Barry King/WireImage
Sophy Ziss
October 24, 2017 12:56 pm

A teaser trailer for “Winchester,” starring Helen Mirren in the title role, was released on Tuesday. The horror film won’t officially haunt theaters until February 2018, but the backstory to it is incredible.

The life of Sarah Winchester remains one of the most fascinating ghost stories of the 20th century.

The short version of her story is this: After the sudden loss of her husband and child, the American heiress believed she had been cursed by the spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles. Unsure of what to do, Winchester met with psychics. Their answer? To appease the restless spirits she needed continuous construction in a house big enough to hold them all. And that’s exactly what Sarah Winchester did.

Armed with an impressive fortune and zero blueprints, Winchester held periodic seances to consult the spirit world for guidance.

She instructed her builders to do exactly as the ghosts told her, and that led to some weird stuff. There are staircases to nowhere, doors that open onto walls, doors that open into six-feet drops into another room, grand ballrooms that were built to be sealed off, and on and on. It had gorgeous chandeliers, Tiffany stained glass windows, and more. She built it continuously, until her death in 1922. Winchester lived there the entire time.

It’s famously known as “the house that spirits built,” though a more practical person might see it as propelled by Winchester’s guilty conscience.

The horror movie obviously dramatizes her story, making Sarah Winchester’s plans seem more nefarious than they (probably) were. As often happens, the truth is even more intriguing. The Queen Anne Style Victorian mansion lost some of its height in the 1906 earthquake, but remains otherwise well-preserved. It’s open to visitors year-round, and there are endless reports of spooky sightings on the property. Some visitors claim to have seen the ghost of Sarah Winchester watching over them from her bedroom. Others have spotted her in the garden, and still more have reportedly seen maids serving her breakfast in the kitchen.

The Winchester estate is yet to release a statement on the Winchester film, but the Instagram account seemed excited for the trailer. Here’s hoping they host Winter screenings at the mansion.

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