The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, USA has always fascinated me since I was a child. And I have yet to visit it. The entire home took 34 years to build. If the recluse and widowed Sarah Winchester had not have died, the construction may have continued well beyond 34 years. It is said that she was told by a psychic that she needed to build the home to quell the spirits that were killed by Winchester rifles. She was the heiress to the Winchester fortune and all of the murdered spirits that fell by her family’s legacy would haunt her for the remainder of her life… Supposedly those same spirits were the ones responsible for taking her husband’s and daughter’s lives.
Her enormous 160- Victorian home, started in the early 1800s, has over 2,000 stairs, 950 doors, 10,000 window, and 47 fireplaces. It is also rumored that there are at least 3 resident ghosts. The entire interior of the house is a labyrinth full of twisted hallways, stairways to nowhere, and even a doorway that leads to a drop eight feet below — into the kitchen. All oddities of the house’s architecture was to confuse the ghosts from following Mrs. Winchester, especially on her nightly routine to the Séance Room.
“When Mrs. Winchester set out for her Séance Room, it might well have discouraged the ghost of the Indian or even of a bloodhound, to follow her. After traversing an interminable labyrinth of rooms and hallways, suddenly she would push a button, a panel would fly back and she would step quickly from one apartment into another, and unless the pursuing ghost was watchful and quick, he would lose her. Then she opened a window in that apartment and climbed out, not into the open air, but onto the top of a flight of steps that took her down one story only to meet another flight that brought her right back up to the same level again, all inside the house. This was supposed to be very discomforting to evil spirits who are said to be naturally suspicious of traps.” From the Winchester Mystery House website
The nightly séances were to communicate with good spirits for assistance on the house’s building plans as well as determining protection from “bad” spirits. Often times during the séances, she would draw up building plans and provide them to her foreman the following morning. There were never any blueprints drafter for the house (nor any home inspections!). Luckily for Mrs. Winchester, a budget was never a question due to her inheritance from her departed family (the entirely of the house cost $5,500,000).
The construction of the house, which was 24 hours a day / 7 days a week, continued for those 34 years of Mrs. Winchester’s residence. Passages grew, new buildings were erected and attached to the main house, additional levels were added. It is believed that the house had at one time 500 – 600 rooms, but the continual redesigning of the home whittled that down to 160 at the time of Mrs. Winchester’s death. Some of these construction workers spent their lives building her home. Some even lost their lives on the property. Those who currently work at the Winchester Mystery House, which is now a museum, say that they can hear ghostly hammering and other construction noise on the house’s grounds — even though there are currently no construction projects in process.
The constant construction of the home was not the only thing that is believed to have warded off “bad” spirits. The number 13 is a regular occurrence throughout the house:
- 13 Panes on many of the windows
- 13 bathrooms
- 13 wall panels in the room prior to the 13th bathroom
- 13 windows in the 13th bathroom
- 13 stairs leading to the 13th bathroom
- 13 cement sections on the Carriage Entrance Hall floor
- 13 rails by the floor-level skylight in the South Conservatory
- 13 squares on each side of the elevators
- 13 robe hooks in the Séance Room
- 13 gas jets on the Ballroom Chandelier (the last jet personally added by Mrs. Winchester)
The house is said to either have been built by spirits or insanity. No one will ever know for sure. However, what is known is that the Winchester Mystery House is the most intriguing, peculiar, and secretive houses to visit in the United States.