Winchester Mystery House

The Winchester Mystery House has long been a popular Northern California attraction. The famous mansion opened to tourists in 1923, just five months after its owner and former resident passed away. That owner and former resident was Sarah Winchester – widow of the son of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Mrs. Winchester used a healthy chunk of her $20 million inheritance to finance the construction of the grand mansion, and while she had no formal architectural training, she oversaw the bulk of the building process. This could explain the staircases and corridors that lead to nothing and nowhere, though there are various other theories about that. There are also several Winchester House haunting tales. Supposedly, the mansion was built with the purpose to house spirits.

History

Sarah Winchester was born Sarah Lockwood Pardee in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1862, she married William Wirt Winchester, who was the only son of the owner of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Thanks to the couple’s status, they enjoyed access to New England’s high society. Life was good early on, though things took a change for the worse in 1866. This was the year that Sarah and William’s infant daughter Annie passed away from marasmus (a severe form of malnutrition). Sarah fell into a deep depression after the death of her daughter and never fully recovered. Things only worsened in 1881 when her husband died prematurely from tuberculosis. Legend has it that Sarah Winchester believed her family to be cursed. It is also believed that she sought out the services of spiritualists to help her make sense of it all. Allegedly, a medium in Boston convinced Sarah that she and her family were indeed cursed by the spirits of those people who were killed by Winchester rifles. The medium then went on to convince Sarah that she should move West and build a house that could not only accommodate herself, but these spirits as well. As the story goes, Sarah was also told by the medium that construction of the house should never cease once it began, as this would ensure that her life would no longer be in danger. The continual building would also help Sarah achieve eternal life. Work on the mansion began in 1888 and continued nonstop for 38 years until Sarah Winchester’s death on September 5, 1922.

Description

Description
Description  Image: mikeshelby (flickr)

As you might imagine, the lengthy 38-year construction of what is now known as the Winchester Mystery House resulted in a rather large and complex structure. The house has no less than 160 rooms and is so complex that many of the serving staff members needed maps in order to navigate it. Not only is the Winchester Mystery House large and complex. It is also rather unusual. As mentioned, there are staircases and corridors that lead nowhere. Another odd feature are the doors that open into walls. The peculiarities don’t end there, though this is more than just a weird mansion. The delightful Victorian craftsmanship is easy to appreciate, and there are plenty of impressive installations. Among the most remarkable of these installations are the intricate parquet floors and the extravagant art glass windows. In relation to its exterior, the Winchester Mystery House features attractive cupolas, towers, turrets, cornices and balconies. It very much has the look of a castle. Only serving to complement the mansion and its castle-like appeal are stately grounds with lovely gardens. The Winchester Mystery House is located in San Jose at 525 South Winchester Boulevard (a couple miles west of the downtown area and the San Jose Tech Museum) should you wish to see it for yourself.

Mystery House Haunting & Hauntings

Mystery House Haunting & Hauntings
Mystery House Haunting & Hauntings  Image: naotakem (flickr)

Is the Winchester House haunted? Many people who believe in the supernatural think so. A number of visitors have reported strange events, and there have been numerous spirit sightings and various other Winchester House haunting stories. Take a tour of the mansion, and you can learn more about its supernatural ties. The tours come in a variety of forms. There are those that only visit the basement and others that take guests through 110 of the 160 rooms. Visitors can also take a tour that focuses exclusively on the gardens and the natural art sculpture that is the Straw Labyrinth. Perhaps a behind-the-scenes tour will pique your interest, or maybe you’ll take the Grand Tour and see it all. Not to be overlooked are the special "Fright Nights" tours that are offered from mid-August until October 31.

Winchester Mystery House Tickets

Winchester Mystery House Tickets
Winchester Mystery House Tickets  Image: bella731 (flickr)

Winchester Mystery House tickets can be purchased separately for the various tours. Once visitors decide on the experience or experiences that are best for them, they can decide which tickets to buy. Area residents should consider buying an annual pass if they are planning on enjoying repeat visits. Either way, if a visit to the Winchester Mystery House figures on your intended California vacation itinerary, tickets can be purchased either in advance or upon arrival. Prices vary according to the tour in question and the age of the participant. Seniors 65 and older and children between the ages of 6 and 12 receive discounts. Children younger than 6 get in for free with a paying adult. Tours are offered daily, so you can treat yourself to your own Winchester House haunting regardless of when you find yourself in San Jose or the surrounding Silicon Valley. There a number of San Jose hotels nearby, with the elegant Hotel Valencia Santana Row located just a couple blocks away.

Top image: HarshLight (flickr)

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