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Winchester Mystery House loses trademark suit, wins for spookiness

Photo by e53/Zach Petersen via Flickr Creative Commons

The Winchester Mystery House — an eight room farm house turned 160-room tribute to architectural deconstruction and madness — was at the center of a trademark lawsuit regarding a straight-to-DVD horror flick based on the former owner's life.

This week, the famed San Jose mega-Victorian lost its lawsuit against a Los Angeles film company for the 2009 film "Haunting of Winchester House. The 6th District Court of Appeal ruled that the movie did not violate the popular attraction's trademark and had a First Amendment right to use Sarah Winchester's name and story.

Sarah Winchester moved from New England and purchased the unfinished home in 1884 where she began 24 hours a day/7 days a week construction until her death 38 years later. 

The eccentric building beliefs and nightly séances held by the widow Winchester — heir to the Winchester rifle fortune — stemmed from grief and depression over the deaths of her infant daughter and husband, according to legend.

Popular legend also has it that a medium told her that in order to appease the spirits of those killed by Winchester guns, she could never stop construction on the house, notes the official site.

According to some sources, the Boston Medium consulted by Mrs. Winchester explained that her family and her fortune were being haunted by spirits – in fact, by the spirits of American Indians, Civil War soldiers, and others killed by Winchester rifles. Supposedly the untimely deaths of her daughter and husband were caused by these spirits, and it was implied that Mrs. Winchester might be the next victim.

However, the medium also claimed that there was an alternative, Mrs. Winchester was instructed to move west and appease the spirits by building a great house for them. As long as construction of the house never ceased, Mrs. Winchester could rest assured that her life was not in danger. Building such a house was even supposed to bring her eternal life.

The home with 10,000 windows, 17 chimneys, doors that open into walls, secret passages, hidden rooms, staircases that go nowhere, and a séance room with one way in and three ways out, is open for daily, guided tours, flashlight tours, labyrinth and garden tours and special events planned for Halloween. 


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