Daycation to the Famously Haunted Winchester Mystery House
SAN JOSE, California – The Winchester Mystery House was initially a small two-story farmhouse in San Jose. Today, this famed 160-room mansion is open to the public and the subject of the recently released movie, Winchester.
The mansion was built by Sarah Winchester, the widow and heiress of firearm magnate William Winchester. Although Winchester Repeating Arms Company provided the Winchesters with considerable wealth, Mrs. Winchester reportedly believed, due in part to the untimely deaths of both her husband and child, that the spirits of those killed by the rifles that the company manufactured cursed her family. Consequently, it is said that she built the mansion to keep those same spirits from haunting her.
Not only is the reason for the home’s construction unusual, but so is the manner in which it was built. Despite the home’s sprawling size and the fact that Sarah Winchester’s inheritance of $20 million dollars could have afforded her the world’s best architects many times over, there was no architectural plan. Instead, rooms were added on willy-nilly. The result is a window built into the floor, stairs leading to nowhere, doors that open onto blank walls and upside down posts. The mansion’s layout is such a labyrinth that the servants, according to legend, needed a map just to navigate the interior.
If you want to explore this house of oddities for yourself, the hour-long Mansion Tour provides access to 110 of the mansion’s 160 rooms. You’ll see curiosities like the “$25,000 Room,” which is filled with expensive artisan windows that Mrs. Winchester collected, a hayloft and the Séance room. It is in this locked room, which has only one entrance but three exits, that Sarah Winchester is said to have come nightly to receive the spirits’ instructions for the design of the house. You’ll also visit Sarah’s bedroom, a luxurious and serene oasis which stands in stark contrast from much of the rest of the house.
If you haven’t had your fill of the bizarre, the Explore More Tour is an add-on to The Mansion Tour and showcases portions of the house that have previously been closed to the public. Here you’ll visit the dim corridors of the third floor, the Witch’s Cap, a conical space with a weird acoustic effect, and the third floor base of the observation tower. This tower once stood seven stories tall, but it was damaged in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and never rebuilt to its original height. Children ages 10 and under are not permitted on the Explore More Tour for safety reasons.
For those who aren’t interested or able to traverse the nearly one-mile length of the mansion or its many stairs, there is a Video Access Tour.
If you go: The Winchester Mystery House is located at 525 S. Winchester Blvd., San Jose. Tickets prices begin at $20. For more information, visit WinchesterMysteryHouse.com or call 408-247-2101.
Your Town Daycations is a series featured in the print edition of Your Town Monthly. This article was originally published in the May 2018 editions.