Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ghosts of the Winchester Mystery House

Last month when I talked about séances in the Old West, I told y'all I would blog about the Winchester Mansion this month. Well, I have since been reminded that fellow Sweetheart Paisley Kirkpatrick wrote about the history of the famous haunted mansion back in 2011.

After reading Paisley's post, I decided there was no point in trying to match her splendid work. Instead, I'll share a few anecdotes about the mansion and its eccentric owner gleaned from Earl Murray's book, Ghosts Of The Old West. Available on Amazon, new in paperback or used in hard cover, this gem is a fun read you might want to pick up if you are intrigued by "Desert Spirits, Haunted Cabins, Lost Trail, and Other Strange Encounters" -- quoting the subtitle.

Winchestery Mystery House; photo by Jim Heaphy; Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

In his chapter "The Legacy of Winchester Mansion," Mr. Murray mentions Sarah Winchester's quirky home included many up-to-the-minute features such as modern heating and sewer systems, button-operated gas lights, three working elevators, fireplaces with hinged drops for ashes and concealed firewood boxes. Wool was used for insulation, a pioneering development, and Sarah fashioned a window catch based on the Winchester rifle trigger and trip-hammer design.

Sarah Winchester ca. 1865; public domain

The inventive lady even had a tiltable floor installed to get rid of water dumped on the floor (why it was dumped, Murray doesn't say). The water sluiced out a trap door onto her garden below. Sounds like she was quite an architect!

In the garden stood a statue of an Indian who Sarah named Chief Little Fawn. He could fire arrows at supposed enemies -- ghosts -- hiding in the shrubbery, and she hoped he might help her atone for all the Indians killed by the famous Winchester repeating rifle.

Chief Little Fawn; photo by Jesse Means;
Sarah spent much of her time in the Grand Ballroom, where she often played her rosewood grand piano through the night, or switched to a huge organ on the opposite side of the room. Why? Because she wanted to entertain the spirits who she believed were ever present. Since she suffered from severe arthritis in her later years, it was rumored someone else must be playing through her fingers.

Earl Murray offers other tidbits about Sarah's life in the mansion, but I'll skip ahead now to more recent times and relate some eerie happenings in the Winchester Mansion.

On Halloween night in 1975, Jeanne Borgan, a psychic from northern California, and a group of other people held a séance in the bedroom where Sarah Winchester died. Borgan, who had reportedly seen ghostly apparitions in the house before, said on that night the air grew cold and clammy in the death room and everyone present began to visibly age. Like all of them, Borgan's hair turned gray and deep lines creased her face. She fell to the floor, unable to move. The others carried her outside, where she quickly recovered.

Quoting from Murray's book, "The other people who were there with me saw it all," she said. "I didn't remember anything, just the sudden buildup of energy within myself and then feeling some kind of strange takeover. Mrs. Winchester was a powerful person."

Psychic Sylvia Brown and four other people once spent a night in the mansion. Brown recorded organ music only she could hear. Walking through the house, the group saw lights with no source and felt many cold spots. Exploding red balls of light were witnessed in the death bedroom.

Another woman lost her sight while touring the mansion. When her husband tried to lead her out, he couldn't find an exit. Finally, a tour guide led them outside, where the woman was soon able to see again.

There have been many more strange occurrences witnessed by tour guides and employees who spend a lot of time in the mansion. One stands out. An office manager named Sue guided a tour group through one of the kitchens. Seated at the kitchen table, a small woman in a long dress and bonnet nodded to the group. They nodded back and smiled.

Later, Sue asked her supervisor who the woman was that they'd hired to look like Sarah Winchester. The supervisor didn't know what she was talking about. They hadn't hired anyone to impersonate the dead woman. When the two checked the kitchen, they found only a chair pulled out from the table.

Such is the ghostly legacy of Sarah and her peculiar, sometimes spine-chilling home. 


  1. Love ghost stories and mysterious happenings, Lyn. Great post!

  2. What a bizarre story. I am one of the skeptics in all things paranormal and ghostly. I know you do, and so do many others.
    Sarah Winchester was a lovely lady, wasn't she?
    It's easy to visualize her roaming about in the enormous mansion entertaining herself. The slanted floor has me puzzled..I wonder if anyone learned to source of the water.
    Good for you checking the back posts to see if any one had written about her and the mansion. Often, even if someone else has, any topic can be made unique--such as you did with this information.
    And it was good of you to give Paisley credit for the first post.
    Great stuff, Lyn!

    1. Celia, I don't necessarily believe in ghosts either, never having met one myself, but it's fun to speculate that they might exist. Yes, Sarah was lovely but she was led down a twisted path that played upon her depression over losing her only child and later her husband. She was a pathetic person in some ways but, oh my, she certainly had a wonderful imagination.

      Thank you for stopping by and for your kind words.

  3. I just want to say I think Sarah was an intelligent woman, but a bit of a nut-job playing music for the spirits and all. She had some very weird ideas about ghosts and such. I don't believe in ghosts, but I love stories about them.
    This was such an interesting blog I was finished before I was ready for it to end. Hey, maybe the tilt-a-floor was the laundry room. Just a thought.
    Great blog, Lyn!

    1. LOL I love ghost stories too, Sarah, whether they actually exist or not. I'm glad you enjoyed my post. You could be right about the tilted floor being in the laundry room. Good thought!

  4. Entertaining post, Lyn. Since I've only been here since last year, I have checked to see if certain topics have been written before. However, even if they have been, we can always add to it as you have done. Sweethearts certainly mounted up a lot of interesting and informative posts over the years.

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    1. Thanks, Cheri. You're wise to check older posts. There has been so much great info about the Old West shared here over the years. and you're right, there always seems to be more to say about any given subjest.


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