Sarah Lockwood Pardee
|Birthplace:||New Haven, New Haven, Connecticut, United States|
|Death:||Died in San Jose, Santa Clara, California, United States|
|Place of Burial:||New Haven, CT, USA|
|Occupation:||Wife of Gun Company Owner|
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About Sarah Lockwood Pardee
Sarah Winchester, formerly Sarah Lockwood Pardee, married William Wirt Winchester on 30 September 1862. Despite the fact that the Civil War was then going on in the USA, the wedding was a big social occasion in New Haven, Connecticut. The Winchesters were as close to royalty as could be found in that part of the world then. They owned the famous Winchester Repeating Arms Company and had raked in a huge fortune with their brilliant invention, the Winchester Rifle or the Henry Rifle. This was perhaps one of the best known firearms in the world – the gun that had enabled the White Man to bring the American West under his sway, wasting along the way, deservedly or undeservedly, the lives of countless human beings and other living creatures. I suppose it could be considered by one view-point a fortune ill-got. Certainly, after a time, Sarah began to entertain such thoughts herself.
At first everything went well. After the lavish wedding of the year, Sarah settled down happily with her husband and busied herself with becoming the social entity of her town. It wasn't at all difficult - she had a pretty face and great charm and a considerable fortune like that always usually corrects everyone else's manners. With the Civil War had come a greater demand for guns and the Winchesters had landed some new, lucrative governmental contracts which only enlarged their coffers further. It was a happy time. And to add to it, Sarah, in the July of 1866, gave birth to a daughter Annie. It seemed she had everything anyone could possibly want. And then tragedy struck.
Only a short while later, Annie became ill with Marasmus, a wasting disease that affects mainly very young children, and died on 24 July. It was such a devastating blow to Sarah, she became mentally unbalanced and reclusive. It took her a very long time to recover and she never had any other children. Fifteen years later her beloved husband William contracted tuberculosis, a deadly disease in those times, and died on 7 March 1881. His death left Sarah a very wealthy widow – with a $20 million inheritance and a half-share in the company that fetched $1000 daily. It was no consolation - she was alone and terribly unhappy.
Sarah began to think that there was a curse on her family, and this idea was reinforced when she soon took to visiting psychics. One of the psychics convinced her that she had lost her daughter and husband due to the posthumous ill-will of all those finished off by the Winchester Rifles. And she would be next in line for their evil attention – unless she lived in a house that was never, ever completed.
Sarah took the psychic's advise to heart and, in 1884, shifted base from New Haven to San Jose, California. There she purchased a six room farm house that stood in the middle of 161.919 acres of land, and moved into it. She began construction work on it almost immediately, and kept it up continuously for the next 38 years. Imagine that! The construction work went on for 24 hours every single day, without faltering for a minute, for 38 entire years!
Sarah never prepared blue-prints or anything like that. She drew the rooms that were to be added on table cloths, bits of paper, anything in fact that was convenient. She had no sense of designing and it probably wasn't her intention to create anything terribly aesthetic either - the main thing was to keep on building and so she did, adding rooms haphazardly where ever she felt like it. The house eventually became such a maze that both she and her servants needed maps to navigate around it!
Sarah became a stanch supporter of the doctrine of Francis Bacon, was a Theosophist, a Rosicrucian and a Freemason (yes, there were women Freemasons during Sarah‘s time). Her House is saturated with Rosicrucian and Masonic symbolism. Also, her overwhelming display of specific numbers show an unequivocal pattern - a code for the initiate to read and understand. Moreover, the strange symbols and mysterious references to Shakespeare in some of her stained glass windows reveal her thoughts and the amazing role she saw herself destined to play on the earthly stage.
It is said that she built over 600 rooms on seven floors and two basement levels. The San Francisco Earthquake of April 1906 reduced the floors to four and many of the rooms either collapsed during the earthquake or were pulled down for various reasons. At present there are 160 rooms - amongst these, 40 bedrooms, 6 kitchens, 2 ball-rooms, and 13 bathrooms. Some of the rooms are rooms within rooms. There are around 47 fire-places, some with no smoke outlets. There are 40 flights of stairs – quite a few of these leading to nowhere - and over 450 doorways. There are about 2000 doors and about 10,000 windows, many with beautiful glass doors. Some of the windows are placed in the floor or on blank walls, and some of the doors are actually dangerous - opening without warning into a sharp fall either into the garden or into the kitchen sink. No doubt these traps were for the spirits, but one wonders what would have happened if Sarah had lost her map and stepped out herself.
Sarah was obsessed with the number 13, and this is evident by many of the features around the house. Many of the glass doors have thirteen panels, many rooms have thirteen windows, the kitchen sinks have thirteen drain holes, the gas chandelier has thirteen lights, all the stairs (except one that has 42 steps) have thirteen steps.
After the Earthquake hit her house - and trapped her for a while inside - Sarah took this to be the spirits' way of telling her that she was spending way too much time and money of the front parts of the house. So she boarded these and never entered or exited by her front door thereafter.
Sarah Winchester was a recluse and never saw anybody - except her favorite psychics, I suppose. She never invited visitors to stay and she didn't like the servants coming across her too much either - she once dismissed a workman for seeing her face. She paid the servants and workers a daily wage of $3, which was a very good wage then - and if she didn't like anyone at the end of the day they were summarily dismissed. She reportedly slept in a different room every night - I suppose I would have too if I had that many, I mean, you know, what the heck! - but Sarah did it to confuse the spirits further.
On 22 September 1922, when she was 85, Sarah died peacefully in her sleep. The work on the perpetually unfinished house ceased there and then.
Sarah was buried alongside her child and husband. Her will – which she wrote and signed in 13 sections - left her servants some money, her niece some furniture (it required six and a half weeks to haul it away, eight truckloads of it every single day), and the Winchester Fund for the treatment of Tuberculosis received some $ 2 million in bequest . Aside from her will, her safe had contained only the locks of hairs of her husband and child and their obituaries.
The Winchester House is now a National Historic Site and is a major tourist attraction today. There are daily tours except Christmas Day and special night tours on Halloween and every Friday the Thirteenth. It is supposedly haunted - various people have claimed to have seen ghosts or heard strange piano music, and so on and so forth. So go visit. Who know, you might get lucky.
Sarah was William Philo Hibbard's 6th Cousin -------------------- Sarah L. Winchester (September 1839 – September 5, 1922), was the wife of William Wirt Winchester and heiress to his estate and a 50% holding in the Winchester Repeating Arms Company following his death from tuberculosis in 1881. Convinced spirits would kill her if she completed construction of her California home, Sarah used her fortune to continue uninterrupted, round-the-clock construction on it for 38 consecutive years. Since her death, the sprawling Winchester Mystery House has become a popular tourist attraction, known for its many staircases and corridors leading nowhere.
Sarah Lockwood Pardee's Timeline
New Haven, New Haven, Connecticut, United States
September 30, 1862
New Haven, New Haven, CT, USA
July 12, 1866
September 5, 1922
San Jose, Santa Clara, California, United States
New Haven, CT, USA