Sarah Winchester (サラ・ウィンチェスター Sara Winchesutā), née Pardee, is the main protagonist of The Mysterious Mansion the Widow Continued to Build: Winchester Mystery House, the fifth chapter of The Lives of Eccentrics series.
She is a widow who amassed great wealth after the death of her husband, William Winchester. Believing that the ghosts of the soldiers killed by the rifles manufactured by her family's company were seeking to kill her, she used her wealth to construct the Winchester Mystery House, a maze-like mansion that was endlessly constructed for 39 years.
Sarah Winchester is a beautiful petite woman with long black hair, which she typically keeps tied up with a fringe at the front. While mourning the loss of her husband and family, Sarah is always seen in a predominantly black Victorian-style dress, accompanied by a dark hat, long white gloves, and various floral accessories. She also wears a black netted veil to hide her face from others.
Sarah's age changes significantly throughout the story, but her physical appearance remains the same. No photos of Sarah were allowed during the construction of the house, which could explain this discrepancy. Sarah was 22 years old when she married her husband, 27 years old when her daughter died, and 44 years old by the time construction had begun on the house. When the earthquake hit the house in 1906, Sarah was 67. Sarah would visibly age over time, as shown by the only known photograph of her, which was taken near her death at 88 years old.
During her youth, Sarah wore a light-colored dress adorned with pom-poms, which she presumably gave to her butler, James.
Sarah Winchester is a well-educated and happily married young woman who was loved by all those around her. However, after suffering numerous tragedies including the loss of her beloved husband, her one-month-old daughter, parents, and other family members, Sarah becomes stricken with grief and heartache. Despite her immense and growing wealth, Sarah was left all alone and with no tears left to cry.
As she neared ending her own life, Sarah met a fortune teller who convinced her that the spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles were cursing her and causing the deaths of her family. Following the fortune teller's instructions, she used her vast fortune to build an intricate mansion filled with hundreds of rooms, secret passageways, staircases that led to nowhere, and other architectural oddities that she designed herself. She believed that the confusing layout would confuse the spirits and make it harder for them to find her. Sarah also became obsessed with the number thirteen, which she believed was unlucky. As a result, she made sure that there were thirteen of everything in each room, from windows to steps to bathroom fixtures. As Sarah's paranoia grew worse, in an effort to protect herself, she switched places with her butler James so that she could hide and remain concealed within the house. James had devoted himself to Sarah and had been in love with her since her husband had died. However, Sarah was unable to reciprocate her feelings, in fear of losing him as well.
In her later years, Sarah expressed regret for following the fortune teller's instructions, saying that she had been tricked. The construction of the mansion could have also been a means for Sarah to cope and grieve with the isolation caused by the tragic deaths of her family. Sarah built several grandiose dance halls in the mansion, however, none of them were ever used. It's thought that she built them so that she could one day use them to dance with her family.
Sarah Pardee was born in 1839 to one of the wealthiest families in Connecticut. She fell in love and married William Winchester, the son of Oliver Winchester who owned the famous Winchester Repeating Arms Company. In 1866, Sarah gave birth to Annie Pardee Winchester. However, her daughter would pass away only a month after she was born. Sarah yearned for another child, only for her husband to pass way in 1881 due to tuberculosis. A year after her husbands death, his father Oliver Winchester would also die, leaving her as the owner of the company. Her parents followed soon after.
Winchester Mystery House
On the precipice of despair, Sarah was approached by a fortune teller in Boston, who warned her that vengeful spirits killed by her company's firearms were conspiring against her to keep her from meeting her loved ones in the afterlife. The fortune teller advised Sarah to buy a large maze-like house in the West and continuously build the manor if she wanted to keep the spirits that haunt her at bay. Sarah heeded the fortune teller's warnings and began constructing a seven-story mansion in San Jose, California, disregarding all conventions in order to make it as confusing and maze-like as possible. The mansion contained secret corridors, rooms within rooms, doors leading to nowhere and so on.
On April 18, 1906, Sarah is attacked by a vengeful spirit. She rushes to her phone to call the fortune teller for help, who reveals that an earthquake is imminent before being killed by another ghost. Soon after, a major earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 struck the city of San Francisco. As a result, Sarah herself is trapped in her bedroom for several hours, with furniture and collapsed wooden pillars blocking every escape route. Just as the ghostly hand catches up to her, the real Sarah comes out of the floor, revealing the other her to be a mere body double and pulling them to safety. In the secret passage, it is revealed that Sarah and her butler, James, have been switching places at night to confuse the spirits. The butler confesses his love for Sarah, but she rebukes him, unwilling to lose someone she loves again. The earthquake ultimately reduced the towering seven-story manor to four floors. After the San Francisco earthquake, Sarah established a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients with a donation of $1,200,000. Later in life, Sarah would regret building the manor, blaming the fortune teller for tricking her into wasting her money.
In 1922, after 39 years of continuously building her mansion and suffering from arthritis, Sarah Winchester died at the age of 82. With her passing, the mansion was finally complete. After her death, her estate went to her niece and a general hospital in Connecticut, and the family line was cut off. Sarah never allowed her photo to be taken during construction, and continued doing so for the rest of her life. The only existing photo of her was taken in secret towards the end of her life. The house would also become a tourist attraction, with guided tours starting every morning at 9:00am, with guests entering through the back entrance. In 1973, the Winchester Mystery House was designated as California Historical Landmark No. 868, and was listed as a National Historic Landmark in Washington, D.C. in the same year.
- “Not just the handprint, James… Destroy the entire room, all of it… The wine cellar, the walls, the ceiling…everything. Rebuild it all anew… Besides, I don't drink wine anyway.”
- “Everyone… Everyone is gone… There's no hope left for me. All that remains is emptiness within my heart… I can't bear it anymore… I've reached my limit… I'm so exhausted… I can't even cry anymore…”
- “I understand how you feel… It's been decades since I lost my husband, and I've harbored feelings for you for a long time… But it is a love that cannot be… If you were to catch even a glimpse of my face, you would never be allowed to return to this house…”
- The real Sarah Winchester moved to San Francisco at a doctor's suggestion to improve her rheumatoid arthritis. She originally planned to hire an architect to expand the farmhouse she bought in the area, but eventually decided to take on the task herself after dismissing two candidates. The house adopted its famous maze-like structure due to Sarah's perfectionism, as she often had parts of the house destroyed and rebuilt if they did not meet her expectations.
- Additionally, there is no evidence that Sarah was trapped in the Mystery House during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, as she had since bought several other houses in the California area.