Often in the paranormal we are lucky enough to have several adventures in amazing locations seeking out various oddities. On occasion some of these locations are a little odd all by themselves. It’s not common place to find a location that is simply odd throughout and raises a tonne of questions all on its own. However the Winchester Mystery House does exactly what it says on the tin, providing its visitors with quite a bit of confusion as they navigate its hallways.
However this particular story of a haunted location is less about a location becoming haunted and more about how one fascinating woman dealt with the loss of her close family. The woman was Sarah Winchester, wife of William Winchester, the only son of Oliver Winchester; owner of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Basically back in 1862, the Winchester’s were ‘big money’.
What should have been the beginning of an amazing life for Sarah soon turned a dark corner when she lost her only daughter at only one month old in 1866. In 1880 Sarah’s father in-law Oliver died and William inherited half of his fathers huge empire. Barely a year past and Sarah lost her husband William too, which meant his share of the family business went to Sarah.
It was this sequence of traumatic events that Sarah lived through that possibly became the basis for the understanding that she may be cursed. A curse that Sarah possibly believed originated in the fact that the Winchester’s were responsible for creating weapon’s that had claimed possibly thousands of lives over the years. Fixated on this Sarah looked for a way to break the curse, which lead her down a more spiritual path. It was while exploring this path it’s believed a psychic medium advised her that the only way to combat the curse would be to build a house the spirits and her could both live in. The psychic went on to advise Sarah that if she stopped building the house, the curse would bring about her demise too.
It’s probably a good time to mention that although Sarah consulted with mediums and took those consultations very seriously, to the point of changing her life. This was likely driven by her grief, but it does leave us questioning things just a bit! Why would a highly intelligent, upstanding community member such as her be guided by such elaborate suggestions? Grief can certainly drive belief in such situations.
Sarah brought a six bedroom house in San Jose, which was still being built. A team were hired to carry out the work and the continuous construction of the Winchester House began.
A 1906 earthquake changed the seven story building at that point, making it only four stories. The earthquakes damage to the house was equally tied into the curse by Sarah, which highlighted that too much focus had been on the front of the house. Worked stopped on the front of the home and it has remained boarded up ever since.
A few of the Winchester House’s features…
It’s said that the number thirteen features heavily throughout the house and this could be due to Sarah’s obsession with the number. Something that may have even been a feature in her Will, which was believed to be written in thirteen sections and signed thirteen times. I always wonder how much truth there is in these numerical links; is it something that really was intended or perhaps something people have read into it after the fact? I guess the Will might help define this a little.
It is believed that in order to understand what was needed to be built next, Sarah would conduct a séance every night at midnight in the Séance Room. Perhaps this was where the design for such a collection of random and mind-boggling layouts evolved, but the why and even the how quickly returns. Was Sarah actually in communication with spirits advising her how to build her house? Were the layout designs simply from Sarah’s imagination, hence their complex random designs? Is there a possible method to the madness of the layout of the Winchester House.
The work on the Winchester House contained for roughly thirty-eight years under Sarah’s and possibly spirits instructions. Sarah died at the impressive age of 83 in her sleep from natural causes and went on to finally join her husband and daughter in the cemetery.
The Winchester House was auctioned and the new owners opened it as a tourist attraction. The house attracts many ghost hunters and paranormal investigators seeking the answers that the house has hidden in its walls. The place is certainly on my top ten list of places to investigate, after all I love a mystery.
The haunting of the Winchester House…
As far as paranormal activity is concerned, Winchester House presents its fair share too. Visitors have reported full-blown apparitions, odd sounds, cold spots, footsteps, strange feelings and even Sarah herself!
There is without doubt some strange things occurring at the Winchester House, some paranormal and also many secrets tied to its design too. Perhaps Sarah Winchester found a way to connect with spirits better? Maybe the whole house is some kind of psychical amplifier? One thing is certain in regards to the Winchester Mystery House, Sarah’s séance secrets remain well hidden within its walls. Walls which surround rooms that confuse, hallways to nowhere, hidden doors and a staircase into the ceiling!
