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Exploring The Winchester Mystery House

Updated on March 13, 2015
relache profile image

Raye was born in New England, grew up in the Mid-Atlantic, spent college out West, and presently publishes Hubs from the Pacific Northwest.

The House that Mrs. Winchester Built

One of California's most curious and eccentric historical landmarks is the Winchester Mystery House, located in San Jose, CA. When William Winchester, namesake and heir to the Winchester rifle company fortune passed away, his wife Sara became the recipient of a vast amount of wealth, making her one of the richest people in the country for her time. however, she harbored a deep sense of guilt and fear about how many people had been killed by Winchester guns, and worried greatly about the ghosts of all those victims.

She was fond of seances and fortune-telling, and supposedly a medium told Mrs. Winchester that if construction on her home never stopped, she could keep herself safe from unhappy spirits. For 38 years, workers kept at it three hundred and sixty-five days a year, seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, doing something on the Winchester property.

The designer in charge was Mrs. Winchester herself even though she had zero education or training in construction or architecture. She expanded the small farmhouse into a multi-floor mansion, a sprawl of bedrooms and parlours with a smattering of kitchens and bathrooms. Even more eccentrically, Mrs. Winchester never had any visitors to the house EVER, and over the years the only people there were herself, one niece who inherited the estate later, and the servants and workers.

The Winchester Mystery House, front house view.  All pictures on this Hub were taken on October 15, 2007.  All rights reserved.
The Winchester Mystery House, front house view. All pictures on this Hub were taken on October 15, 2007. All rights reserved. | Source

Tiffany Glass

One detail Mrs. Winchester loved in her house were custom-designed windows made by the Tiffany Glass Company. The most expensive window in the house was a large single panel which cost $1,500. At that time, that represented a day and a half of what Mrs. Winchester earned from her Winchester stock. To compare, a regular window at that time cost $3.

The $25,000 Storeroom is a room just off the carriage room in the house, used to hold components and pieces for rooms under construction. At the time of her death, this room held $25,000 worth of Tiffany windows waiting to be installed into rooms in the house. Mrs. Winchester used to contact the Tiffany glass company and just pre-order windows so that a stock would always be on-hand for the never-ending construction, with the company making windows with designs that fit her color and motif preferences. Now, the contents of that room are referred to with that slightly-breathless description of "priceless." The panes that were never installed in the house are on display here, and secured against earthquakes.

Overall the house has many, many installed Tiffany windows with certain flower motifs and numerically-significant decorations repeated throughout.

The $25,000 Storeroom

The $25,000 Storeroom, which now has become priceless for its stockpile of original Tiffany's stained glass windows.
The $25,000 Storeroom, which now has become priceless for its stockpile of original Tiffany's stained glass windows. | Source

Documentaries About the Mystery House

Tour The Mystery House!

The Quirks and Curiosities of the Mystery House

Mrs. Winchester was very much her own woman, so no one is entirely sure why she built her the house the way she did. Clearly some details of the house are Queen Anne-style architecture, but others are pure Winchester. Were they put there purely as a way of keeping work going (the 'staircase to nowhere'). Other bits seem to be there as a result of Mrs. Winchester changing her mind. Or perhaps some features are meant to confuse and mislead wandering spirits (the 'door to nowhere').

Whereas some people have a fear of the number 13, it was Mrs. Winchester's favorite. Repeated all over the house are things in groups of thirteen: window panes, wall hooks, drain holes in sinks. The daises that Sarah Winchester planted in her gardens and commissioned as a recurring motif in the house are a thirteen-petaled flower.

A very short woman, only 4' 10" tall, Mrs. Winchester became arthritic in her old age and had many new staircases added to her home, composed of very low "easy-riser" steps. These spiral up and down throughout the house and were used exclusively by Mr. Winchester, with her servants using regularly-sized stairs of their own. The large house featured many ultra-modern conveniences of the day: centrally-controlled gas lighting, an electric bell system for calling the servants to different areas and an indoor shower for bathing.

