KA WORDCAST: Listen Up! Lesson 9 THE HOUSE THAT SARAH BUILT

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Lesson NINE HERE! 

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Entrance exam season is right around the corner, and we’re here to make sure you are 100 percent ready for it.  For the next several weeks, we will be providing you with additional listening material that you can use to practice and improve your aural comprehension skills.

Each week, you will listen to a short passage on a different topic—one that is interesting and useful in its own right, but one that is also the type of topic test-makers love to include on their exams.  Then, after listening to the passage, you will answer ten comprehension questions.  Before we listen to today’s passage, The House that Sarah Built , here are a few tips:

  • It goes without saying that you should always listen to the passage carefully.  Give it your undivided attention.  That means: no outside distractions.  (A passage-only track is available on the KA Wordcast website so you can listen to the passage a second or third time.)
  • You can make brief notes of key points and details, but don’t let your note taking distract you from your listening.
  • Key vocabulary words are explained in the bonus track.  Each key word is clearly defined and accompanied by common synonyms and antonyms as well as sample sentences that show you how the word is used, and how to use it.  What better way to augment your active vocabulary!
  • The comprehension questions “test” three general areas: FACTUAL CONTENT, LOGICAL INFERENCE, and PERSONAL JUDGMENT.  (These are explained on the website and are available to download.)  The questions come in three different types or formats: MULTIPLE CHOICE, TRUE OR FALSE, and SHORT ANSWER.  The question format will vary, so be sure to listen to the instructions carefully before you answer the questions.

 

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The Winchester Mystery House

The House that Sarah Built

Listen to Listen Up! Lesson NINE: PASSAGE ONLY TRACK

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             Truth is often stranger than fiction.  No fantasy novelist or Hollywood scriptwriter could have dreamed up a more bizarre story than that surrounding the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California.  The mansion-maze, with its 160 rooms, 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, 47 fireplaces, thirteen bathrooms, and six kitchens, literally grew up out of the guilt and obsessions of a woman named Sarah Winchester.  And it all had to do with a gun—an automatic rifle that was responsible for thousands upon thousands of deaths in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

            In 1862, Sarah, the daughter of an affluent Connecticut industrialist, married William Winchester, the son of Oliver Winchester, the manufacturer of the Winchester repeating rifle—the “Gun that Won the West.”   Sarah and William’s life together started out happily.  They were young, wealthy, had a large circle of friends in New England’s high society, and deeply in love.   But then tragedy struck.  In 1866, their infant daughter Annie died of a mysterious childhood illness, and Sarah fell into a profound depression.  Fifteen years later, her husband’s early death from tuberculosis exacerbated her emotional troubles.

The story goes that Sarah sought advice from a Boston medium to help her cope with her grief. The cause of her anguish, said her advisor, was the Winchester family and the vast wealth she had inherited when her husband died.  Both were haunted by the angry spirits of all the Native Americans, Civil War soldiers, and others killed by Winchester rifles.  The only way Sarah could placate these spirits was to move out West and “continuously build” a great house, the medium said.  Otherwise, she would fall victim to an untimely death just as her loved ones had done.   So Sarah packed her bags and headed to California.

In 1884, she purchased an unfinished farmhouse three miles west of San Jose, and began her extravagant building project.  Money was no object, and carpenters worked day and night adding on to the farmhouse.  This went on for the next 38 years at a cost of nearly six million dollars, a colossal sum in those days.  Sarah didn’t bother to hire an architect, preferring, or so legend has it, to consult friendly ghosts instead. To baffle and ward off angry spirits, the design was purposely kept haphazard.  There were spiral staircases that led nowhere, windows in the floor, doors that opened onto blank walls, and stairs with risers of different heights.  Eventually, the structure became the sprawling mansion known today as the Winchester Mystery House, a popular tourist attraction.

Since Sarah’s death in 1922—she lived to be 82—all kinds of wild stories have been told about the eccentric Mrs. Winchester.   To this day, no one really knows what her true motivation was for devoting the second half of her life to the project.   She was never interviewed nor did she keep a journal.   Some mysteries, perhaps, best remain mysteries.

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Today’s listening comprehension questions will be SHORT ANSWER based on FACTUAL CONTENT.

Listening comprehension questions fall into three main types or areas to be tested, as explained below:

FACTUAL CONTENT

  • The answer is specifically stated as a detail in the text.

If the text reads, “John Birks Gillespie was born in 1917 in Cheraw, South Carolina,” you might be asked where Gillespie was born or in which year was he born.

LOGICAL INFERENCE

  • The answer may not be directly stated in the text, but can be understood or inferred from the details given. A direct hint may be given, from which you would have to work out the most logical answer (usually based on a MULTIPLE CHOICE or TRUE OR FALSE question).

