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Sarah Winchester

Notes & Transcripts

That was the case with Sarah. You see, Sarah was rich – very, very rich. Not only was her income a thousand dollars a day, but she had inherited twenty million. That's not bad?especially in the late 1800s. By today's standards, she could have been a billionaire. She was well known in high society. Just mention her name and everyone knew her. She was invited to every social event or party. And she had power. Her name opened doors and opportunities. She was sought after by boards, lenders, politicians. They wanted her support and money.

Sarah had it all?including misery. Her only child died at five weeks, and then her husband. Two losses, two potential crises. She was alone. She had her name, her memories, and her money. There was something else she had as well—quiet. To get away, she moved from Connecticut to San Jose, California.

She purchased an eight-room farmhouse as well as the adjoining 160 acres. But then a strange thing happened. She hired sixteen carpenters to work on her house, 24 hours a day, every day, for the next 38 years. The layout of the house, to put it in today's vernacular, was weird. Each window had 13 panes, each wall 13 panels, each closet 13 hooks and each chandelier 13 globes.

The floor plan was bizarre. Corridors were put in at random. Some led nowhere. A set of stairs led to a ceiling that had no door, and one door opened to a blank wall. There were tunnels, trap-doors and secret passageways. The work on this mysterious mansion finally came to a halt when it covered six acres and had the following features: 6 kitchens, 13 bathrooms, 40 stairways, 47 fireplaces, 52 skylights, 467 doors, 10,000 windows, 160 rooms, and 1 bell tower.

What would drive a wealthy woman to become so eccentric, so driven, so compulsive? After all, she didn't need what she built. She lived alone. Or did she? A legend evolved that said Sarah Winchester had "visitors" every night. The story goes that a servant would go to the bell tower at night via a secret passage and ring the bell. Sarah would then go into the "blue room," which was reserved for her and her guests, and stay there until 2:00 A.M. Then the bell would once again ring and the visitors would depart, and Sarah Winchester would go to her room.

The visitors? They were ghosts. Now you understand I don’t believe in ghosts, but this is what the legend said. These ghosts were United States soldiers killed on the United States frontier. They were slain Indians torn apart by the bullets that struck them. Both soldiers and Indians were killed by that new invention, the repeating Winchester rifle. You see, Sarah was Sarah Winchester. The Heiress who inherited the Winchester fortune, but who was so stricken with guilt that every night she had to host all those whose death had given her family millions of dollars.

And some of us can identify with Sarah. We carry around the guilt of our sin and I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that what you’ve done wrong doesn’t matter. It does. It matters very much to God. It matters so much that He has excluded you from His presence. And what you need more than anything is to know this great forgiveness He offers through His powerful sacrifice. Wouldn’t you like to receive that right now?

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