Visit the Mystery House in California

A
Winchester Mystery House:
525 South Winchester Boulevard, San Jose, CA 95128, USA

get directions

Famous Winchester Sights

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The "door to nowhere" on the 2nd floor opens directly to the outside.The "stairs to nowhere" lead up to the ceiling.A hedge in the shape of Mrs. Winchester's favorite number.This bell is specially rung on all Friday the 13ths at 13:13 (1:13pm).
The "door to nowhere" on the 2nd floor opens directly to the outside.
The "door to nowhere" on the 2nd floor opens directly to the outside. | Source
The "stairs to nowhere" lead up to the ceiling.
The "stairs to nowhere" lead up to the ceiling. | Source
A hedge in the shape of Mrs. Winchester's favorite number.
A hedge in the shape of Mrs. Winchester's favorite number. | Source
This bell is specially rung on all Friday the 13ths at 13:13 (1:13pm).
This bell is specially rung on all Friday the 13ths at 13:13 (1:13pm). | Source

Take a Walk Around In the Mystery House

Have you visited the Winchester Mystery House? What was your experience?

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    • profile image

      winter 

      6 years ago

      never been seems really cool .

    • profile image

      Haunted 

      7 years ago

      Wow, what an interesting place!

    • PaperNotes profile image

      PaperNotes 

      7 years ago

      Amazing! I suppose I would also do the same as Mrs. Winchester did, considering I have all the money to spend on my whim!

    • kitchenaid101 profile image

      kitchenaid101 

      8 years ago

      I remember reading about this house. Truly amazing. Your hubs are so good. I can see you put allot of work into them...thanks, Frank

    • relache profile imageAUTHOR

      Raye 

      8 years ago from Seattle, WA

      You might want to check the Mystery House website. I'm pretty sure that's one of those details they have listed.

    • profile image

      mark 

      8 years ago

      does anyone know how many square feet it has?

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 

      8 years ago from Canada

      I watched a special on this house. It is fascinating...and the treasures stored away there - something else, indeed. Thanks for this one.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Interesting hub. I recall something of the Winchester house from the history channel which was oart of a program about the guns of the West

    • The Rope profile image

      The Rope 

      8 years ago from SE US

      Great hub. I love finding old houses and hearing their stories, there are a great many of them in the US even though we are so "young". Thanks for sharing!

    • emievil profile image

      emievil 

      9 years ago from Philippines

      This is a great hub and it brings some memories, too. I stayed in San Jose, Ca for three months and this was one of the places I visited. It is a beautiful house but also a strange one. I'm just glad it's well-preserved and open to visitors. Thanks. =)

    • profile image

      Crazdwriter 

      9 years ago

      I remember visiting the house. I loved it! It's such an interesting place. Great hub on it too!

    • profile image

      jjrubio 

      9 years ago

      What an interesting and deranged place. Almost reminds me of a macabre wonderland. Everything that doesn't make sense Architecturally, does make sense there.

      I also liked the videos. GREAT HUB!

    • relache profile imageAUTHOR

      Raye 

      10 years ago from Seattle, WA

      It's amazing especially to think about what it was like prior to the 1906 quake, when there was that very tall tower on the house (making it a seven story structure) and before a whole wing of rooms was sealed off due to Mrs. Winchester's fears.

    • profile image

      Marye Audet 

      10 years ago

      It is very cool! Marc and I were stationed in Monterey at the Presidio which is not far... it is an amazing house!

    • relache profile imageAUTHOR

      Raye 

      10 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I was joking with a friend about how I didn't visit during the dozen years I lived in the Bay Area, but then I did once I'd moved away!

    • Stacie Naczelnik profile image

      Stacie Naczelnik 

      10 years ago from Seattle

      Excellent hub. I always wanted to visit The Winchester Mystery House, but never did. It's still on my to do list.

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