Winchester Mystery House, an eight-room-home-turned-seven-story-mansion in Northern California, has passageways to nowhere, stairs leading to ceilings, doors that open to blank walls and supernatural fun
Amid the high-tech companies in Northern California’s Silicon Valley sits an architectural masterpiece dating back to 1884. San Jose’s Winchester Mystery House boasts a myriad of anomalies for visitors to explore.
Sarah Winchester, heir to the firearms company that bore her husband’s family name, purportedly felt haunted by the spirits of those who perished at the hand of the famous repeating rifle. After purchasing an eight-room farmhouse, Winchester kept the home in a perpetual state of expansion in an apparent effort to confuse, or perhaps appease, the restless souls who plagued her life. Construction continued 24 hours a day until her death in 1922. At that time, workers had created a menagerie of peculiar elements known today as the Winchester Mystery House.
Tours lead guests into a labyrinth of curiosities that include stairs leading to a ceiling, hidden passages, doors that open to more doors or drop-offs, rooms within rooms, and skylights in floors. The house has certainly earned its place as a National Historic Landmark, as it’s also equipped with modern conveniences that were rare at the time, including button-controlled gas lights and elevators, in addition to stunning Tiffany stained-glass windows.
Next year will be a big one for the popular tourist attraction with the release of Winchester, a movie starring Helen Mirren as the eccentric heiress. For a limited time, the estate will offer the Explore More Tour as an extension of its Mansion Tour, taking guests to the South Turret Witch’s Cap, the only circular room in the home, in addition to other restored areas including the basement and the Crystal Bedroom with mica-embedded wallpaper.
“This tour takes you into sections that have never before been seen by the public,” said General Manager Walter Magnuson. “Visitors are able to enter through the front door, which was forbidden when Sarah lived in the home. A winding tour awaits.”
Building materials that were stockpiled by Winchester are still being used in the maintenance and restoration of her home. A portion of the house was boarded up after being damaged in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, leaving much still to be discovered.
Exterior elements of the mansion can be enjoyed free of charge. Impeccable gardens surround the estate. Guests can also visit the gift shop and Winchester Café, and try their luck in Sarah’s Attic Shooting Gallery where aiming a rifle will discharge some supernatural fun.
“Our Vintage Products Museum showcases the diversity of the Winchester Company,” Magnuson added. “They produced products from tents to roller skates.”
Winchester Mystery House is open daily except Christmas and offers ample parking for RVs in a large lot across the street. Tour prices start at $37.
Winchester Mystery House
408-247-2000 | www.winchestermysteryhouse.com
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