Sarah Winchester and her Mystery House

Sarah Winchester was the widow of William Winchester, the heir to the Winchester fortune, a fortune that came with a cost. The Winchester repeating riffle. This never before seen weapon made its debut in 1866. Its unique feature, for the time, was it did not have to be reloaded after each shot. Instead a simple pull of the trigger caused many rounds to fire one after another. This weapon was said to have “won” the west.

The Winchester Repeating Rifle Company was a family business; William was the treasurer up until his death in 1881. At this point Sarah had outlived her daughter, Annie who died at 6 weeks old in 1866 and now her husband. Left alone in Connecticut with a massive fortune Sarah turned to spiritualism which was a common practice of the time. Her spiritualist guided her to move to west. Sarah was told the spirits of the people killed by the Winchester Rifle were angry with her and the family.

Sarah did as instructed, she moved to San Jose, bought a Victorian farm house, and began to build. She began to build with no blueprints to follow; construction on the Victorian mansion which began as a simply 2 room farm house, lasted day and night for 40 years. There are stairs that lead to no where, doors that open to brick walls, and cabinets that open to other rooms. The number 13 can be seen throughout the house. 13 window panes, 13 pillars, 13 drains in a sink, 13 coat hangers in a closet. The mansion eventually reached 7 floors, 10,000 windows, and 2,000 doors. With all of the twist and turns the house that make no sense, Sarah added state of the art components to the house. One of the first hydro Otis Elevators, a greenhouse on the second floor with removable hard wood to allow pots to drain into the garden below and its believed the floor boards where also heated for the chilly winter nights, which was uncommon for the time.

Sarah was one of the wealthiest women of her time. She held 50% of the Winchester Rifle Company and $20 million (equivalent to $519,241,379 in 2018) from her husbands estate. Even though Sarah never had to work, she used her new property to create a business. The acres around the Winchester Mansion were turned into an orchard. The fruits were dried, canned, sold. It’s said that she made more money with this business than off her inheritance. This thriving business and ever expanding house needed employees. The house had 24/7 staff which either lived in the house or if they had a family of their own Sarah purchased a home for them. She provided all meals for the employees and paid them a fair wage. What she asked in return was nothing more than pure perfection.

She was a business woman first and foremost with a reputation of eccentricity. She was well educated, well traveled, and was held in high standing in the social elite. She came from a background of architects, and was even named after one. Mental illness ran in the family which could answer a lot of questions about Sarah’s unique building style and character. We will never know why Sarah kept building, used the number 13 throughout the house, and left the home to no one when she died.

Her niece go the money and the heirlooms but the house stood without an owner for many years, until a private investor purchased the property and made it into what it is today. Construction is still happening on the house, repairs are being made daily, and rooms are still being discovered. Even after Sarah’s death the house keeps growing.









The evolution of the hostel and why you should start staying in them!

What do you think about when someone says they are staying in a hostel? Do scary images come to mind about a sorted building in a dark, foggy city where no one speak English which is filled with 20 something backpackers making their way around Europe. Well, when I tell people I am staying in a hostel I can see it on their faces, confusion, which is most likely followed up by questions like, “ Why do you stay in a place like that?” or “Aren’t you to old to be doing that?”. This past year I have been petsitting around the world, but there have been times when I needed a place to say for a few days or wanted to see other parts of a country but didn’t want to break the bank. 

There has been an evolution to the hostel experience; still budget accommodation, hostels offer up common spaces for strangers from around the world to gather, talk, and rest. Now with the internet and cable tv you can find free Wifi and in some cases computers are available for public use. It’s like your living room but shared with people from all walks of life. While staying in an independent hostel in Cornwall, England, the age range was 18-81 years. The guest were literally from all over the world, a virtual revolving door of culture. We chatted around a fire pit at night and I had the ultimate pleasure of introduced the grand old American tradition of making s’mores. Hostels aren’t just for 20 somethings anymore! 

I am currently in a hostel in Washington, D.C; yesterday, upon my morning arrival I was greeted with a complimentary breakfast of pancakes, cereal, toast, tea, orange juice, and coffee. The kitchen is fully stocked with all utensils needed for cooking, two refrigerators, 3 dish washers and two sinks. You can go to the store up the street, bring back your groceries, and keep them safe in the kitchen, which will save you loads on food cost while traveling. While this hostel has a kitchen others may have a restaurant and bar for their guest. Depending on what you want to get out of your stay, there are so many options. 

Traditionally, hostels have multiple rooms with a lot of bunk beds filling the space. This still holds true but now you have more options for your stay. There are mixed bunk rooms with male and female guest, but you can also get rooms that are just for females or males, there are also private rooms with ensuite bathrooms that compare to hotel rooms but at half the cost. Also some hostels even have family rooms, so cut the cost of family travel in half by staying in a hostel. 

My absolute favorite thing about hostels is the location. Hostels in big cities are most likely located near the city center, public transport, and close to the tourist attraction. Instead of spending $150 or more for a hotel room or $50 on an Airbnb you can spend as little as $10 a night; this was the case for me when I had an early flight out of Shannon, Ireland. My hostel was near the airport, $10,  shared with two lovely girls traveling through Ireland together, and the bathroom was in the room. 

Hostels have evolved from dodgy budget accommodation to places that have a life all their own, they can enhance a persons travel experience by providing fellowship and a safe, comfortable place to lay your head and rest before discovering a new city.