Seven stories tall, with stained-glass windows, a garden, a greenhouse, and shrouded in trees, the Winchester House is as beautiful as it is mysterious. When new owners acquired the property in 1923, they counted, but couldn’t get an accurate number of rooms in the house, as they kept getting a different number every time. I love a good ghost story, and the story surrounding the Winchester Mystery House is one full of love, tragedy, and horror.
Winchester Mansion aka Winchester Mystery House
We’ve heard the stories of the mystery house with a life of its own, a house with the paranormal ability to seemingly build upon itself, twisting and turning in every direction to confuse and consume its lost inhabitants. But where is the Winchester House?
At 525 South Winchester Blvd. in San Jose, California lies Sarah Winchester house, nestled in the trees, tucked away from the road, attempting to be discreet as a ghost. Not only is the Winchester mansion floor plan twisted and horrific, but the grounds are as dark and eery as the home itself. With the Winchester mystery house secret rooms, the house brings in super thrill-seekers every Halloween and Friday the 13th. Sign me up!
The home, which has a reported 161 rooms – 40 of which are bedrooms – was purchased by a mysterious, unnamed family in 1922 for a measly $150,000–although, that may have been a bunch of money then. We don’t know who they are but they’ve allowed folks to tour the Sarah Winchester House for years.
The Winchester Mansion floor plan is such that I don’t think I would wander in without a rope tied to my waist and to the entrance, but the fact that there are so many different tour options stokes me out so much! I’m definitely scooping up my bravest friends and having a Winchester Mystery House San Jose Road Trip!
Winchester Mystery House Tickets
There are several tours available to see the Winchester House. A Mansion Tour, Explore More Tour, and Garden Tour are available, depending on your level of depravity. It should be noted that children over nine years old are not allowed at the Explore More Tour. There are also Flashlight Tours around Halloween and every Friday the 13th.
The home was opened to the public after the troubled Sarah Winchester passed away and the home switched hands in 1923. The Gardens Tour, shrouded in trees and plants, also has many places you’re going to want to check out, including the Greenhouse, the Winchester Gardens, or the Shakespeare Grand Ballroom, all of which you can rent out for your own parties. For your mansion tour, you’ll get your very own tour guide–which is a heck of an occupation, I have to say!
At the mansion, you’ll also find Winchester Antiques Products Museum and the Winchester Firearms Museum. Winchester rifles, heard of them? Yeah, it turns out that Sarah Winchester was the wife of late William Wirt Winchester, whose family designed the rifles. A year before he died his father passed down the Winchester Repeating Arms Company to him. It wasn’t until after his death that she began to truly, well, keep reading and I’ll spill the story!
Winchester Mystery House Story
Now for my favorite part! Time for a little spooky story. Who was Lady Winchester? In my opinion, Sarah Winchester was a woman, who, through tragedy after tragedy, just finally snapped. She needed to control something in her life after the deaths of both her infant and husband, and found it within herself to do this…or was it something else?
The sprawling Winchester Mansion didn’t actually start, well, sprawling until some time after Sarah Winchester started building. She broke ground in 1886 after Mr. Winchester died from a particularly horrible fight with Tuberculosis five years prior.
Sarah left her home in New Haven, Connecticut to start over and threw down some cash to buy herself a beautiful farmhouse in San Jose, and get this: when she bought the mansion, it only had eight bedrooms.
There is one leading legend as to what actually compelled her to undertake her lifelong renovation of the Winchester House, one of which was that she sought out a psychic medium who explained to her that the spirits of those killed with the Winchester Rifle were downright angry. Legend says that in order to appease these spirits, she needed to build them a home. I mean, I don’t really want to live with ghosts, let alone invite them in by building them their own wing in my house!
Under this story, it was explained that if she ever stopped building she would die, so she had to build forever. It definitely makes sense, as that is exactly what she did. Some also say that the reason she built such a twisted, maze of a home was to keep her spirits from finding her. She slept in a new room every night to keep them on her toes. This was absolutely a woman who was distraught.
She built staircases to led directly into the ceiling, there were secret passages punched in throughout the house, so many so that there isn’t actually a conclusive number of how many of them there are. Sarah ordered stained glass windows to sit in dark areas of the home and had doors installed which were deliberate traps. Although there are only somewhere around 160 rooms in the house, there are reportedly 950 doors.
After a pretty bad earthquake damaged much of the house, Mrs. Winchester took this to mean that the spirits wanted her to keep building. Perhaps, she thought, she was slowing down or getting too close to complete.
Another legend reveals Sarah’s obsession with the number 13 and takes some of the clues within the house to lead to Sir Francis Bacon and the Freemasons. Before Sarah Winchester began building–before she even bought the home–she spent some time in Europe and there is evidence to suggest that she was highly influenced by the Masonic Lodges and French Cathedrals which paved the way to the architecture in the Winchester Mystery House.
On thetruthaboutsarahwinchester.com, the author says:
There are rooms within rooms. There is a staircase that leads nowhere, abruptly halting at the ceiling. In another place, there is a door which opens into a solid wall. Some of the House’s 47 chimneys have an overhead ceiling—while, in some places, there are skylights covered by a roof—and some skylights are covered by another skylight—and, in one place, there is a skylight built into the floor.
The author adds to the oddities of the mansion by highlighting the fact that the numbers 7, 11, and 13 show up repeatedly throughout the house. For instance, there are thirteen bathrooms, and the thirteenth bathroom has thirteen windows.
Those who believe this strain of legend feel that Sarah Winchester was privy to a secret sect, and because of her educational upbringing was uniquely positioned to want to plant everything in such a way as to be Masonic or of relevance to Sir Francis Bacon. It’s definitely worth a thought, and not to be easily dismissed.
Sarah Winchester Net Worth
Following the 1881 death of her husband, a firearm mogul, Sarah inherited $20.5 million (roughly $532 million today). She also took on almost 50% ownership of her late husband’s Winchester Repeating Arms Company, which translated to $1,000 per day ($26,000 per day today) of income.
How did Sarah Winchester die?
After nearly forty years of building, Sarah passed away peacefully in her sleep of congestive heart failure on September 5th, 1922 and is buried at home in New Haven, Connecticut next to her beloved husband.
Hotels Near Winchester Mystery House
If you’re thinking you’d better get to San Jose California to check out all the creepy and amazing things the Winchester Mystery House has to offer, you’re right. Go. There are an abundance of hotels very close by, so you can even walk to your mansion tour if you choose to do so.
Hotel Valencia Santana Row and Luxury Penthouse and Rooftop Terrace in Santana Row are a couple of options that are not only within walking distance to the mystery house but right in the mix with all of San Jose’s best shopping.
You’ll also find the option to rent a condo for the weekend, or for a slightly more budget-friendly option–these places are straight-up luxury–The Row Hotel isn’t a bad option.
Winchester House Movie
If you’re like me and just can’t get enough of this story or the house, there was a movie made about it, of course! Winchester came out in 2018 and is a super-creeper (my favorite!) all about the house and its eery mistress, Sarah Winchester.