The Winchester Mystery House is one of the most interesting stories that one can read about. I wanted to share its story and how it came to be, in case you haven’t heard it. After that, I have included four more very interesting stories that are all almost unbelievable but that are all true. Enjoy!
The Winchester Mystery House
The Winchester Mystery House is one of the most amazing places I have ever read about. I would love to go and take a tour of this house someday, it’s absolutely beautiful and I am sure it would be an unforgettable experience. The Winchester Mystery House is located in San Jose, California and was once the personal residence of Sarah Winchester, the widow of firearm mogul William Wirt Winchester. The mansion is renowned for its size and its architectural uniqueness. The building of the mansion started in 1884 and continued for over 38 years, it stopped in 1922 when Sarah passed away. At one point in 1906, the mansion had reached seven stories high until an earthquake the same year caused three floors to collapse leaving the mansion four stories high which it remains at to this day.
What makes the mansion so unique besides its large size is the many oddities throughout it. It’s as though the house is a giant maze. With over 160 rooms, 2,000 doors and 6,500 windows, the house spans 24,000 square feet. The house has 3 elevators, 47 chimneys, 2 Ballrooms but only 1 shower in the whole house. There are extremely long hallways, staircases that lead to nowhere, doors that open up right to walls, closets that open to blank walls, trap doors, a door that opens to a steep drop to the lawn below, and lots of more usual fixtures. Sarah was also a fan of the number 13. Nearly all the windows contained 13 panes of glass, the walls had 13 panels, the greenhouse had 13 cupolas, many of the wooden floors contained 13 sections, rooms had 13 windows and every staircase but one had 13 steps. Many of the windows were in a spiderweb pattern that Sarah had designed. Others were made of Tiffany glass.
Building on the house stopped on September 5th, 1922. The night before on September 4th, Sarah went to bed for the evening and sometime during the early morning she died in her in sleep at the age of 83. In 1923, the house was purchased by an investor in an auction for over $135,000. It was leased to a couple for ten years who then purchased it. Sarah had left all her possessions to her niece who took all the things she wanted and sold the rest in a private auction. Five months after Sarah’s death the house was opened to the public who could go on guided tours of the house.
Of course, the big question everyone wants to know is WHY? Why did Sarah build the mansion this way? Throughout the years there have been many rumours and theories but it appears as if Sarah took her reason with her to her grave. The most popular theory which has never been confirmed is that Sarah Winchester built the house like a maze because she thought she would be able to control the spirits this way. The story goes that after her husband’s death, Sarah went and saw a spiritualist medium. The medium told Sarah that her husband had told the medium that there was a curse on the Winchester family due to the weapon that they created. It certainly didn’t seem unbelievable since, in 1866, Sarah and William lost their daughter not even a month after she was born, then her father in law died from Tuberculosis in 1880 and then shortly after in 1881 William lost his life to Tuberculosis as well. She was told that thousands of people had died because of their family’s creation and their spirits were seeking vengeance. Sarah was told she would be next unless she sold her property in New Haven and moved out to the west. There she was to start a new life and build a house for herself and for the spirits who had been killed by the weapon they had made. She was told to never stop building the house, if she continued building she would live, if she stopped she would die. Sarah was able to do this easily as she had inherited more than 20 million and nearly 50% of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. So, Sarah went and sold her property and headed out west to California, where she purchased an unfinished farmhouse and the building began! With the spirits always in her mind, she designed the house with the trap doors, staircases to nowhere and so on as a way to have control over the spirits and to confuse them. Each little addition was made to throw the spirits off of her trail. It was even said that every night she slept in a different room so it would be harder for the spirits to track her. Unfortunately, I don’t think we will ever find out the reason why Sarah made the mansion the way she did. Either way, I think the vengeful spirit story suits the whole thing just fine.
Today the house is owned by Winchester Investments LLC and they still offer guided tours of the house. You can check out information about the tours and other interesting stuff at their site www.winchestormysteryhouse.com .
The Troxler Effect
The next story I want to share with you is about something called the Troxler effect. The Troxler effect is an optical illusion that affects how you perceive things visual and mentally. It happens when you sit and stare at yourself in a mirror for around 10 min, the Troxler effect causes your brain to play tricks on itself and slowly before your very own eyes you see yourself morph into a monster!
It was discovered in 1804 by a physician and philosopher named Ignaz Troxler. Psychologists have found that people can experience an optical illusion of deformation of their faces after staring at oneself for 10 mins in the mirror. In a study conducted by Dr. Caputo of the University of Urbino, participants were asked to stare into a mirror in dim lighting for ten minutes. 66% of people saw huge deformation of their faces. 28% said their face changed to an unknown person and 48% reported that their face changed into a monstrous being.
