The film, set for a February 2018 release, was shot partly in the real Winchester House in San Jose and stars Academy Award-winner Helen Mirren as Sarah Winchester, widow of millionaire gun manufacturer William Winchester.
Australian siblings Michael and Peter Spierig directed the film. The team have only a few other directing credits under their belt, notably the soon-to-be released Jigsaw (yet another sequel in the never-ending Saw series) and 2003’s Undead, a weird zombie comedy that got little attention at the box office, but has since enjoyed minor cult success.
Fans of the real Winchester house will recognize distinct locales in the trailer, such as the bewildering stairs to nowhere and interior doors that open onto nothing at all.
The trailer also features the most dreaded words in all of horror cinema: “Inspired by actual events.” So, is any of it true? Well, here are a few facts that the trailer gets right, or close to right:
- The movie dubs the Winchester house “a gargantuan seven story structure with no rhyme or reason.” This is true, although modern visitors might not realize it. The mansion once rose seven stories. But time and earthquake damage have leveled it off to four stories, where it remains today.
- The trailer also declares the house to be “500 rooms.” Possibly true. These days the count is only about 160. Trying to figure out the room count at the mansion’s largest is a little tricky, as it’s variously dubbed “about 500,” “over 500,” or “between 500 and 600,” depending on the writer.
- The trailer credits the house to the whims of “a grieving widow.” Somewhat true. Sarah Winchester didn’t begin building the house until after her husband’s death; but she didn’t begin the project until three years later in 1884, and then she kept it up for the rest of her life all the way until 1922. It seems there was more to her motivations than just immediate grief.
- The movie describes Winchester as “majority shareholder in the Winchester company.” Also true. Winchester owned nearly 50 percent of the her late husband’s business, and her income amounted to roughly $1,000/day, the equivalent of more than $14,600/day in modern currency.
- It also calls the Winchester mansion “the most haunted house in history.” That’s a matter of opinion, to put it mildly. Certainly Sarah Winchester believed she was haunted, and many modern Winchester house employees have stories of their own supposedly ghostly encounters. But the world has no shortage of spook spots for the tourists, and whether the Winchester house is “more haunted” than, say, the Tower of London or the Crescent Hotel or the White House is decidedly tough to measure.
- Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built [CBS Films]
- Helen Mirren to Play Heiress Who Built Winchester Mystery House [Curbed SF]
- Guilt House [Curbed SF]
- Watch The First Trailer For 'Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built’ [SFist]
- Winchester Mystery House
- Icons of Horror [Greenwood Books]
- Farmhouse Turned Mystery [Mercury News]
- Ghost Of London [Londonist]
- America’s Most Haunted Hotel
- White House Ghost Stories [WH Historical Association]