Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Haunted Crime Scenes

Appeasing the Spirits

Book cover: Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits
Book cover: Encyclopedia
of Ghosts and Spirits

During the nineteenth century, when Sarah Winchester grew paranoid about the people who had been killed by her father-in-law's invention, an effective repeating rifle, she engaged in something quite radical. Rosemary Ellen Guiley offers the tale in her Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits.

In 1862, Sarah married William Wirt Winchester, heir to the fortune his father, Oliver, had amassed. They had a daughter together, but their happiness would be curtailed. Both William and the child died from illness, and thereafter Sarah became reclusive and rather eccentric. Since she now managed some $20 million and had come into ownership of nearly half of the company, she knew the rarified world of wealthy people who, short of breaking the law, can do whatever they please.

Attempting to communicate with her deceased loved ones, Sarah turned to Spiritualism. Given her resources, she was able to invite mediums of some renown to conduct séances in her home. One of them, Adam Coons, told Sarah that he could "see" and "hear" William, who then instructed Sarah that the family was cursed and she was to make amends with the victims of the Winchester rifle. Otherwise the curse would claim her as well.

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