After reading Unique Commercial Architecture on National Commercial Painting‘s blog, it reminded me of one of my favorite architectural phenomenons: The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California.
The house was built by Sarah Winchester, widow of William Wirt Winchester who was the treasurer of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. After the death of her husband and child, and then awakening from a rather serious coma, Sarah believed that her life was being haunted or cursed by those who were killed by the Winchester rifle. She consulted a medium for clarity, and during the seance received a message from her late husband telling her she must build a house that is never finished in order to live. The idea behind this was that a ghost could not haunt an unfinished house.
Sarah did as she was told, left her home in New Haven, and moved to an unfinished farm house in San Jose that would become one of the largest and most interesting homes in the country.
Some believe that Sarah built what the spirits told her to build, and others that she was trying to confuse them. There were doors and stairways that went nowhere. You had to watch your step, for walking through one door on the second floor would cause you to plummet to the kitchen on the first. She was obsessed with the number 13. Thirteen steps, 13 holes in the sink, 13 hooks for coats, etc. They have counted 160 rooms, though it is difficult to know for sure.
Construction continued around the clock for 38 years, until Sarah’s death in 1922. She died in her sleep of heart failure at 83. To this day the house is a tourist attraction, and believed to have been the inspiration behind Stephen King’s Rose Red.