy. However, add twenty million dollars to your tragic loss and your grief takes an interesting turn. Understandably Sarah felt as though she suffered under a curse and turned to a popular pastime of the Victorian Era – spiritualism. In the early 1880’s she spent most of her time traveling the country, occasionally seeking out council and comfort from various spiritualists who were both swindlers and people who genuinely believed they communed with the dead.
This is how Sarah Winchester met the ‘Boston Medium’ and began the building of the Winchester Mansion.
Very little is known about who the Boston Medium was; man or women, charlatan, thief or genuine crack pot, but in a single session this person managed to pull the mindfuck of all mindfucks and tell the already imbalanced Mrs. Winchester that yes indeed her family was cursed. Haunted by the spirits slain by the rifle that made her fortune she must build. She must build a building and never stop for if the hammers ever cease the angry spirits that killed her family will come for her and drag her to her death.
Can you imagine the impact such a statement would have on an already unbalanced, grieving widow? Add in almost unlimited money and you get nearly forty years of round the clock carpentry crazy times.
Either no one tried to reason with Mrs. Winchester, she was too far gone to listen, or maybe you just don’t tell rich people that they are batshit crazy because for the rest of her life she believed that spirits were out to get her and it was reflected in the mansion she built.
The Winchester Mansion was originally a large eight room farm house that by the time of Mrs. Winchesters death, swelled to an epic seven story, one hundred and sixty room mansion.
One wing of rooms would be completed, then would be torn down to be built again and again and again. There were an estimated six hundred rooms that had been built and rebuilt.
There are staircases to nowhere, corridors that end in walls, doors that open into empty space and don’t forget Mrs. Winchesters favorite number, thirteen.
Every window has thirteen panes, there are 13 bathrooms, the chandeliers have 13 candle holders, ect. ect.
The mistress of the Winchester Mansion reportedly spent her days overseeing the building of the house and trying to keep ahead of the ‘spirits’ who wanted her dead. Every night she would sleep in a different room, which ironically almost killed her when the 1906 earthquake destroyed San Francisco and damaged the house that is situated in modern day San Jose. Since nobody knew where she was at any given point it took hours for servants to find her and when they did she was trapped in one of the rooms that had been damaged in the quake.
It was said that she didn’t want anybody to see her face and wore a veil, firing any of the servants whom she believed caught a glimpse.
For a woman who was supposedly cursed she lived a very long and rich life, if you discount the living every moment in fear that something is out to get you. Sarah Winchester died in September, 1922 in her sleep at the old age of 83.
Her will generously gifted friends, family and servants with money - partitioned into thirteen sections, signed thirteen times. Perhaps it could be argued that if it wasn’t the Boston Medium that set her forth on this strange architectural vocation it would have been something else; maybe she would have been one of those little old ladies who had two hundred cats and would have willed her fortune to them. Who knows? However, you can’t deny that whoever the Boston Medium was it takes a special kind of malicious bastardry to willfully and knowingly delude the mentally frail.
http://www.winchestermysteryhouse.com/sarahwinchester.cfm (Official website for Winchester Mansion. Sarah Winchester’s crazy times building a house 24 hours a day for 37 years.)
http://www.skepticblog.org/2009/12/12/a-room-with-no-view/ (‘Boston Medium’ may be Adam Coons or Adam Coombs or possibly a husband/wife carnie team. Either way, this psychic told an unbalanced woman that the ghosts of the victims of the Winchester rifle would stalk and kill her if she didn’t build this home)
http://www.obit-mag.com/articles/build-or-die-the-story-of-sarah-winchester (‘Build or Die’ Estimated 600 or more rooms had been built, torn down and rebuilt over Sarah Winchester’s life at Winchester Mansion.)