So, what causes this to happen? It all lies in our brain’s penchant for selective processing. Our brains can only handle so much information at a time. For example, as you are reading this, you probably are not noticing things like the pattern of your breathing, sounds around you or how your clothing feels against your skin. Your brain turns a blind eye to these various things in order to better focus on what it deems more important which would be reading these words. Our sense of sight works the same way. When we are faced with a lot of visual stimulation, our brain only focuses on what is considered relevant and it tunes out anything else non-relevant. So that is what causes people to see a monster if they stare at themselves for a long enough time. Your brain is focusing on your eyes and all the other features on your face that it’s not focusing on start to fade and dissipate. Suddenly your forehead starts fading away or your cheeks morph into one large brooding mouth. Your face is becoming distorted and you look terrifying as you turn into some kind of monstrosity.
The Jim Twins
The story of the “Jim Twins” is one that almost seems impossible to believe. Identical twins Jim Lewis and Jim Springer were four weeks old when they were separated. Each baby was adopted by a different family. When Jim Lewis was five he learned that he had a twin but he never really let the fact sink in and didn’t think about again until he was thirty-eight. Jim Springer had also learned that he had a twin brother at the age of eight but both he and his adoptive parents believed that the sibling had died. In 1977, Jim Lewis decided he wanted to try to get in contact with his brother. He ended up finding his contact info through the Ohio Courthouse. It turned out that the two had only been living 40 miles apart from each other. After talking on the phone, they agreed to meet and the two were finally reunited at the age of thirty-nine.
Even though they had never met the two shared so many similarities. Both men and researchers at the University of Minnesota were amazed. Both men ended up being named Jim by their adoptive parents and at the time they met they were both six feet tall and both weighed 180 pounds.
Nancy Segal wrote a book about the twins called Born Together-Reared Apart. The book lists other shared characteristics such as:
- Both Jim’s had sons. One Jim named his son James Allan and the other Jim named his son James Alan.
- Both Jim’s had at one time worked part-time as Sheriffs.
- When the boys were younger they each had a dog named “Toy”
- Both twins had a light blue Chevrolet car.
- Each Jim had been married two times. Their first wives were both named Linda and their second wives were both named Betty.
- Both of the Jim’s smoked Salem brand cigarettes and drank Miller Lite beer.
- Both were known as leaving love notes to his wife throughout the house.
- Both Jim’s were fingernail biters and suffered from migraine headaches.
With all the similarities there were, however, a few differences as well. Each Jim styled his hair differently, one wore his combed straight and hanging down over his forehead while the other wore his combed back and sported long sideburns. One of the Jim’s was better at expressing himself through voice while the other was better suited at writing. Both had been married twice, but then one took his vows for the third time. This time though, he got to have his brother Jim as his best man!
The Bystander Effect
The next story happens all the time. Sadly, the way we are perceived by others seems to matter too much, too much in the fact that many have lost their lives because of it. The Bystander effect is the phenomenon in which the presence of people influences an individuals likelihood of helping a person in an emergency situation. It has been found that the greater the number of other people present when the emergency occurs, the less likely any one of them will help.
This concept began more well-known when in 1964 a woman named Kitty Genovese was murdered and raped in New York City outside her apartment. She cried out for help and was ignored except for one person who yelled out the window to leave her alone or he would call the police. This did actually cause the attacker to run away and the police were called but due to the fact that they believed it was probably just a domestic argument and not serious, they did not respond. Miss. Genovese laid in the street badly beaten when around 10 min later her attacker came back and stabbed her to death. Again multiple bystanders heard her cries for help and some even witnessed her being stabbed but no one did nothing to help her. In total 38 people looked on and did nothing!
So why do people tend to behave like this? Well, there are two reasons that seem to jump out…one, when you are in a crowd you automatically assume that someone has done something or will eventually make the call. Individuals have the tendency of looking at others for the correct decision. So when seeing that others are not acting can cause people a delay or to not take action at all. If seeing that others are not helping then it can cause the situation to seem less serious than it is. Two, no one wants to be the person who is behaving differently…if no one is reporting it, clearly it is not socially acceptable. Another reason is if there are other people around that could help, an individual doesn’t feel responsible or obligated to have to help. People in the presence of strangers are less likely to act than people who are in the presence of friends. Also, there wasn’t the easy access to phones to call for help like there is today. The only problem is that even with people having cell phones today, a lot of them will film the incident instead of help! People feel that if they document the incident instead of helping and send it to the police, they are still in fact helping. However, this still does not prevent the events from happening and sadly some people do not send in the footage but instead post it for the world to see.
I can understand how some people might not want to get involved in fear of getting hurt or even killed. I can also understand how if there is a large group of people and something happens, it’s not that you don’t care or not want to help but your first thoughts are that someone else probably has or will call for help. It definitely makes me hope that nothing ever happens to me or someone I care about where there is a big group of strangers around because today, unfortunately, the chances of getting help are small and the chances someone filming it are huge!
The Dyatlov Pass Incident
The Dyatlov Pass incident is one of the most interesting mysteries I have ever read about. This incredible story happened in 1959, when a group of university students from Sverdlovsk, Russia went missing while hiking the Ural Mountains. The group of seven men and two women all between the ages of 20 and 24 were led by an experienced hiker and skier Igor Dyatlov. All the members were also all experienced hikers and climbers and had hiked before in winter conditions like the ones they set out on that year in February. The members all knew each other well and had taken previous expeditions together. They were all well equipped and had planned their route in advance. One member of the group, Yuri Yudin had to withdraw right before the group set off due to a painful attack of rheumatism. Yudin ended up being the only member of the group to survive. The rest headed off for the mountain and never returned.
