Every once in a while, our title search reveals a notice of commencement that needs to be closed prior to a transaction. One or two is definitely doable, but imagine if a home had hundreds open at a time. This would have been the case for the Winchester Mystery House had title insurance been as prominent at the time of its creation.
Located in San Jose, California, the Winchester Mystery House was the home of Will Winchester’s widow, Sarah. Winchester is known for creating the revolutionary rifle of the same name. Upon Winchester’s passing in 1881, Sarah Winchester inherited $20.5 million, which sounds like a lot even before equating it to today’s worth of $543 million. Today, the Winchester Mystery House is a nationally registered historic landmark and haunted tourist attraction.
So what lead to the creation of the Winchester Mystery House? Well, shortly after her husband died, Sarah’s baby also passed away. Devastated by loss, Sarah turned to the occult, seeking advice from a medium who told her to move out West lest she be haunted by the thousands of souls of those murdered by Winchester rifles.
You didn’t have to tell Sarah twice. She packed up her belongings and purchased a small farmhouse in California, hiring a team of construction workers who were onsite around the clock, eventually turning the home into a seven-story mansion. Sarah had no architectural plan when it came to building the mystery house. There are many staircases that lead to nowhere and doors that open to steep drops on the lawn below within the Mystery House. This was to confuse the spirits that may have tracked Sarah down in order to seek their undeadly revenge. The construction on the Winchester Mystery House never stopped, and neither did Sarah’s paranoia.
Unfortunately, three stories’ worth of the mystery house were wiped out during an earthquake after Sarah’s death, and only four of the original seven stories remain. Still, the Winchester Mystery House has remained a pop culture icon, having been featured on popular programming such as Ghost Adventures, Buzzfeed Unsolved, and even serving as inspiration for the iconic Disney ride, The Haunted Mansion! While many historical figures’ lives would have surely benefitted from title insurance, I have a feeling Sarah may not have appreciated our services had she attempted to sell the Winchester Mystery House back in her day. That’s a lot of notices of commencement to close out! That’s all I have for today. See you next week for an extra spooky title tidbit. 😊