The Winchester House, (AKA the Winchester Mystery House) is probably one of the most well known private residences in the United States. The elaborate mansion located at 525 South Winchester Blvd. in San Jose, CA is renowned for its massive size and structural oddities, even landing a spot on the National Register of Historic Places and being officially designated a historical landmark in California. This structure is perhaps most impressive as it was built almost completely without blueprints.
Following the death of her husband, William Wirt Winchester, founder of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, Sarah Winchester supposedly packed up and moved from her Connecticut home to California, where she purchased an unfinished 2 story, eight room farmhouse. Tabloids at the time reported that the move was at the behest of a medium, claiming to channel Sarah’s late husband, who insisted that Sarah must atone for the victims who had fallen to Winchester rifles. As such, the medium suggested that Sarah build a continuously evolving mansion to appease (or perhaps confuse) the restless spirits.
In 1884, three years after her husband’s death, construction began on the behemoth architectural project. Built in an American Queen Anne Revival style, the elaborate 24,000 square foot mansion boasts some very curious features. In addition to over 40 bedrooms, 2 ballrooms, 17 chimneys, 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, and 13 bathrooms (but only one functional in an effort to confuse the spirits), the house features several unique rooms and features that stand apart from your typical, run of the mill mansions.
These features include:
- The $25,000 Room – A storeroom that held Mrs. Winchester’s artisan, stained glass windows commissioned specifically for the home. These stained glass masterpieces, some supposedly built by the Tiffany Company, are currently on display in the $25,000 room and are now valued around $350,000. Many of the windows have a spider web pattern and the number 13 embedded or hidden throughout their motifs.
- The Séance Room – The Séance Room is purportedly exactly that, a room where Mrs. Winchester could communicate with the spirits in order to determine her next architectural design cues. It is claimed that only Mrs. Winchester had a key to the room, which offers only one entrance but three exits.
- Witch’s Cap – Assumed to simply be used as nothing more than attic space, the Witch’s Cap – named for its large conical ceiling, boasts some rather unique acoustics. If a person stands in the middle of the room and speaks, it is said that their voice will echo and “bounce” around the room, making it seem as if they’re surrounded by the noise.
- Doorway to Nowhere and more – Various oddly built structures including a doorway on the second floor (the “Doorway to Nowhere”) that opens to nothing, offering anyone that steps through the thresholds a two-story drop straight onto the ground below. Another doorway opens to a one-story drop into a sink on the first floor. Windows were often constructed facing walls, and others in internal walls with no outside light source at all.
Construction on the home supposedly went on around the clock, seven days a week for decades, from 1884 until Mrs. Winchester’s death in 1922, only pausing for brief intervals, according to a Winchester biographer, for Sarah to rest and recuperate and for a small duration following the 1906 earthquake. The earthquake leveled 3 floors of the once 7 story home and went unrepaired, simply being boarded up from view.
Is the Winchester Mystery House Haunted?
Sarah built the Winchester Mansion not only for herself but for the countless people who lost their lives at the barrel end of a Winchester rifle. It’s as if she was inviting them in.
- “The Handyman” – An apparition that is thought to be a previous incredibly dedicated worker on the mansion. He has been seen repairing a fireplace and lugging around a ghostly wheelbarrow around various parts of the property.
- “The Invisible Hand” – Another handyman, although this one living, reported having an encounter on the property while working in the Hall of Fires (a section of the house that featured numerous fireplaces). While working up on a ladder he felt someone tap him on the back. He dismissed it when he realized no one was in the room with him, until he felt the tap turn to a shove. He quickly left the project and picked up work elsewhere on the property, deciding he wasn’t quite welcome in the Hall of Fires.
- ”The Sigh” – A tour guide on the property was taking a group through the Daisy Bedroom, a room with once bright wallpaper and stunning daisy stained glass windows. The Daisy Bedroom was supposedly the location in which Mrs. Winchester was trapped during the 1906 earthquake. An audible sigh could be heard from the hallway prompting the tour guide to check for any stragglers in her guided group. A dark figure was seen at the end of the hallway before gliding around a corner out of sight, where another loud sigh could be heard. It has been suggested that perhaps this spirit is Sarah herself, upset at the tour group invading her space.
- EVPs and more – The Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventure Crew has visited the Winchester Mystery House and emerged with some pretty fascinating finds, including a full 7 degree temperature drop as filming began, EVP’s that purportedly repeated the crew members names as well as phrases like “I hate you” and “Kill!”.
The house still stands today and is open for tours to the public, including a newly enhanced “Explore More Tour” that offers views into rooms never before opened to the public.