A bizarre mansion built by the heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune

Sarah Lockwood Winchester was the widow of William Wirt Winchester, who died in 1881 of tuberculosis and left Sarah his fortune, which at the time amounted to $20 million (about $450 million in today’s dollars), since he was a member of the family that invented the Winchester repeating rifle. She moved to the Santa Clara Valley and started building a house, one that she kept adding onto until her death in 1922, which has come to be known as the Winchester Mystery House. By the time she died, the building covered more than 24,000 square feet.

The main mystery is why she built the house the way she did — not only did it have 160 rooms (including 40 bedrooms) and a number of towers and other features, but it also contained a number of bizarre rooms and features that seemed to have no purpose. There’s a staircase that ends at a ceiling, a closet that is only an inch deep, a “door to nowhere” that opens into empty space, and a magnificent stained glass window that is behind a wall, and so doesn’t receive any light with which to illuminate it (the house has about 10,000 other panes of stained glass to make up for it though).

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