December 3, 2023

Winchester: From Legendary Haunt to Blockbuster Movie

Winchester (2018)Upon hearing the name “Winchester”, many think of the guns that were among the first to proliferate across the early American frontier. Others think of the famed present-day Winchester Mystery House tourist attraction located in California’s San Francisco bay area. And still others might reference the long-running CW TV series, “Supernatural”, whose two main characters are brothers that ironically share the last name of ‘Winchester’. Adding to this now is the new movie “Winchester”, due to be released in the U.S. on February 2nd, 2018. This supernatural suspense drama has an all-star cast and is based on Sara Winchester and the monstrous mansion she built that is famously known today as the Winchester Mystery House.

Located at 525 South Winchester Blvd. in San Jose, California, the Winchester House has been a topic of controversy and paranormal debate for over a century. The property was once the home of Sarah Winchester and her husband William Winchester, the manufacturer of the Winchester Repeater Rifle. The Victorian pile is known not only for its architectural eccentricities, and its lack of a formal architectural plan, but also for the supernatural legends surrounding it. From its construction in 1884 to its role as a prominent tourist attraction today, many people, including Sarah Winchester herself, have claimed that the ghosts of the many people who lost their lives to Winchester’s rifles haunt the mansion and surrounding property.

The Winchester Mystery House’s Legendary History

After Sarah’s husband died in 1881, she became the heir to almost fifty percent ownership of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, as well as more than $20.5 million in cash. The legend begins around this time when a local tabloid reported that Sarah had visited a Boston medium. During the séance, the medium claimed to be channeling Sarah’s late husband, who informed her that she must build a home for herself and the lost spirits of all those who had fallen victim to Winchester rifles.

In 1884, Sarah purchased an unfurnished farmhouse in the Santa Clara Valley and construction of the mansion began. According to historical accounts, the carpenters and masons lived on-site, continuously building around the clock until the day of Sarah’s death in 1922. Though there were no plans, the house grew from the ground up until it reached seven stories. Without any help from an architect, each day Sarah would give the carpenters fresh instructions. Some have said that she would hold a seance each night and the spirits would give her instructions for the next day. The building process continued in a rather haphazard fashion, which resulted in numerous peculiarities such as balconies and windows within the house looking into other rooms, staircases with odd-sized risers, doors that lead to bricked-up or other walls, and windows overlooking other rooms, all adorned in the highest quality materials of the era. Two of the many oddities among the mysterious labyrinth are a staircase with seven switchbacks and 42 steps, yet you only go up 9 feet, and a doorway that opens to an unsuspecting two-story drop straight down! Today the Winchester is owned by Winchester Investments LLC, and visitors are welcome to see the home’s enigmatic touches first-hand.

Enter the World’s Top Paranormal Investigator

During the early 1990s, world-renowned Parapsychologist, Anomalist and Paranormal Investigator Christopher Chacon conducted a sanctioned scientific investigation of the Winchester House. It is the only scientific investigation of the mansion and surrounding property that has ever been conducted and authorized by the property owners. As with all his investigations, Chacon performed this one with meticulous precision.

“The on-site 720-hour investigation (30-days of continuous around the clock assessment) utilized environment monitoring equipment that was placed at various strategic locations throughout the mansion (concealed in a ‘passive’ manner), randomly relocated to other areas every 72 hours,” Chacon explains. “Obtaining baselines of the environment in and around the property is crucial in determining any type of anomalous fluctuations”.

Another array of remote monitoring equipment was set up just outside and adjacent to the Winchester mansion in a mobile lab that was manned by 24/7. This equipment was capable of performing remote scans of the property’s environment both within the structure and the surrounding grounds. Environmental monitoring covered many aspects including; temperature, radiation monitoring (including background), air current and air content, electrostatic emissions, electromagnetic spectrum (including geomagnetic), vibration and movement, air pressure and humidity and spectrum of light. Other cutting-edge technology used to document the environment included 3rd generation night vision, thermography, and ultrasonic and microwave imaging.

In addition to round-the-clock environment monitoring, Chacon conducted a number of blind experiments that involved wiring subjects with remote physiological monitoring (EKG, EMG, etc.) to document and assess any subjective experiences of anomalies.

Finally, a total of 328 subjects were interviewed: 164 that reported having had “paranormal experiences” on the property and another 164 random subjects that visited the property but reported no unusual experiences. All went through cursory psychological and physiological assessments.

Did the Investigation Produce Significant Results?

The results produced by the continuous 720-hour investigation showed approximately 1,440 total events documented, averaging two per hour. 81% of those events were determined to have “explainable factors.” However, approximately 273.6 events (19%) were found to be anomalous in nature (paranormal or, i.e. haunt phenomena) and could not be scientifically explained.

