It’s not often you can visit the real-life houses that inspired your favorite scary movies. Sure, you can see the Psycho house, but it’s essentially a set-piece on the Universal Studios tour constructed solely for the film. The Michael Myers home from John Carpenter’s Halloween is now an office building in Pasadena, CA. The Bramford building from 1968’s classic, Rosemary’s Baby is actually New York’s Dakota Apartments. But for residents of, and visitors to San Jose, California, the Winchester House stands exactly where it always has, an extravagant and mysterious edifice reminiscent of a time gone by. And, like any haunted house, it is filled with secrets, superstition and sadness.
Film lovers will soon get to see Oscar-winner, Helen Mirren (The Queen, RED, Eye in the Sky) play Sarah Winchester, architect of the manor in question, widow of William Winchester and heiress to the Winchester Rifle fortune of 19th century America. Spurned on by the spiritual mediums of the day, Sarah created what is now one of the most famous haunted houses in America. She believed that the restless spirits of the untold number of men, women and children killed by her family’s product tormented her every move and were responsible for the death of her husband and baby girl. It seemed that the endless construction of acres of rooms, hallways, attic crawl-spaces and basement mazes offered the only respite from the guilt these ghosts heaved upon her to her dying day.
Throughout her adult life, Sarah designed, officiated and endlessly updated what would start as an 8-room cottage and eventually become a 150+ room mansion that amazes and perplexes to this very day. Staircases that end in ceilings, rooms with no exits, doors opening to brick walls and countless decorations throughout highlighting the number 13 are just a handful of the disturbing designs and decorations of this mysterious mansion. In fact, shocked renovation crews discovered a creepy new room with dolls, a sewing machine and a cobwebbed musical organ as recently as last year.
Directed by brothers Peter and Michael Spierig, who gave us the Ethan Hawke-starring thrillers, Daybreakers and Predestination, Winchester will star Mirren, Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), Sarah Snook (Jessabelle) and Angus Sampson (Insidious). Filming is underway in Australia with exact reconstructions of the mansion featured prominently and eerily throughout the production. CBS Films will distribute.
Here at Modern Horrors, we can’t wait to pay this mystery a visit.