Two-thirds of the Frock Flicks Original Broadway Recording Cast lives within 2 miles of the Winchester Mystery House, so this one is a no-brainer. Another thing Winchester (2018) has going for it is that it stars Helen Mirren. However, that’s about the only two things about this film that held my interest. Beyond that, it’s a second-rate horror flick. For some reason, I kept wanting to draw parallels between it and Peter Jackson’s masterpiece, The Frighteners (1996), and it finally dawned on me why … Basically, The Frighteners is this film without the historical pretense and a way better plot.
So, without any more ado, here are the top five inaccuracies promoted by this film:
Sarah Winchester was not haunted by the dead
Most of the biographical evidence that exists about Sarah supports the fact that she was reclusive and a bit eccentric, but she didn’t appear to be particularly bothered by the spirits of the dead who were murdered by the guns her husband manufactured.
The stairs that lead nowhere actually did lead somewhere
This one gets a lot of press in every version of the house’s story that’s currently circulating. Stairs that now lead “nowhere” actually once led somewhere — after the 7.8 earthquake that struck Northern California in 1906, entire portions of the sprawling mansion were condemned as uninhabitable, but rather than repair those portions of the house, Sarah went with the cheapest option: She simply chose to block access to the unsafe bits, without bothering to tear out the stairs or remove doors.
There was no round-the-clock building
Construction on the house did cease, especially during one quintessentially hot San Jose summer, when Sarah wrote that she “dismissed all the workmen to take such rest as I might through the winter.”
That said, some historians argue that Sarah may have kept the building going on the house as a way of keeping the local economy going by providing a consistent source of employment for hundreds of people who might otherwise have suffered from an economic downturn in the late 19th century. It’s an interesting theory, to say the least.
The supernatural stories didn’t start until after Sarah’s death
After her death in 1922, the vast Winchester fortune was distributed to various charities, but the now-famous Winchester mansion fell into the hands of John H. Brown, a theme park designer, who turned the crumbling structure into the tourist destination it is today — and who also appears to have been the source for the supernatural stories that became inextricably linked with the house and the memory of the woman who built it.
There were no seances held at the house during Sarah’s lifetime
That seance room? According to the author of Ghostland, a biography of Sarah Winchester and her mystery house, it was actually a gardener’s private quarters. Bummer, I know.
But if you’re into jump-scares, creepy children, and bleeding wallpaper, by all means, enjoy the flick. Just know that there’s literally nothing in it that is remotely historically accurate — hell, even the bulk of the film was shot on a soundstage in Australia and the actual house is only featured in exterior shots.
Have you seen Winchester? Have you been to the Winchester Mystery House?