Saturday, May 28, 2016

Pockets of Ghost Towns in a Lively City

  Everywhere seems to be going through constant renovation. Condo constructions creep toward the sky on every corner. So it is strange to find rickety and abandoned buildings left to grow weeds and fade in the sun. I've never been to a ghost town, but sometimes I find little pockets of ghost towns in the middle of this thriving city. When I was little, I thought ghost towns were a more literal thing. I imagined going to the town and seeing hordes of ghosts living there. In my imaginings it was mainly cowboy ghosts doing cowboy things, like making horseshoes and swinging ropes.

Another childhood disappointment regarding ghosts was during my first visit to the Winchester mystery house. The Winchester Mystery House is a giant mansion in San Jose. It is thought to be haunted. The house is very bizarre with no clear architectural design. There are stairs that go to nowhere, a maze like layout and secret passages. When I visited as a child, I thought seeing a ghost was pretty much a given on the Winchester mystery house tour. I also thought, I would get to explore the house on my own, but alas, I was led through the place by a tour guide and I did not even encounter a hint of a ghost. There was nothing scuttling past the corner of my eye, there was no weird feelings and no creaking of a floorboard in an empty hall.

The Winchester Mystery House does have an interesting back story. In our modern time, the Winchester Mystery House is a tourist attraction, but it was built many years ago through the funding of Sarah Winchester. The beginning of Sarah Winchester's life was charmed, indeed! She was a girl of superior intelligence, admired beauty, talents in music and a high place in the social hierarchy. But as an adult, her life had many sad occurrences. In contrast to her idyllic childhood of privilege and joy, her adulthood must have felt bleak and unkind. Many awful things happened to Sarah Winchester, including the death of her little daughter. The death of the beloved child must have rattled her heart into a state of misery that could never be fully healed. Sarah and her husband, William Wirt Winchester, never had another child. 

William Winchester was the owner of a gun company. The couple was able to enjoy the splendor of wealth due to the sales of Winchester Arms. In 1881, William Winchester died of consumption (tuberculosis), leaving Sarah Winchester alone in the world. Sarah Winchester still had the comfort of wealth, but not the comfort of a loving family. She must have felt very lonely. Soon, she convinced herself that her family was cursed. A proclaimed psychic with a flair for the dramatic said that the Winchester family was cursed by all the ghosts shot by Winchester rifles. The psychic claimed that the only way Sarah could stop the vengeful ghosts from staking claim on her own life was to build, build and build. If Sarah Winchester ever ceased construction, the ghosts would get her. So the lonely woman spent the rest of her life ensuring that the construction never stopped. 

I heard somewhere once that Sarah Winchester had felt guilt about the Winchester rifles for years before the psychic with grand claims came into her life. She had thought about the deaths of soldiers and young men. She had thought about the people who had loved those dead. She had already been haunting herself with those thoughts for years. It was the psychic who had validated what she thought she already knew. She thought she deserved to be haunted, but still tried to keep them away, discouraging them with stairs to no where and the constant bang of hammers.  

"Sarah Winchester." - The World Famous Winchester Mystery Houseâ„¢ in San Jose, California, Is an Extravagant Maze of Victorian Craftsmanship â€" Marvelous, Baffling, Eerily Eccentric, and Undeniably, Haunted. The Winchester Mystery House, n.d. Web. 28 May 2016. <>.

"Sarah Winchester." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 18 May 2016. Web. 28 May 2016. <>.

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