The Winchester repeating rifle may have one of the strangest legacies of any American product.
Oliver Winchester made a fortune in the 1800s selling the guns, whose design didn't require the shooter to stop and reload after every shot. Oliver only had one son, William, who inherited the company and its riches upon his death in 1880. Just three months later, William died and the Winchester fortune passed to his wife, Sarah.
That's when things got weird.
Stricken by depression caused by the deaths of her husband and their infant daughter (two decades earlier), Sarah consulted a medium in Boston, who told her the deaths were due to a curse put on the family by the spirits of those killed by their rifles. The psychic told Sarah the only way to prevent the curse from killing her was to move west and build a giant house to appease the spirits. She believed him, and bought an unfinished farm in what's now San Jose, California.
Sarah Winchester then spent millions of dollars and the next 38 years of her life making sure the house was under construction 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This unceasing construction led to a very strange design, to say the least, with winding hallways, stairwells that lead nowhere and windows that opened up — to walls. The exact purpose of the construction is apparently in dispute, with some saying the odd design was just due to Winchester's lack of training, while others rumored it was intended to confuse the ghosts. Either way, the only thing that stopped construction on the house was Sarah's death at the age of 83.
And now Michael and Peter Spierig (Daybreakers, Predestination) are telling her bizarre story in Winchester, and they've got Helen Mirren on board to play Sarah. That's an incredibly exciting team to get behind such an unusual story. The Spierigs are stylish filmmakers who know how to tell weird genre stories. They're a perfect match for a movie about a woman who genuinely thought she was being haunted. And of course Helen Mirren is one of the most talented, and simply coolest, actors around. The fact that their pitch for the movie has hooked an actor of her calibre means we've all got a special movie to look forward to in the not-too-distant future.