Monday, 29 August 2011

Mister Rhys Mystery, Case #8: Winchester Mystery House

Unfortunately, this post does not take place in Hampshire. I would love to write a piece entirely devoted the town that once housed the UK's fattest teenager, but, in effect, there is absolutely nothing to say about Winchester. If anything, the real mystery is this: when will something happen, and why is everyone so old? (I realise that this is two mysteries). But someone greater than me will have to answer that. Which means it will never be answered!


No, this post is about the American Winchester, which is not a place but a surname. And a gun (named after the surname). This is a Winchester Repeater Rifle:

You will be familiar with it if you have no life. Well this gun was invented by a Mr Lieutenant Governor Winchester, whose son married a woman, if you can imagine, and she was called Sarah Winchester (post marriage, obviously). I won't bother telling you her husband's name because he only goes and dies right at the beginning of the story. Actually, before that, their baby daughter dies too. I promise that this is the darkest, saddest part of the story, if you don't count ghost legions and mental illness.

[This all happened many years ago by-the-by, so please do not request 'sources' or 'fact-checking'; everyone involved is dead and you can't prove anything.]

Well, after her family all died, Sarah Winchester did a bit of a Cherie, and took some advice from a spiritualist who 'helped her realise' that the Winchester family fortune was being haunted by the souls of all those who had been killed by Winchester Repeater Rifles, which was about three quarters of the world's population, ever. The haunting looked like this:

But with less Aragorn and many more Red Indians. These days, Red Indians are called Native Americans and they are not ghosts.

Well, Sarah decides that she doesn't want this haunted fortune, and that she must spend all of the money on a worthwhile project. Her spiritual advisor, and possibly some angels, told her that she should build a house! In California! It is very sad indeed that they told her to build the house in sunny California, rather than, say, Hampshire - very sad indeed!

Anyway, so she built this house, in California, and she did a good job and paid her builders very well for it. When she was finished, her fortune still felt pretty haunted so, she thought, best keep on building! So she added some extensions to the side. And then to the top. And then about five more times to the top. What had been an eight-room house (which... is a fair amount of rooms for one old widow), turned into a seven story mansion! And that took about 25 years all in, most of her adult life.

The interesting things about the house, other than Sarah's bizarre compulsion to build and build and build on it, is that the house made very little architectural sense. Staircases would lead to the ceiling, doors opened out into brick walls, there were no mirrors in the whole house, there's a Hall of Fires and a Seance Room! What on earth was she building? And why?

Well the obvious answer is that she was a distraught widow, trying to cope with a kind of Survivor's Guilt by trying to spend away all of the money she'd married in to, desperately hoping to buy back the lives of her father and child.


It's ghosts, isn't it? She was building them a place to live. Those doorways covered in brick? No trouble for a ghost! Same with the stairways leading into ceilings. Lack of mirrors? That's a ghost thing. Or is that vampires? Both? And the Seance Room and Hall of Fires speak for themselves! That's just the ghostly, olden-days equivalent of, respectively, a conference room and, um, a hall of fires. They made her do it, clearly, and they'll make you do it too, if you get rich. Never. Get. Rich.


No comments:

Post a Comment