The Winchester Mansion, in San Jose, California, was built by Sara Winchester, the widow of William Winchester. Sarah Winchester’s husband invented the Winchester rifle and made his family very rich. But Sarah believed that a curse had been placed on her family. Her only daughter, Annie, died from marasmus and her husband died from pulmonary tuberculosis. Mrs Winchester was so stunned by the tragedy, that she fell into a coma.
Finally, she recovered and decided to visit a medium and contacted the spirit of her dead husband. According to Sarah Winchester, the medium held a seance and her husband’s ghost revealed that to lift the curse she must build a house large enough to house the souls of all those who’d been killed by Winchester guns. In 1884 Sarah moved to California and purchased an eight room farmhouse in San Jose. Then she began to build and spent the remaining 36 years of her life (until she died in 1922) doing just that and with no apparent design at the start. Every night, Sarah would go to her Seance Room to receive messages from the spirits telling her what she should build.
The mansion’s construction is just as odd as Sara’s personality. There are stairways and doors that go nowhere and elevators that only go up one floor, secret rooms and passages, open holes in the middle of floors, chimneys that served no purpose and closets that opened onto walls.
The design of Winchester House was supposed to confuse the evil spirits and ghosts that were haunting Sarah. She designed a house that was really a giant maze where she felt she could hide from the spirits. Everything was built small because she was only 4′ 10″ and designed the house around herself. She was a very distrusting person and used internal windows to keep an eye on her staff.
At midnight every night, the bell in the bell tower was rung to summon the spirits. At 2 AM, it was rung again as a signal for the spirits to depart. The bell was hung at the top of the tower, with a long rope hanging down a sheer, unclimbable wall. The rope was reached through underground tunnels, the precise layout of which was known only to the bell ringer and his assistant
The number 13 is prevalent throughout: The windows contained 13 panes of glass, the walls had 13 panels, the floors contained 13 wooden planks, the rooms had 13 windows and every staircase had 13 steps. In 1906 Sarah was trapped in a bedroom by an earthquake. Because she slept in a different room every night, it took the servants over an hour to find her. She took the earthquake as an sign from the spirits that she’d been spending too much time on the front section and subsequently ordered the front thirty rooms sealed.
There is a rumor that Sara would never give her workmen the day off, because she was afraid that the day she stopped building she would die. One day, however, after many complaints, she finally gave her staff a day off, and that is the day she died at the age of 83. At the time of Sarah’s death there were 160 rooms (in various stages of completion) in the house.
Since Sarah Winchester’s death, several psychics have reported feeling cold spots and seeing red balls of light that fade and explode.
The unusual goings-on reported in the Winchester House include organ music in the Blue Room where Sarah died, a couple lingering in the corner of a bedroom, cold spots in Sarah’s bedroom, and apparitions of Sarah. Perhaps one of the oddest is the smell of chicken soup coming from a long-unused kitchen. Others have smelled chicken soup cooking in kitchens that haven’t been used since Sarah died. Other guides have heard their names called from empty rooms.
Unlike most homes of its era, this 160-room Victorian mansion had modern heating and sewer systems, gas lights that operated by pressing a button, three working elevators, and 47 staircases. other interesting features of the house include its 10,000 windows (including some priceless Tiffany stained glass), 47 fireplaces, and a beautiful garden.
Besides their normal tours, Winchester Mystery House offers special flashlights tours every Friday the thirteenth and at Christmas and Halloween.
To find out more about this house and see some truly incredible photos, as well as their schedule, be sure to visit The Winchester Mystery House Official Website and pay visit when you are in San José, CA.
The Winchester Mystery House
525 South Winchester Blvd
San Jose, CA 95128-2588
Group Sales & Business Offices: 1-408-247-2000
Current Tour Information: 1-408-247-2101
Upcoming Special Events Info: 1-408-247-1313
Friday the 13th Flashlight Tours — every Friday the 13th
Halloween Flashlight Tours and Trick or Treating — every Halloween night