The Lives of Eccentrics - Episode 5
The Mysterious Mansion the Widow Continued to Build: Winchester Mystery House (未亡人が増築しつづけた謎の館『ウィンチェスター・ミステリー・ハウス』, Mibōjin ga Zōchiku-shitsuzuketa Nazo no Yakata "Winchesutā Misuterī Hausu"), simply titled Winchester Mystery House (ウィンチェスター・ミステリー・ハウス, Winchesutā Misuterī Hausu) in its original serialization, is the fifth episode of The Lives of Eccentrics series, written and illustrated by Hirohiko Araki. It was originally published in Ultra Jump on July 19, 2003. In the volumization, this chapter serves as the fourth chapter of the series.
On April 18, 1906, a major earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 struck the city of San Francisco. As a result, Sarah Winchester was trapped in her bedroom for several hours, with furniture and collapsed wooden pillars blocking every escape route. The house that she lived in was a huge mansion with complex maze-like rooms, so even if she called for help, no one would have been able to hear her.
The house had been under constant construction for the past 22 years. From midday to midnight, the sound of hammering could be heard from the house. The owner of the house was Sarah Winchester, the widow of William Wirt Winchester of the famous Winchester Repeating Arms Company. As heiress to the company after the death of William's father Oliver, she inherited her husband's family fortune and used it to construct the house.
Sarah Winchester, born Sarah Pardee, was raised by one of the wealthiest families in Connecticut. Both beautiful and well-educated, she was loved by everyone and had a happy marriage with William. But her happiness would be short-lived: she would soon lose her newborn daughter Annie, her husband and his father, and finally her parents, one after another. 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 in the American Civil War 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.
One night, Sarah is attacked by a spectral hand in a bag of refuse. As she prepares to go to bed, she smells something and looks out the window, only to be attacked by the vengeful spirit. The hand grabs her hair, forcing her to open the window and use a razor to escape its grip. However, this both allows the spirit into the house and grants it a weapon. Sarah baits the spirit into a wall hidden behind a door and seemingly manages to crush it. She rushes to her phone to call the fortune teller, who reveals that an earthquake is imminent before he is killed by another ghost. The earthquake begins and destroys part of the house, burying Sarah in rubble just as the ghostly hand catches up to her. At the last moment, the real Sarah Winchester 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 vengeful 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. Later in life, Sarah would regret building the manor, blaming the fortune teller for tricking her into wasting her money. She never opened the dance floors she had built in her house, perhaps due to a desire to dance with her family in those halls in the afterlife. 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.
- 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.
- The version of the story behind the Winchester Mystery House depicted in The Lives of Eccentrics likely originated from author Susy Smith's 1967 book Prominent American Ghosts, though parts of the story had begun as rumors dating back to when Sarah was alive.
- Sarah Winchester on Wikipedia
- Winchester Mystery House on Wikipedia
- Winchester Mystery House official website