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SCREEN The Haunted House - Winchester The House That Ghosts Built

Published 20 NOV 2017 12:23PM

Words by Martha Glaister




People have always been interested in the macabre, public executions were a family day out, gladiatorial fights to the death were to packed out stadiums, and tales of haunted castles and monsters have been told since time began.

So it makes sense that people would want to revisit those sites and investigate their history, learn about the events that happened there and maybe see a spook. Travel and tours to supposedly haunted sites is a booming business and in a 2005 study, 37% of Americans, 28% of Canadians and 40% of Britons said they believe that houses could be haunted.


Films about haunted houses have always been popular, ones based on true events even more so.


The Amityville Horror (1979), was nominated for an Academy Award and meant the owners of the real house had to change the address to protect their privacy. They still have people come to have a nosey at their home.

The Conjuring (2013), is one of the highest grossing horror films of all time, fans would visit the actual house and trespass to get as near as possible to the alleged site of the hauntings.

Now a new film about Winchester Mystery House, a property that tops many ‘Most Haunted’ lists, is making it’s way to the big screen. With an incredible 80k Facebook fans and Dame Helen Mirren set to star in the film, it shows just how popular paranormal tourism is and can be boosted with publicity, to positive as well as negative affect.


The story of Sarah Winchester is incredibly sad as well as spooky.


After the death of her husband and child, Sarah inherited half of the Winchester Arms Company and more than $20 million.

A medium told her that she must move West and continually build a home for herself and all the spirits of Winchester rifles victims. Since The Ghostbusters weren’t an option yet, she did move to California and build a house, the construction of which wouldn’t stop until her death in 1922, the continuous building to apparently appease the ghosts.

The building eventually became a seven storey mansion with hundreds of rooms, doors leading to nowhere and windows into corridors, decoy rooms were created to mislead the ghosts, with Sarah sleeping in a different room each night to confuse the spirits as to her whereabouts. The house was built and rebuilt for 38 years, believing if she stopped the spirits would kill her.

The huge, grotesque structure became a monument to her madness.


Even as recently as last year another room was found! Containing a pump organ, couch and paintings, that doesn’t sound terrifying at all…





A mere 5 months after her death the first tours began to the public and are still going strong nearly a hundred years later, so popular in fact, it is open every day except Christmas. Ghosts, it seems, as Sarah Winchester feared, do not take a break.

So why are we drawn to haunted places?

Is it to see the architecture, learn the history and tragedies of the real people who lived there? Or is it to ghost hunt, the cheap thrill of bumps in the night and maybe gather proof of an afterlife? Have these spooky movies had a negative effect on disrespectful paranormal tourists or do they offer the history of a place to be explored by a wider audience?

With a gift shop, a cafe and even a shooting gallery, the Winchester Mystery House along with many other haunted places is now a day out, a fun attraction for the whole family.


The upcoming film, Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built, based on Sarah’s story and the real house will undoubtedly get a new wave of ghost hunters at their many doors. From the trailer it appears to be a straight up jump scare horror but here’s hoping it pays the due respect to an interesting woman, her legacy, and the ghosts within.

Schedule for release 18th February 2018

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