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Visiting the Winchester Mystery House

Updated on September 14, 2007

After writing about haunted hotels, I came across this unique place that I just had to share. It's not known for being particularly haunted (which is why I didn't include it in my earlier article) but it is strange all the same.

Winchester Mystery House
Winchester Mystery House

So what makes it strange?

The house's architecture is simply bizarre, as is the history of the house. This mansion is a quirky mix of stairways and doors that go nowhere, rambling hallways and almost never-ending rooms. There are windows that offer views between one room and the next instead of outdoors, and a chimney that stops short of reaching the roof. This unusual home is an absolute monstrosity.

History of Winchester House

The house was built by Sarah Winchester in 1884, whose husband was William Winchester. Owner of the famed Winchester rifle company, he left her quite a fortune when he died suddenly of tuberculosis. Their only daughter had died as an infant years earlier. After their deaths, Sarah asked a psychic for advice and discovered that she was being haunted by the ghosts of all the people killed by a Winchester rifle.

She fled west to California and bought a farmhouse, to which she began construction on immediately. Her intention was to continue building without pause, in order to confuse the spirits who pursued her. This plan also led to many strange decisions, like the stairway that leads up to the ceiling. It was all to foil the ghosts. She made design decisions on the fly and often jotted down "plans" on napkins for the builders.

She died 38 years later in 1922, without any break in construction during all that time. And that was quite literal, too. There was work being done on the house 24-hours a day. The house went to her niece, who sold it as a tourist attraction.

It took 6 weeks to get all the furniture out after her death, because of the confusing and maze-like floorplan.

What's it like?

It's huge. The mansion is spread over 6 acres in total, and contains 160 rooms, 6 kitchens, 40 staircases, 13 bathrooms, 52 skylights, 47 fireplaces, 3 elevators and 2,000 doors. There were 7 stories at one point, but the fire and earthquake that hit San Francisco in 1906 did considerable damage to the house. Some parts were boarded up at that time. The entire building cost her more than $5 million dollars to construct.

Go for a visit

The house is located at 525 South Winchester Boulevard, in San Jose, California. There are daily tours, which can take a few hours. Full details of the facilities are on their web page. Tour rates start at $23.95, and there are behind-the-scenes tours available as well. On every Friday 13th, and Halloween, there are special flashlight tours.


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    • profile image

      courtny rallison 10 years ago

      i like this web site i look at it every day i get speacial

    • Marye Audet profile image

      Marye Audet 10 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      I have been there, when I was attending language school at Presido Monterey. It is an amazing place..and a sad story of a totally ill woman who needed help desperatly