Helen Mirren Lands Lead Role in Winchester Mystery House Thriller

The famous Winchester Mystery House is getting a movie made about it and its eccentric owner. The haunted and eccentric Sarah Winchester will be played by the incomparable Helen Mirren.

While the real story of the house and its famous inhabitant would be interesting enough for a film, Deadline is calling this a “supernatural thriller” from “Daybreakers helmers Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig.” Here's a brief summary from Deadline of the real story:

Based on the world famous Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA. Winchester”s husband and child died suddenly, and she became convinced she had been cursed by the legal legacy of the “gun that won the West.” A medium sent her to San Jose in 1884 to begin a massive 38-year 24/7 construction of a 24,000-square foot, 160-room Gothic mansion.

But seriously, the Winchester Mystery House is the coolest place ever. Ok, I may be exaggerating a bit for effect, but I've been obsessed with the place since I watched a documentary about it TV ages ago.

Being a lover of supernatural stories already the background of the house and its owner was certainly intriguing. Winchester was the wife of William Wirt Winchester, treasurer of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. With the guilt of just how many people were killed as a result of their guns (and a bit of prodding from a medium), Winchester began construction on the house with the over $20.5 million she inherited after her husband's death. The construction continued around the clock, included tearing down and rebuilding perfectly good areas until she died in 1922.

The house of 160 rooms includes a stairway to nowhere, a doorway which opens from an upper floor out onto nothing, secret passageways, and the recurring number thirteen. From the Winchester Mystery House website:

She reportedly kept her face covered with a dark veil at all times, and there are stories of her firing servants who caught a glimpse of her face by accident. Then there were occurrences that defied explanation. Neighbors would hear a bell ring at midnight and 2 a.m., which according to ghost lore are the times for the arrival and departure of spirits. Some said that Mrs. Winchester never slept in the same bedroom two nights in a row, in order to confuse any evil spirits that might be waiting for her. At the very center of the house is the Blue Room, where Mrs. Winchester supposedly would go every night to commune with the spirits. This room consisted of a cabinet, a table with pen and papers, a closet, and a planchette board – used for transmitting messages from the beyond. Legend has it that she would wear one of 13 special colored robes and receive guidance from various spirits for her construction plans.

Any oddities in construction design (mostly suggested by Winchester to her foreman daily) were usually explained away by saying Winchester was trying to confuse any spirits that might be following her. The site also explains her reaction to Great San Francisco Bay Area Earthquake of 1906, “[It's] said that Mrs. Winchester felt the earthquake was a warning from the spirits that she had spent too much money on the front section of the house, which was nearing completion. After having the structural damage repaired, she immediately ordered the front thirty rooms – including the Daisy Bedroom, Grand Ballroom, and the beautiful front doors – sealed up.”

Horror production company Hammer optioned the rights to make a film about the house back in 2012, but nothing ever came of it. Imagination Design Works (who were involved with the previous project) are developing again and are planning to shoot in the house itself, which I'm sure will lead to a lot of fun behind-the-scenes stories.