Would you risk getting a little lost in the Winchester House…
The Winchester Mystery House is one of those fascinating locations that takes things far beyond the norm and most definitely into the paranormal. Although there is a part of me that wonders about the psychology here too. The very confusing ‘fun house’ layout of the house and its interesting history may just be generating the appearance of activity! However it could be genuinely haunted; after all it experienced over thirty years of continuous renovations, which has been associated with probable paranormal activity in the past too. Not to mention the nightly seances held by Sarah too. There are certainly all the ingredients for a traditional haunted house here. Why Sarah Winchester spent so much time and money putting the house together as it is will no doubt remain a mystery for years to come. In my opinion its one pretty interesting mystery too…
For many that have been in the paranormal field a while or even a moment the term EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) has become common place. If you’ve taken the time to watch a paranormal TV show or two, then it’s likely that at some point you would have heard the investigators throw the term about whilst playing around with a Digital Voice Recorder.
When I first started overnight investigation I’m pretty sure it was one of the first pieces of paranormal jargon that I came to know. Especially as it would seem that the attempt to capture an EVP, is something that many investigators do on every investigation.
EVP’s are considered to be the voices of spirits recorded on media either intentionally or in some cases unintentionally. In reality they are sounds that are discovered within electronic recordings. These sounds can often then be interpreted to be similar to simple responses to questions or indeed random phrases.
Although EVP’s have reached great popularity over the years with additional promotion from the many TV shows, they remain a phenomena that holds a lot of question among parapsychologists. The reason being is that they argue that EVP’s are often recorded with significant background or static noise, this then generates a certain misunderstanding in interpreting these sounds. That is if you listen hard enough you’ll hear the answer to your question or if someone suggests what they believe it to be, then you’ll often hear that word to phrase yourself. This is what our parapsychology friends may refer to as auditory pareidolia. More on pareidolia in a future post.
Suffice to say there does still remain significant interest in EVP’s and I have in the past recorded a relatively ‘crystal clear’ one of my own which keeps the subject open for me too. Check out that EVP here.
Oddly for me these days the question of EVP’s doesn’t necessarily link to them being auditory pareidolia or not, but if they are genuine EVP’s then their source is more important. I’ll explain a little on that later.
A Little History
I won’t go into excessive detail regarding the history of Electronic Voice Phenomena as it’s likely to be enough to write a book on. Now there’s an idea for the future!
So, here’s my quick tour of EVP history.
Whilst the spiritualist movement dominated potential communication with spirits in the late 1800’s, as technology became more available so did the idea of incorporating it into paranormal investigation. Thomas Edison was once asked to during an interview with Scientific America, I believe, of the possibility of his inventions being able to communicate with the dead for example. Interestingly enough, during the 1990’s the Scole Experimental Team believe they received the design for such a device from Edison himself, which can be seen below.
As sound recording became more widespread the idea of attempting to record spirit communication developed and the concept of EVP began.
Over the years many picked up the idea and experimented with it. Attila von Szalay worked with Raymond Bayless and published their work in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research in 1959. Bayless also co-wrote a book called ‘Phone Calls from the Dead’ in 1979.
In the 1960’s and 70’s Konstantin Raudive, who was a Latvian psychologist conducted numerous experiments in EVP. He made over 100,000 recordings with Jürgenson and even used RF-screened laboratory’s during their work. Raudive believed these to be discarnate voices and invited people to listen to the recordings and interpret them. Raudive’s work continues to be quoted in the field today.
In the 1980’s William O’Neil brought us a device called ‘Spiritcom’, which he claimed originated from a design he received psychically. This in my opinion began a new era for EVP, which related to ITC directly and took us on a new journey. These devices would lay claim to allow ‘two way communication’, but whether that was true or not is still something that remains as mysterious as the filed itself.
Around 2002 Frank Sumption gave the paranormal world ‘Franks Box’ , which has also been known as ‘Ghost Box’ and ‘Spirit Box’ too. Fundamentally the device uses a mix of a white noise generator and a circuit which sweeps through radio bands. Again this has received criticism for the results being rather subjective and again possibly based back on auditory pareidolia.
These days EVP work ranges from using the old fashion approaches all the way through to the use of ITC via the many Apps available on various mobile technology and laptops. However it’s not all high-tech, many that are passionate about EVP claim that older media types like tapes or even reel-to-reel give far better results.