It had been arranged beforehand that when the group had finished the hike of the mountain Dyatlov would send a telegram to their sports club as soon as they had returned. It was expected that it would be around the day of February 12th when the group would return, but Dyatlov told Yudin that he expected they would be longer. Delays of a few days were common in expeditions like this, so when Feburary 12th came and passed without word, there wasn’t an immediate concern. Eight more days without a word had passed when relatives of the hikers demanded a rescue operation. The head of the institute sent out rescue groups consisting of students and volunteers to search for the missing hikers. Soon after the army and police force became involved with airplanes and helicopters.
On February 26th, searchers found the abandoned and badly damaged tent of the missing group. The tent was half down and covered with snow and had been cut open from the inside. All the group’s belongings and shoes were left behind meaning they fled in bare feet or in socks. There were eight or nine sets of footprints, left by several people who were wearing socks, a single shoe or barefoot. The footprints could be followed and led down towards the edge of nearby woods but after 500 m they were covered with snow.
The next day on the 27th, at the edge of the woods the remains of a fire were discovered near an old cedar tree. The fire was made from branches pulled from a nearby tree. About 2 m from the fire and under the cedar tree the first two bodies belonging to Yuri Krivoshenko and Yuri Doroshenko were found. Both were shoeless and found only in their underwear and a shirt. It appeared that their clothing had been removed by the other members so that they could wear them to keep warm. They both had died from Hypothermia. Next, Igor Dyatlov’s body was found between the tent and about 300 m from the cedar tree where the first two bodies had been found. He was lightly dressed and without shoes as well. 630 m from the cedar tree the body of Zinaida Kolmogorova was discovered. She appeared to be wearing more clothing than the other three but no footwear as well. Six days later on March 5th, Rustem Slobodin’s body was found close to Dyatlov and Kolmogorova’s bodies. He also appeared to be dressed better than the first three and had one felt boot on his right foot. The three died in poses that suggested they were trying to return to the tent. It was concluded that they had died from Hypothermia as well. Slobodin did have a small crack in his skull but it was not thought to be a fatal wound. The search for the remaining four took over two more months and finally on May 5th, the bodies of Lyudmila Dubinina, Aleksander Kolevatov, Nikolay Thibeaux-Brignolle and Semyon Zolotaryov were found under four meters of snow in a ravine 75 m farther into the woods from the cedar tree. The four were dressed better than the others and there were signs that whoever had died first had given their clothing to the others. Zolotaryov was found wearing Dubinina’s faux fur coat and hat, he was wearing footwear and he had his camera on around his neck. Dubinina was found with her foot wrapped in a piece of Krivonishenko’s underpants and she was wearing his sweater. After examination of the four bodies, it was determined that three of them had fatal injuries. Lyudmila Dubinina who was found with her body propped against a bank had major chest fractures and was missing her tongue, eyes, part of the lips, as well as facial tissue and a fragment of skull bone. Semyon Zolotaryov had major chest fractures as well with five broken ribs and his eyeballs were missing. Nikolay Thibeaux-Brignolle had major skull damage with multiple fractures to the side of his skull. It was concluded that Aleksander Kolevatov died of Hypothermia. Investigation of his body showed he had exposed skull bones and a broken nose. Another strange finding was the sweater of Krivonishenko’s that Lyudmila Dubinina was wearing and the waistband of Aleksander Kolevatov’s sweater and the lower part of his pants all tested radioactive. Also, relatives who saw the bodies described them as having orange skin and grey hair.
The first 5 bodies to be found:
The next 4, 2 months later:
Yuri Krivonischenko Zina Kolmogorova
At the time the final verdict on the extremely bizarre events of what happened to the nine hikers was that they all died from a compelling natural or overwhelming force that they could not overcome. The inquest officially ended in May 1959 and the authorities closed the investigation as unsolved and made efforts to ensure that the incident did not get wide publicity. All the files were sent to a secret archive, and the photocopies of the case didn’t become available until the 1990s. Investigators also studied the hiker’s diaries and film from their cameras but they didn’t find anything that helped discover what it was that caused the Dyatlov group to up and abandoned their tent in such a panic that they cut themselves out from the inside! From the time their bodies were discovered until even now today there have been many theories as to what happened. Some of those theories being natural factors, The KGB, an attack by the local Mansi tribe, High winds, Criminals, An Avalanche, UFO’s, A Yeti to a naturally occurring phenomenon called infrasound.
I have only really touched the surface on this amazing story and if you have the time then you should look up the Dyatlov Pass incident. It’s a truly bizarre story and to this day there still has not been a single concrete answer as to what happened that night up on the mountain leaving the Dyatlov Pass Incident one of the most famous unsolved mystery of all time!
Thanks for reading and don’t forget to check out all the other great articles on the Game of Nerds! Hope you enjoyed reading and please feel free to leave a comment about a story or incident that you find interesting.