Originally Posted by wikipedia
Sarah Winchester inherited more than $20 million upon her husband's death. She also received nearly 50 percent ownership of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, giving her an income of roughly $1,000 per day, none of which was taxable until 1913. This amount is roughly equivalent to $19,000 in 2005 dollars.
Deeply saddened by her husband's death and seeking solace, she consulted a spiritualist on the advice of a friend. According to legend the medium (who has become known colloquially as the "Boston Medium"), told Winchester that there was a curse upon the Winchester family because the guns they made had taken so many lives. She told Winchester that "thousands of persons have died because of it and their spirits are now seeking vengeance."
Although this is disputed, many believe the Boston Medium told her she needed to leave her home in New Haven and travel west, where she must "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." Whether this tale is true or not, Winchester did move west, settling in California. Some believe Winchester followed the medium's directions to distract the spirits she believed were hunting her. She was reported to have slept in a different room each night for some time.
She moved to Santa Clara County in California in 1884. She was convinced that she was guided by the hand of her late husband. Many believe that she selected Santa Clara County, California because of the climate. Sarah Winchester suffered from horrible arthritis, and the Mediterranean-like climate is known to help soothe aching joints.
Prior to the 1906 earthquake, the house had been built up to seven stories tall, but today the highest point is the fourth floor. The house is predominantly wood frame construction, with a brick foundation. There are 160 rooms, including 40 bedrooms and two ballrooms. The house also has 47 fireplaces, 10,000 window panes, 17 chimneys (with evidence of two others), two basements and three elevators. Winchester's property was some 162 acres (650,000 m²) at one time, but now the estate is just 4.5 acres (24,000 m²) — the minimum necessary to contain the house and nearby outbuildings. It has gold and silver chandeliers, inlaid parquet floors and trim. There are doors and stairways that lead nowhere, and a vast array of colors and materials. Before the availability of elevators, special "easy riser" stairways were installed to allow Winchester access to every part of the mansion, despite her severe arthritis. Roughly 20,000 gallons (76,000 litres) of paint are required to paint the house. Due to the sheer size of the house, by the time every section of the house is painted, the workers must start repainting again.
The house also has many conveniences that were rarely found at the time of its construction, including steam and forced-air heating, modern indoor toilets and plumbing, push-button gas lights, hot shower from indoor plumbing and even three elevators, including one with the only horizontal hydraulic elevator piston in the United States.
The house retains unique touches that reflect Winchester's beliefs and her reported preoccupation with warding off malevolent spirits. The number thirteen and spiderweb motifs, which she considered to be lucky, reappear around the house. For example, an expensive imported chandelier that originally had 12 candle-holders was altered to accommodate 13 candles, wall clothes hooks are in multiples of 13, and a spiderweb-patterned Tiffany window contains 13 colored stones. In tribute, the house's current groundskeepers have created a topiary tree shaped like the number 13.
Today, several different tours of the house are available, including flashlight tours at night on dates around Halloween and each Friday the 13th.