The Winchester Mansion, or referred to by its other title the Winchester Mystery House, is a very eccentric and interesting place that has some beautiful Victorian architecture. The house is said to be a maze; this is understandably so considering it has 160 rooms, 3 elevators, and 2 basements (Junker). The architecture throughout the house is very odd, with staircases that lead to nowhere, a door on the second story that opens to the outside, and many other adornments that don’t quite seem to go together. Sarah Winchester, the widow who built this house, inherited the Winchester rifle fortune when her husband died. Apparently, Sarah was told by a medium that she needed to build a house out west with the fortune she had. The medium explained that the cause of her daughter and husband’s death was because of spirits that had been killed by the Winchester rifle. The only way to pacify them was to build a house and as long as she continued to build that house, they would not harm her. Since then the house has acquired many things before its time and many architectural elements that caused it to stand out, but it is still known as “the house built by the spirits” (Winchester site).
This mansion sounds very familiar to the Big House on the Corner in The House of the Spirits. Both were built with the fortune that the owners had. Not to mention, each supposedly had spirits all throughout the house. Even though the odd architecture may not seem that reminiscent of the Big House on the Corner, there is one line that states otherwise. This quote sounds like something right out of the Winchester Mystery House. It states that Esteban “could hardly guess that solemn, cubic, dense, pompous house, which sat like a hat amid its green geometric surroundings, would end up full of protuberances and incrustations, of twisted staircases that led to empty spaces, of turrets, of small windows that could not be opened, doors hanging in midair, crooked hallways, and portholes that linked the living quarters so that people could communicate during the siesta, all of which were Clara’s inspiration” (Allende 93). Even though both houses and the stories around them have similar elements, the Big House on the Corner has come to represent something more than the house of the spirits.
The Big House on the Corner has come to represent Clara and who she is. Clara is her own person and follows the beat of her own drum. Much like Clara being different, the house itself is different from the beginning because Esteban “wanted it to be as far removed as possible from the native architecture” (Allende 93). Even though Esteban created this house and built it, the house is more representative and attached to Clara. It becomes this way even later when Esteban goes to Tres Marias and Clara stays at the Big House on the Corner. This house, much like Clara, can’t be contained or even what Esteban truly wants. Clara and the three Mora sisters start to fill the house with spirits and the house slowly starts to become more like Clara with all of her spirituality and quirks, and it becomes a lot less of what Esteban had intended. In a way, I feel as though Allende might have done this in order to show that no matter what aspect of Clara that Esteban tries to control, Clara will not be controlled; this is such a strong message especially given the feminist aspect that the book has overall.
By Cassy Busto