Thursday, February 9, 2017

Winchester Mystery Rumor

The Winchester Mystery House is the spookiest old mansion in the country. 

If you're not familiar with the Winchester Mystery House, it has a spooky history.  It's a 161-room mansion built by Sarah Winchester, who inherited much of the Winchester Repeating Arms fortune.  She was a strong believer in spiritualism and was convinced by a medium that the ghosts of everyonekilled by Winchester rifles were out to get her.

The medium, who was married to a contractor, convinced Mrs. Winchester that the only way to evade their revenge was to build a house and keep adding on to it, and so she built like mad.  She didn't care what the house looked like and had her team of contractors build stairways that went nowhere, rooms without floors, windows blocked by other walls, and doors that opened up to open air. So she continued to build rooms on to the house until the day she died. 

Her story is a warning to people to not trust psychics.  It's a reminder that hucksters will take advantage of the credulous.  It's a sad tale about the treatment of the mentally ill.

It's also complete bullshit.

I recently went on the Winchester Mystery House tour and they took us to something called The Seance Room.  It was a room with secret doors she used to sneak away from pursuing ghosts.  While our guide showed us how she could sneak out through a hidden window, I asked how we knew the story about the medium was true.  Was there any documentation?

How do you know she was crazy? Count the coat hooks!
No, seriously, that's their evidence.
"It's not written anywhere," he said.  "It's a rumor."

I was floored.  The great, compelling story I'd been fascinated by, with all its curses and ghosts, was a fable created by newspapermen to generate sales.

The truth is, she just liked making rooms.
Yeah, but fun.
At first, she had an architect, but he quit after working with her on just one room (probably because she insisted on adding another candle to a chandelier so it had 13 candles, her favorite number).  After he left, she became her own architect, sketching what she wanted on a piece of paper and handing it to the workers.

The workers, meanwhile, were paid and treated very well.  She even installed extravagances (such as indoor plumbing, heating, and toilets) to make their lives easier.

In the end, it seems she used her wealth not in a terrified quest to avoid evil but in the eccentric fulfillment of what gave her joy.  She built for fun.

From the looks of it, she had more fun than anyone else.

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