For example, if the text describes a “hot and muggy afternoon,” you might be asked what season it is. If the text reads, “In 1872, an abandoned railroad track in the mountains of Pennsylvania became the first roller coaster ride in America,” you may be asked a question like:

“The railroad tracks …

  1. were made of poor quality steel.
  2. had not been used for a while.
  3. were dug up and replaced with roller-coaster tracks.
  4. were too damaged to use.

You must use the hints given in the passage to work out the most likely answer.  In this case, the answer, based on “hot and muggy,” to the first question would be “summer,” and the answer to the second question would be B, with the hint being the word “abandoned.”

PERSONAL JUDGMENT

  • The answer is not directly stated in the text and you might have to read more deeply or “between the lines.”

You may be asked to describe a character’s feelings, reactions, or intentions.  For example, if the question is, “How do you know Joanna felt sad on the last day of school?” you would have to find evidence in the descriptive language the author uses.  Perhaps Joanna had tears on her cheeks, or she was walking with her head hanging low, or perhaps she had a frown on her face.

Listen to the question carefully and write your answer.  Feel free to pause the recording if you need a moment or two to think about the question.

 

LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS

 

1. Where is the Winchester Mystery House located?

 

2. What was the Winchester repeating rifle also known as?

 

3. What tragedy struck the Winchester family in 1866?

 

4. What unfortunate event exacerbated Sarah’s emotional troubles fifteen years later?

 

5. What did the Boston medium tell Sarah she must do to placate the angry spirits of all the Native Americans, Civil War soldiers, and others killed by Winchester rifles?

 

6.  What, according to the medium, would be the consequences of Sarah’s not taking his advice?

 

7. How long did the building project continue?

 

8. According to legend, why was the mansion built with spiral staircases that led nowhere and doors that opened onto blank walls?

 

9. Can anyone visit the Winchester Mystery House today?

 

10. Why don’t we know more about what Sarah’s true motivation was for devoting the latter half of her life to building the mansion?

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Now that you have completed today’s listening comprehension exercise, it’s time to check your answers and see how well you did. Answers to today’s listening comprehension questions will follow immediately after the closing jingle , so please stay tuned in. 

Listen to the Listening Comprehension Questions and Answers HERE

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You many also download the lesson in PDF format to keep for your reference.

PDF DOWNLOAD: KA WORDCAST Listen Up! Lesson 9 LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS and ANSWERS

 

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KA WORDCAST:  Listen Up!  Lesson NINE KEY VOCABULARY

Be sure to listen to the Key Vocabulary bonus track.   This will help you improve your understanding of the passage itself and give your vocabulary a big boost.

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How can you live with the GUILT?

1. GUILT

The mansion-maze, with its 160 rooms, 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, 47 fireplaces, thirteen bathrooms, and six kitchens, literally grew up out of the guilt and obsessions of a woman named Sarah Winchester.

GUILT refers to the unhappy feelings caused by knowing, thinking, or believing that you have done something wrong.  Remorse, regret, and shame are some near equivalents.

I would never cheat on a test.  I couldn’t live with the GUILT.

Jake took the crumpled envelope out of his bag and remembered with a pang of GUILT that he should have handed the letter from his mom to his teacher over a week ago. 

GUILT also refers to the fact that someone has been convicted of doing something illegal or improper.

The jury ruled that the prosecution team had been unable to prove the defendant’s GUILT beyond a reasonable doubt.

When I asked my brother if he had cracked the screen on my iPad, his shifty manner was an admission of GUILT as far as I was concerned.

GUILTY is the adjective form of GUILT for both of the above uses.  Some synonyms include ashamed, remorseful, sorry, culpable, and at fault.

I feel GUILTY for not visiting my grandfather at the rest home more often, but with school and club activities, I just can’t find the time. 

Tamara had a GUILTY conscience after she copied and pasted her essay assignment on Charles Darwin from Wikipedia.

Much to his relief, Tom was found not GUILTY of the burglary charges he had been wrongfully accused of. 

 

 

An AFFLUENT lifestyle.

2. AFFLUENT

In 1862, Sarah, the daughter of an affluent Connecticut industrialist, married William Winchester, the son of Oliver Winchester, the manufacturer of the Winchester repeating rifle …

AFFLUENT is an adjective that describes a person who has a lot of money, property, and other material goods.  Synonyms include wealthy, rich, prosperous, and well off.  AFFLUENT can also be used to describe areas, societies, lifestyles, and so on. 

I wasn’t raised in an AFFLUENT household, but my parents often took me to museums and other cultural events to make sure I was exposed to fine art and music.   

