Sarah Winchester seemed perfectly normal when she married rifle company heir William Winchester in 1862. However, after the death of her infant child in 1866 and William's death in 1881, well, things got a little strange.
The widow Winchester was so depressed and miserable that she sought the help of a "spiritual advisor" in Boston. The medium informed Sarah that her family deaths were caused by the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles. Additionally, in order to appease these spirits Sarah must move out West and build a mansion that would never be finished. As long as she kept building, the spiritualist told her, Sarah would continue living.
In 1884 Sarah left her New Haven, Connecticut home for San Jose, California. She settled in a small farm house, set up a seance room, and each night contacted "spirits" who directed the building of the mansion.
Twenty-four hours a day the Winchester troupe of builders worked in shifts, over nearly forty years. Among her odd requirements, Sarah wound up with a rambling maze of a home with stairways that led nowhere, over 2,000 cupboards (some of which were only 1" deep), doorways that opened onto nothing, and balconies with no access.
Sarah installed five separate central heating systems and strung miles of wire connecting strange "communication systems" that no one knew how to operate. She developed a fixation with the number 13, resulting in the construction of rooms with 13 windows each, 13 holes in her kitchen drain, 13 gaslights on her chandelier, and the like.
The mansion, still unfinished in 1922 when Sarah died at 83, is now a tourist attraction and museum which offers flashlight tours and "ghost sightings". The weird and wonderful Winchester mansion stopped growing at 160 rooms, 6 kitchens, 40 bedrooms, 3 elevators, 17 chimneys, 10,000 windows, and 467 doors.