The legendary Winchester Mystery House, located at 525 South Winchester Ave. San Jose, CA, 95128-2547. I arrived on a sunny Californian day on March 12th to participate in the grand tour. I had been intrigued by the Winchester Mystery House for years and at last, I would be able to explore the place myself.
If you’re wondering what the Winchester Mystery House is all about, then it’s time for a brief history lesson. The mansion is famously known as a “house built by ghosts for ghosts.” The mansion is like a fanatical twisting, turning, fun-house. With doors that open to brick walls and 30 feet drops, tiny and claustrophobic staircases that twist and turn to rooms lined with fire-places or to a ceiling that will bump you in the head, spider-web designs littered along beautiful stain-glassed windows, and cupboards that can open to walls or open to the rest of the house. Originally composing of 700 rooms but due to Californian earthquakes, the house now has 160 rooms. The house was built over a period of 39 years, costing about five million dollars. 1,000 doors, 52 skylights, 3 elevators, 30 staircases, 47 fireplaces, and 1,500 windows. Are you tired of numbers yet? Because that’s not all. The home is littered with the number 13. 13 bathrooms, 13 steps on the staircases, ceilings with 13 panels, chandeliers with 13 lights, and rooms with 13 windows. This iconic number 13 was believed to be a lucky number or to ward away evil spirits. But why would one need to do such a thing, or build a mansion in this incredible manner?
Sarah Winchester; widowed with the loss of her child and many other family members in the year of 1883 at the age of forty-four. Inherited with twenty million dollars plus an income of $1,000 a day and a grief-stricken heart, Sarah was desperate to protect herself from a believed curse that was placed on her family. Legend has it that with these immediate and sudden long string of deaths in her family, Sarah went to see a medium to inquire about a supposed curse placed on her family. Sarah’s husband, William Winchester, was the owner of the famous reproduction of the Winchester Rifle which was responsible for participating in many years and killing many people in the throws of battle. The medium that advised Sarah in her grief suggested that the reason for the many deaths in her family was due to the revenge of the angered spirits who were killed by the Winchester rifle. The only way to escape this curse was to move West and build a house directed by the good spirits and to never stop building. And so, the Winchester Mystery House was created.
The house is said to still be haunted due to the supposed seances conducted by Sarah in order to get directions from the good spirits. However, most of this is a legend and cannot entirely be proved. Some other theories as to why Sarah would build a house such as this:
Theory 1: Sarah had arthritis when she aged. This could explain the hall of fires which a hallway lined with fireplaces that could aid Sarah’s arthritis. This also explains the tiny staircases because she was under 5 feet tall. This could also explain the unfinished staircase as she may not have had a reason to finish it, due to the fact she couldn’t walk very far. Some flaws with this theory are, it does not explain the door to the 30 feet drop, or the rest of the home being absolutely confusing.
Theory 2: Sarah needed a change of scenery to distract herself from her grief. Which does make some sense, but why the constant number 13 or the use of frequent web designs which were said to ward away evil spirits.
Theory 3 (Mary Jo Ignoffo): Sarah was interested in architecture and stated so in some of her letters which also revealed that construction would stop at months at a time, which debunks the legend that she built the home around the clock.
Now, as far as tours, I participated in the Mansion Tour which allows me to tour through 110 of the 160 rooms and look for the bizarre phenomena that gave the mansion its name; a window built into the floor, staircases leading to nowhere, a chimney that rises four floors, doors that open onto blank walls, and upside down posts. However, there are many other choices such as; The Grand Estate Tour which show you the mansion in its entirety and then the Flashlight Tour which takes place at night with all of the lights turned off and people say that is when it gets spooky!
The only spooky thing I came across on my tour was when I entered the lobby area waiting for my tour guide and the door to my right slightly creaked open as if someone was inviting me inside, and no breeze was present that day.
Check out the Winchester Mystery House website and visit it yourself to see what kind of spooks you can get!: http://winchestermysteryhouse.com/
Information was gathered from the fantastical book, Ghost Hunter’s Guide to the San Francisco Bay Area by Jeff Dwyer, and Buzzfeed’s Unsolved Mysteries: 3 Horrifying Cases of Ghosts and Demons.