Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Mystery- Winchester Mystery House

What causes a mystery? What makes people do what they do? 

One mystery that has kept me guessing for years is the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA. Growing up, my family made yearly trips to visit relatives in the San Jose area. On one such visit we took the tour at the Winchester Mystery House.  Ever since that trip I’ve wondered bout the woman who had such a passion to build the structure. What drove her to do what she did and what wonderful stories could be woven into each oddity in the house.

Winchester Mystery House is a 160 room Victorian Mansion designed and which became and infatuation in 1884 for Sarah L. Winchester the widow of the son of the Winchester Rifle manufacturer.  After the deaths of her daughter and husband she used her $20 million inheritance to build on the mansion for the remaining 38 years of her life.

Her quest to add on to the house came from the medium she sought after the deaths of her family. The medium told her to build continuously to appease the evil spirits who were angry over the deaths the Winchester family had caused by making the famous “Gun that won the west”.  And build Sarah did. She kept carpenters working twenty-four hours a day until her death at the age of 82.

The mystery behind the building was due to the oddities she had built. A window was built into the floor, stairs that lead to nowhere, a four story chimney that stops 1 ½ feet from the ceiling, and doors that open into walls.

What could each of these mean? How could they be used in a mystery? Perhaps the window in the floor was to spy on people below or allow a disfigured member of the family to view the going’s on. Stairs that lead no where perhaps were to get to a vantage point to peer out a window. A chimney may have been built to hide a dead body.

If you were reading or writing a mystery, what would a door with a wall behind it conjure in your mind?

6 comments:

Shelley Munro said...

This sounds like a fascinating place to visit. My mind went straight to dead bodies, but there could be trapped demons or a pot of gold. Definitely a good place for a writer to visit. Thanks for sharing.

Gabriella Hewitt said...

What a very cool post! I've never heard of this house. You're right. It does sound like the kind of place that can lead to all kinds of ideas for a mystery novel. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Itoo have visited Wincester Mansion when I was only 14 with my gramps.. it was so amazing to me and seemed a bit unreal... and I imagined and had dreams about it for years after. At that time I had no aspirations of being a writer, but as a young teenager it was scary...
Becca

Wyeth Bailey said...

I visited as the type-A adult I am, and wandering through narrowing staircases to nowhere, around jagged corners, through cubist rooms, I felt as if I were fighting my way through her tormented mind. It was claustrophobic. I worried about breathing. I worried about getting out. Architecture is emotional. The Winchester house is neurotic and quite paranoid.

Paty Jager said...

Wyeth, I love your impression of the house!

Julianne said...

I'm with Shelly,I thought very much along the lines of dead bodies. Too much Poe, I guess. :) I love to visit this house sometimes. Most importantly I'd like to know Sarah Winchester's reasons for building it the way sh did.