“Further investigation would be required to determine whether the phenomena are natural anomalies or a product of human consciousness and are reactive, as well as sentient or as theorized in parapsychology as residual or perhaps even the result of displaced RSPK, “ Chacon explains. “Additionally, of the subjects that reported paranormal experiences, 71% of their experiences were subjective and could not be objectively corroborated.”

Types of Hauntings

The definitions and categories of types of hauntings are numerous and varied, depending on whom you ask. Here are three different types of theoretical haunting categories that have been utilized by paranormal researchers for many years:

Intelligent Hauntings: This type of presence is considered intelligent because it can communicate with those around it and interact in a way that appears to be knowledgeable. This type of entity usually appears to have the personality of a person who once lived and manifesting physically for any number of reasons, including; traveling between this one and another plane, has a specific objective like conveying a message or perhaps is now trapped on this earthly plane. They may try to get attention my moving objects or turning electrical devices on or off.

Residual Hauntings: Regarded as the most common type of haunting, in this case, the manifestation (visual and/or audible) has no consciousness or awareness and is almost like a video/audio recording which continues to play over and over. These types of hauntings always repeat themselves exactly, uninterrupted, no matter what maybe actually occurring in the location. Some researchers have theorized that this residual energy is somehow the product of immense electromagnetic energy condensed in one area. These high levels of energy may come from the energy expended during a traumatic or repetitive event such as a battle or murder. Some researchers have found that the energy from residual hauntings can gradually dissipate over time until it has eventually been depleted and the haunting aspects can no longer be detected.

Poltergeist Haunting: The term poltergeist comes from the German poltern, meaning to knock, and geist, meaning spirit. This type of haunting is usually associated with poltergeist activity and includes rapping and knocking noises, disturbance of furniture or small objects and lights turning on or off. Generally, poltergeist activity starts and stops abruptly. While for many years this type of phenomena was considered to be the best type of haunting to document the physical existence and presence of ghosts, many parapsychologists have chosen to redefine and separate the terms “poltergeist” from “hauntings”, theorizing that the majority of this type of activity is not caused by ghosts at all, but by living people who are subconsciously producing psychic energy as a product of emotional distress, tensions or repressed anger.

Parapsychologist Chacon has conducted thousands of investigations of haunt and poltergeist phenomena all over the world for over 30 years. When asked about the definitions and categories of “hauntings”, Chacon responded, “I find that rushing to define or categorize these phenomena has often led to misinterpreting and incorrectly categorizing them. In actuality, many of the traditional theories and concepts of these phenomena do not convey their true origins, nature and dynamics, many outdated and entirely incorrect. A good example is how the many types of phenomena (haunts and poltergeists) can be experienced as either objective (physical in the environment independent of direct human perception), subjective (experienced/perceived cognitively only with no physical characteristics in environment) or both objective and subjective simultaneously, to one or even multiple individuals. This fact makes defining these elusive phenomena significantly more complicated than originally thought.” Many of the cases Chacon takes on are the most extreme and active in the world, with ongoing observations that often redefine our present understanding of haunts and poltergeists.

The Making of a Movie

Directed by Michael and Peter Spierig and written by Tom Vaughan and the Spierigs, the upcoming supernatural horror movie, Winchester, stars Helen Mirren as Sarah Winchester. Believing she is cursed by the tortured spirits of those victims of the Winchester repeating rifle. Sarah becomes obsessed with the planning and construction of an elaborate Victorian mansion designed to protect her from the haunted souls. The movie takes an interesting twist when a skeptical psychiatrist from San Francisco, Eric Price, (played by Jason Clarke) pays her a visit and begins to realize that the haunting may not be just a conjuration of Sarah’s imagination after all. While the actual Winchester mansion makes for a picturesque and mind-boggling backdrop, the majority of the film had to be shot elsewhere, including sound stages, because of the inflexible restrained space within the actual mansion that is not practical for the logistics of a movie production. However, the story, casting, scenery, photography and even costuming amazingly bring to life Sarah Winchester and the ominous haunting phenomena at the Winchester mansion. All this, coupled with knowledge of Chacon’s fascinating investigation and research into the actual haunt phenomenon taking place at the mansion, solidifies that this movie could very well be one of the best fact-based haunted house movies to date. Winchester is set for release in the U.S. on February 2nd, 2018.


I've been a fan of horror and slasher movies for as long as I can remember. I consider the original Halloween to be the best horror movie of all time and my guilty pleasure horror flick would be The Exorcist III. You can find me on Twitter at @406Northlane or TikTok @406Northlane where I'm sure I'll offend you at least once a day.

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