Sarah L. Winchester (September 1839 – September 5, 1922), was the wife of William Wirt Winchester and heiress to his estate and a 50% holding in the Winchester Repeating Arms Company following his death from tuberculosis in 1881. Convinced spirits would kill her if she completed construction of her California home, Sarah used her fortune to continue uninterrupted, round-the-clock construction on it for 38 consecutive years. Since her death, the sprawling Winchester Mystery House has become a popular tourist attraction, known for its many staircases and corridors leading nowhere.


She was born in Connecticut in 1839 as Sarah Lockwood Pardee, a daughter of Leonard Pardee and his wife Sarah W. Burns.[1] On September 30, 1862 in New Haven, Connecticut, Sarah married William Wirt Winchester, the only son of Oliver Winchester, the owner of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The couple had one daughter, Annie Pardee Winchester, who was born on July 12, 1866, but died after a few weeks from the childhood disease marasmus. Sarah fell into a deep depression following the death of her daughter, and the couple had no more children. Oliver Winchester died in 1880, quickly followed in March 1881 by William, who died of tuberculosis, giving Sarah approximately 50 percent ownership in the Winchester company and an income of $1,000 a day. (This amount is roughly equivalent to $22,000 a day in 2008.)

According to the legends surrounding her, she felt that her family was cursed, and sought out spiritualists to determine what she should do. A Boston medium, believed to be a psychic, allegedly told her that the Winchester family was cursed by the spirits of all the people who had been killed by the Winchester rifle, and she should move west to build a house for herself and the spirits. The medium is claimed to have told Sarah that if construction on the house ever stopped, she would die. In 1884, Sarah moved west to California and purchased an eight-room farmhouse under construction from Dr. Robert Caldwell. It stood on Template:Convert of land in what is now San Jose, California. Immediately, she began spending her $20 million inheritance by renovating and adding more rooms to the house, with work continuing 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year for the next 38 years. She was fascinated with the number 13 and worked the number into the house in many places. (There are thirteen bathrooms, windows have thirteen panes, thirteen chandeliers, and so forth.)

File:Winchester House 910px.jpg

After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Sarah was trapped in her bedroom for several hours. However, when she got out, she told the construction crews to stop working on the nearly completed front part of the house and had her carpenters board it up, leaving most of the extensive earthquake damage unrepaired. Again according to the legends, she thought the spirits were angry with her because she was spending too much time decorating and working on the front rooms. Construction resumed on new additions and remodeling the other parts of the structure.

Due to constant construction and the lack of a master plan, the house became very large and quite complex; many of the serving staff needed a map to navigate the house. The house also features doors that open into walls, staircases that lead nowhere, the recurring number thirteen, and windows that look into other walls. There are two theories as to why Mrs. Winchester built such an unusual house. The first is by far the most popular and states that she built the house to confuse the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles. The second, much less popular, is that while Mrs. Winchester was an exceedingly wealthy woman and could build her house any way she wanted, she had no architectural training at all, so some of the oddities could be simple design error. The Winchester Mystery House is a National Historic Landmark, a San Jose CA historic landmark, and California historic landmark number 868.

In the 1920s Sarah also maintained a houseboat on San Francisco Bay at Burlingame, California, which became known as "Sarah's Ark" as it was reputedly kept there as insurance against her fear of a second great flood, such as the Biblical one experienced by Noah and his family, but a more mundane answer is that many people of her social standing in California at that time had house boats or yachts. The "Ark" was located near the eucalyptus grove at Winchester Drive, south of what was to become the intersection of Anza Drive and Hwy 101. The ark was destroyed by fire in 1929.[2]


Construction stopped on the Winchester Mystery House when, on September 5, 1922, Sarah died in her sleep of heart failure at the age of 83{[3] Template:Citation needed. She was buried next to her husband and infant child in Evergreen Cemetery, New Haven, Connecticut. Sarah Winchester left a will written in 13 sections, which she signed thirteen times.[4] The belongings in Winchester Mystery House were left to her niece, Mrs. Frances Marriot, who took what she wanted and auctioned the rest off. It took movers eight truckloads a day for six and a half weeks to empty the entire house of furniture.[5] They did not mention the former home of the furniture at the auction, which makes it impossible to track down today. The home was then auctioned to the highest bidder who then turned it into an attraction for the public; the first tourists walked through the house in February 1923, 5 months after Sarah died.[6]


  • The Santa Clara-Los Gatos Boulevard in front of the house was later renamed Winchester Boulevard, after Sarah's House. Today, the house is open to the public every day except for Christmas. Tours are conducted of both the house and the grounds on those days.

  • Mrs. Winchester was the subject of a 2011 song of the same name, by Mathew Baynton, under his solo project Dog Ears.[7]

  • The song "A Certain Euphoria" from the album "The Loved One" by Strange Boutique, the group which Monica Richards from Faith and the Muse was a part of before beginning the latter project, is based on the legends of Mrs. Winchester.


  1. She had six siblings: Sarah E. Pardee, who died as an infant; Mary A. Pardee, who married William Converse; Antoinette E. Pardee; Leonard M. Pardee; Isabelle C. Pardee, who married Lewis Merriman; and Estelle L. Pardee.
  2. Burlingame Centennial 1908-2008, Joanne Garrison ISBN 978-0-615-17894-3
  3. Template:Cite web
  4. Template:Cite web
  5. Template:Cite web
  7. [1]. Dog Ears Bandcamp Page- 'Mrs Winchester'. Retrieved 18 December 2011.
  • New York Times; June 12, 1918, Monday; Winchester's Widow Dying.
  • New York Times; May 31, 1970, Sunday; San Jose, California. A stairway that leads nowhere, a window that opens to reveal only a wall, a doorway that leads to nothing. These are parts of a disjointed, 160 room Victorian mansion that Mrs. Sarah Winchester built on the northern outskirts of San Jose after the sudden loss of both her husband, the son of Oliver Fisher Winchester, the rifle magnate, and her daughter. After her daughter's death Sarah Winchester never tried to have kids again. Also after the death of her husband William Winchester, Sarah never married again.

External linksEdit

Template:Persondataeo:Sarah Winchester it:Sarah Pardee Winchester pl:Sarah Lockwood Winchester pt:Sarah Winchester

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