For me EVP still holds a valid interest within my own paranormal research and investigation. However I am not sure entirely whether I could lay claim that it provides proof of spirit communication. Although I have captured that crystal clear EVP I mentioned earlier, which without doubt for me came from somewhere other than those present. Well, when I say it didn’t come from us, I mean none of us spoke the phrase out loud. More recent experiments that I have tried like the Psychic Projection Experiment have presented results exactly the same as EVP ones. The difference here though is that in those experiments the phrase was projected psychically by the group and heard as a recording. Which raises the very important question to me; are EVP’s of probable spirit communication actually projected psychically onto the devices by those investigating? Something that is most definitely worth further investigation and indeed experimental research too.
EVP remains a prominent part of paranormal research and investigation today, which is something that doesn’t appear to be likely to change any time soon.
Moving forward I think we all do need to take EVP out of the box it’s ended up in and begin to experiment with it in as many ways possible. There’s a couple of examples below to get you started.
A recent TV drama reminded me of one of the paranormal worlds most interesting characters and one which perhaps has rightly earned himself a prominent position in the Paranormal Hall of Fame; none other than Harry Price, who else!
Harry Price Ghost Hunter
Born on the 17th January 1881, Harry Price developed a passion for magic from an early age, something which would later become extremely valuable to him during his work with many Psychic Mediums. Later in life he was a member of the Magic Circle and played particular interest in the workings of many a conjuring trick. These skills helped him to later reveal many psychics as fraudsters, using mind tricks such as cold reading to prey on those that has lost loved ones especially around war time.
However it wasn’t long before Harry Price work in psychical research gained him recognition in England and beyond. He was a charismatic and enigmatic character who was prominent in the world of psychical research for around thirty years. In which time he investigated many various paranormal phenomena, worked wth many psychic mediums, but also exposed many fake spiritualists.
Interestingly though he seemed to stand as a balance between those who didn’t believe in the world of the occult and those spiritualists that the occult dominated their lives. Perhaps almost understanding both points of view and hoping to bring the two together. A position I can fully understand!
Harry Price Ghost Hunting Achievements
Never the less he had an outstanding involvement in the world of the paranormal during his life with many an achievement to write home about. He carried out the longest, most comprehensive and original investigation of a haunted house. He looked into the scientific exploration of supernormal phenomena; such as mediumship, spiritualistic and psychic activity. Harry Price was part of the first live broadcast from a haunted house, something we probably take for granted these days with the likes of Most Haunted and Ghost Hunters performing this annually. Price was the first to start and run a National Laboratory of Psychical Research. He helped to revive the famed Ghost Club and wrote some twenty books on the subject, to name only a few achievements. He could quite easily be considered the Ghost Hunter or Investigator God Father!
The Borley Rectory Case
Of course the most famous case associated with Harry Price as a Ghost Hunter was that of the Borley Rectory case. He first visited the Essex rectory in 1929, and for the rest of his life, on and off, he returned continuing to investigate the location. In fact at the time of his death in 1948, he was putting together the first parts of a third volume of the activity at Borley. However the details of the Borley Rectory case is enough for a post all by itself, so perhaps more on this another time.
The Rosalie Case
Perhaps one of Harry Price’s lesser known cases is actually one of his more remarkable. This is of course the case of alleged materialisation that he witnessed in 1937, which became known as ‘the Rosalie case’. This was described as the materialisation of a naked young girl that died in 1921. Price published his account in his book ‘Fifty Years of Psychical Research : A Critical Survey’. During the actual materialisation, Price held the child and determined she was roughly six years old. He felt her pulse, established there was a heartbeat, saw the form to an extent in limited light and he was allowed to ask only six questions. However he only received an answer for the last question; “Rosalie, do you love your mummy?”. A lisped “Yes” was the response. Following this ‘Rosalie’ dematerialised silently.
Following the seance Harry Price examined the house and found nothing out of place and that all was in agreement with his examination prior to the seance. He’s measures were still in place. He left the house mystified and later published his account ‘with considerable hesitation’. Price saw Mrs K M Goldney MBE, who was a prominent member of the Society for Psychical Research the next day. Goldney reported that Harry Price appeared deeply disturbed, almost distraught and shaken to the core by the seance. Although Price didn’t conclude this as proof of life after death, it certainly must have got him thinking and questioning many things.
Still to this day the term Ghost Hunter seems associated with Harry Price, although in reality he was an investigator, experimenter and researcher like many of us in the paranormal field. I wonder what he would think about how we approach things today, not to mention the numerous gadgets at our disposal?
Still in my opinion this guy deserves a place in the Paranormal Hall of Fame.