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All Ears: CIOs and Winchester Rifles

Question: What do CIOs and rifle heiress Sarah Winchester have in common?

You’re haunted by ghosts and can’t stop building, says Phil Murphy, principal analyst with Forrester Research.

Phil was a keynoter  at  our CIO Decisions Conference last month, a gathering of some 200 CIOs in Carlsbad, Calif. Before giving CIOs a primer — and detailed scorecard — on how to sort out the many competing demands for IT dollars and get the most out of your IT investments, he began with the cautionary tale of Sarah Winchester and her 160-room Victorian mansion.

Winchester was heiress to the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. business in New Haven, Conn. Her only child died as an infant. After the death of her husband in 1862, she was left with an extraordinary income of $10,000 a day and an unshakeable feeling that the family she had married into was cursed. She sought guidance from mediums, one of whom obliged by saying the Winchester family was indeed under a black cloud — cursed by the spirits of the people killed by Winchester rifles.

To break the curse, the widow was told to move to California and build a house for herself and all those spirits. If she stopped building, she would die, so work continued 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year for the next 38 years.

And the resemblance to CIOs and IT platforms?  You can listen to Phil spell it out in this blogcast excerpt from his keynote.


Meantime this tidbit from the  Wikipedia entry on Sarah’s building boondoggle gives you the idea.

Due to the lack of a master plan and constant construction, the house became very large and quite complex; many of the serving staff needed a map to navigate the house. The house also features doors that open into walls, staircases that lead nowhere, the recurring number 13, and windows that look into other walls.

Check out an aerial view of the place here.     


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