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  • Maria A. Palace


April 9, 2021

I have always been intrigued by the mystical, no doubt a trait handed down to me by my mother who was a devoutly religious, yet extremely superstitious, woman. I recall many a night staying up late to watch her with intense wonderment as she laid out different sequences of Italian playing cards (which looked a lot like Tarot cards) on the kitchen table so that she could foresee whatever fortune or misfortune might lie ahead.

Three years ago for my Birthday, my husband surprised me by taking me to visit the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California--something I had wanted to do ever since I learned of the purportedly haunted Victorian landmark.

The home belonged to the late Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune. After the death of her infant child and husband, William, Mrs. Winchester consulted a spiritualist who told her that her family and fortune were being haunted by the spirits of American Indians, Civil War soldiers and others killed by Winchester rifles and that these spirits had caused the untimely deaths of her daughter and husband. The medium also warned her that she could be the next victim unless she appeased the spirits by building a great house for them, and as long as the construction of the house continued, she would be safe.

So in 1884, Mrs. Winchester moved from Connecticut to California where she purchased an unfinished eight-room farm house in the Santa Clara Valley. Immediately, carpenters were hired to work around the clock renovating it. They began adding room after room importing materials and fine art from all over the world. Construction never ceased until Mrs. Winchester's death in September of 1922.

The beautiful, but bizarre, seven-story mansion has miles of twisting hallways, stairways and secret passageways (supposedly to confuse the ghosts that might be following her). At the very center of the house was the Séance Room, complete with a planchette (Ouija board) where Mrs. Winchester allegedly would go every night to commune with the spirits. (You can check out the Winchester Mystery House at:

My tour of the home left an indelible mark on my psyche to the point that the image became the backdrop in my mind's eye for the inspiration of my first novel. For the next two years, Chapter Thirteen turned into a labor of love until October of 2019 when I entered it in the High Sierra Writers of Nevada Manuscript Contest and won first place! (You can check out the High Sierra Writers at:

And so began my journey into the publishing world.

Here's a picture of me standing next to the statue in front of the mansion. Strangely enough, it looks like an apparition is looking out from the top window. Maybe it's Mrs. Winchester herself!

The point of this story is that you never know where inspiration will come from, but when it hits, don't let it fall by the wayside. Let your inspiration be your guide and allow it to take you wherever it wants to go. You never know, it might just lead you somewhere you didn't even know you wanted to go!

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