Most international schools in Tokyo are only accessible to the most AFFLUENT families, but at our school, we prefer to keep tuition costs down to attract a diversity of students. 

In a truly AFFLUENT society, there is more than enough of everything for everyone.

Johannesburg is a city where an AFFLUENT section of town is only a few streets away from the city’s most underprivileged neighborhood. 

AFFLUENT can also mean abundant or plentiful.

Just think what the country might have been if it had had more AFFLUENT mineral and other resources. 

AFFLUENT can also be used (with “the) as a noun meaning people who are rich or well off.

Somewhat surprisingly, obesity rates tend to be higher among people living below the poverty line than they are among the more AFFLUENT. 

 

 

 

Oil spills are true TRAGEDIES.

3. TRAGEDY

But then tragedy struck.  In 1866, their infant daughter Annie died of a mysterious childhood illness …

A TRAGEDY is an event such as a serious accident, illness, crime, or natural disaster that causes great suffering, destruction, or death.

The house fire could have been a real TRAGEDY had it not been for the heroic actions of a passerby who saved the lives of the four small children trapped on the second floor.

Samantha never got over the TRAGEDY of losing her twin sister Cynthia to illness at a young age. 

Let’s hope that this oil-spill TRAGEDY will make more people realize that further polluting the ocean threatens the lives of all marine life and, ultimately, the lives of humans.

In literature, a TRAGEDY is a play dealing with sad events and having an unhappy ending.

Of all Shakespeare’s TRAGEDIES, Hamlet is my favorite.

 

 

 

Feeling PROFOUND joy!

4. PROFOUND

In 1866, their infant daughter Annie died of a mysterious childhood illness, and Sarah fell into a profound depression.

When talking about an emotion, quality, or state of affairs, PROFOUND means felt or experienced very strongly.  Synonyms include deep, intense, heartfelt, and sincere.

You could see the PROFOUND joy on the faces of the students who saw their names on the “Successful Candidates” board posted outside the university’s Registrar’s Office.

Yet another tragic high school shooting incident at the hands of a young student has left many Americans in PROFOUND shock.

PROFOUND can also mean 1) showing great knowledge or understanding or 2) requiring a lot of study or thought, as in the following examples:

If you are looking for some PROFOUND quotations to use in your own writing, you need look no further than the Harry Potter books, which are filled with wise and witty remarks. 

Recent archeological findings near Stonehenge have raised some very PROFOUND questions about why the ancients chose that location to build the stone monoliths. 

When speaking of a disease or disability, PROFOUND means severe or deep-seated.

Unless your child has a PROFOUND physical disability and/or learning difficulty, the school board is not in a position to assign a personal helper or to offer one-on-one tutoring.

 

 

 

To INHERIT a house.

5. INHERIT

The cause of her anguish, said her advisor, was the Winchester family and the vast wealth she had inherited when her husband died. 

To INHERIT means to receive money or property from somebody when that person dies.  Come into, be bequeathed, and be left are some near equivalents.

When her grandmother passed away, Joy INHERITED her old, Victorian-style house in Denver.

I only started playing the violin because I INHERITED my Aunt Linda’s Stentor when she died. 

Asako thinks she’ll INHERIT her father’s company just because she is his daughter, but Mr. Fukuda does not believe in nepotism and has other plans for the business. 

You can also INHERIT qualities and physical characteristics that are similar to those of your parents, grandparents, and so on.

I’m afraid I didn’t INHERIT my mother’s beautiful singing voice.  I can’t carry a tune to save my life!

My son must have INHERITED his athleticism from his mother because he surely didn’t get it from me.

 

 

 

To baffle and ward off angry sports, the design was purposely kept HAPHAZARD.

6. HAPHAZARD

To baffle and ward off angry spirits, the design was purposely kept haphazard.

HAPHAZARD is an adjective that means random or not organized.  Synonyms include chance, accidental, casual, and irregular.

“Your so-called mid-term paper is nothing more than a few poorly written sentences thrown together in HAPHAZARD fashion, without a hint of structure or logic,” Mrs. Kent said.

The ancient Greeks saw the HAPHAZARD speckling of stars in the night sky and grouped them together into constellations that loosely depicted gods and goddesses.

HAPHAZARDLY is the adverb form and means in an unorganized manner.  Synonyms include randomly, unsystematically, irregularly, and disorderly.

This morning, I HAPHAZARDLY tossed my stuff into my backpack before rushing out to catch the school bus, and wouldn’t you just know it, I forgot my homework assignment that was due today!

Books and games were strewn HAPHAZARDLY across the living room floor after my son and his friends played there this afternoon.

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PDF DOWNLOAD:KA WORDCAST Listen Up! Lesson 9 KEY VOCABULARY