The Winchester House is in San Jose, California and is, arguably, the most haunted house in the USA. Following the death of her husband and infant daughter, Sarah Winchester visited a medium, who told her she needed to move far away and build a house big enough to occupy the souls of those killed by the Winchester rifle.
The house was said to be under constant 24 hour construction during the 38 years that Sarah Winchester lived there, although this has been disputed by her biographer. True or not, the higgledy piggledy nature of the house – with doors with no rooms, stairs that lead nowhere and corridors that make your head spin – make it a feat of construction and a place that the faint hearted would not want to be lost in after dark.
Sarah became obsessed with the belief that the souls of all those killed by a Winchester rifle were out to destroy her family; her husband and daughter being the first victims, although her husband died of TB. To appease these spirits, she was advised to build a room in her house to enable the spirit to enter this world. Once she’d done this, she sealed the room with a wooden brace and 13 nails, thus sealing the spirit inside and out of harm’s way.
The film is based around Dr Eric Price, a man whose wife committed suicide using a Winchester and who shot him in the process. He “died” for 3 minutes and was revived. He kept the bullet and restored it lest he ever forget. He has been recruited by the Winchester Repeating Rifle Co to assess the mental state of Sarah Winchester and to determine whether she is fit to stand as the figurehead of the company.
Price goes to stay in the mansion and is soon plagued by the spirits that roam there. He dismisses what he sees as hallucinations, due to his abuse of Laudanum, until he is led around the mansion to the sealed up gun room by a butler, whom Price believes to be on staff. It is only when this butler turns all monster on him that he realises there may very well be something in Sarah Winchester’s story.
The fake butler is soon revealed to be Corporal Benjamin Block, a soldier in the Confederate army who lost his two brothers to the Winchester rifle. He storms the headquarters and kills 15 members of staff before barricading himself in the gun room and waiting for the police, armed with Winchesters, to come and get him and get him they did.
The spirits have spoken to Sarah and demanded the gun room be rebuilt so that Block can cross over and seek his revenge.
It is then down to Price to help Sarah defeat this ghost and his two brothers, who are closing in on Sarah’s niece and her little boy.
The film-makers have succeeded in creating a spine chilling movie based around this true story. The ghosts are corporeal and disturbing and the frights are certainly not for the faint hearted. Whilst it didn’t scare me, there were many in the audience hiding behind their coats, which I found charming.
This was an extremely well put together ghost story, with fantastic special effects and stellar acting from Mirren and Clarke.
A definite must see. Now, where’s my Winchester…..;-)