The story of the Winchester Mystery House centers around Sarah Winchester, the heir to the Winchester empire. As a result of her husband’s death in 1881, Sarah inherited over $20 million dollars, an incredible sum, especially in those days. She also received nearly 50% of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company and an income of about $1000 per day, which was not taxable until 1913.
Her wealth, however, could do nothing to ease her pain from the loss of her husband and her only child who died in infancy. Seeking guidance from a spiritualist medium, Sarah was informed that there was a curse on her family “… that has resulted from the terrible weapon created by the Winchester family. Thousands of persons have died because of it and their spirits are now seeking vengeance.”
If You Build It …
Sarah was advised to sell her property in New Haven and head towards the setting sun. “You must start a new life,” said the medium, “and build a home for yourself and for the spirits who have fallen from this terrible weapon too. You can never stop building the house. If you continue building, you will live. Stop and you will die.”
Believing that she was guided by the hand of her dead husband, Sarah moved to the Santa Clara Valley in California in 1884. She purchased a home that was under construction from a local physician and tossed away any previous plans for the house. For the next 36 years, she kept 22 carpenters at work, year around, 24 hours each day, building as inspiration came to her. The sounds of hammers and saws sounded throughout the day and night.
The results were chaotic, a veritable labyrinth, but also include many architectural oddities. Sarah also built into the design elaborate spying features by which she could spy on her servants.
What was most impressive to us was the mansion’s dazzling art glass windows. Many were made to order in Austria and imported by Tiffany’s of New York. They are spectacularly designed, utilizing both concave and convex glass “frames” inset with glittering “jewels.” Mrs. Winchester herself designed the special daisy and spiderweb patterns that are embedded in many of the window.
In the Grand Ballroom are the two leaded stained glass windows, each inscribed with a quote from Shakespeare. The first, “Wide unclasp the table of their thoughts,” is from Troilus and Cressida (IV:5:60). The lines are spoken by Ulysses, and refer to Cressida’s sometimes flirting nature. The second, “These same thoughts people this little world,” is from Richard II (V:5:9). The imprisoned Richard means that his thoughts people the small world of his confinement.
Today, the house has been declared a California Historical Landmark and is registered with the National Park Service as “a large, odd dwelling with an unknown number of rooms.”
My little man is surrounded by avid outdoorsmen. His grandfather, uncles, and many cousins all hunt. Though my husband and I are not hunters ourselves, he has been around guns his entire life. He loves talking about guns and likely knows as much about guns as he does aeronautics or Legos. He absolutely LOVED our visit to the Winchester Mystery House.
The State of California requires all first time resident hunters, regardless of age, to complete hunter education training or pass a comprehensive equivalency test before purchasing a hunting license. Though a license is not required to simply accompany a hunter (unless you yourself are carrying) and his papa is adament about gun safety, his intense interest proved it was time he enrolled. He wants to go hunting with Papa. I want him knowledgeable and aware so he can be safe.
The Hunter Education course in which he enrolled consisted of ten hours of classroom, homework, and field instruction in the following areas:
- firearms safety and handling
- sportsmanship and ethics
- wildlife management and conservation
- black powder
- wildlife identification
- game care
- first aid
After he completed the course of instruction, he took the final examination – an 100 question multiple choice exam requiring 80% or better to pass.
I strongly believe in the merits of this class. Though I sat in on the course with him, I did not help him with the reading material. If he wanted to hunt with Papa, he needed to prove he was mature enough to pass the course on his own merit.
The exam took him nearly an hour to complete. I was very proud when the instructor announced he had passed … a solid score of 95%!!