The Winchester Mystery House is a beautiful Victorian mansion in San Jose, California that is renowned for its architectural curiosities and vast size. Once the personal residence of Sarah Winchester, wife and subsequent widow of famous gun inventor William Wirt Winchester, the mansion is built in the Queen Anne style and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a designated California Historical Landmark.
Established in 1884, the privately owned mansion has a reputation for being haunted by the ghosts of all the people killed by Winchester rifles and has been attracting tourists for decades to explore this phenomenon. Sarah Winchester, who oversaw the construction of the house until the day she died in 1922, also claimed the house was haunted, adding the mystery and intrigue of the property. She was renowned for her obsession with warding off evil spirits, who are believed to have inspired her as to the way the house should be constructed. The mansion thus earned its nickname as ‘the house built by spirits.’
Today, the home is owned by a private company and retains eclectic and charming touches that echo Sarah Winchester's beliefs about the house having ghosts, such as an imported chandelier that was designed to hold 12 candles, but was adjusted to hold 13 candles, a stained glass window with 13 stones, and wall clothes hooks in multiples of 13. The mansion’s current gardeners have created a topiary tree in the shape of the Roman numeral 13 in tribute of Sarah Winchester’s beliefs and every Friday the 13th, a bell is rung 13 times at 13h00.
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In addition to being famous for being haunted, Winchester Mystery House is also renowned for its quirky architectural style, and haphazard design said to be the influence of spirits who spoke to Sarah Winchester during the construction of the house. An extraordinary paragon of Victorian craftsmanship, the mansion is full of baffling and eerily eccentric oddities, such as a switchback staircase with seven flights with 44 steps that only rises to nine feet, miles of twisting hallways and secret passageways, and upside down columns.
The house was adorned with exquisite antique furniture, such as imported Tiffany stained glass windows designed by Sarah Winchester herself, gold and silver plated crystal chandeliers, Swiss molded marble bathtubs, and handcrafted parquet floors made of oak, maple and teak that took 33 years to complete. The house contained no less than 47 fireplaces and 17 chimneys, and an elegant Grand Ballroom that never saw a ball. At the time of her death, it is believed that there were only three mirrors in the entire house as Sarah Winchester believed that spirits hate mirrors, and she wanted to appease them.
The Winchester Mystery House is surrounded by beautiful Victorian gardens and stately grounds with flora from over 110 countries around the world. Visitors can wander the very same paths that Mrs. Winchester did and relax in the many quiet sanctuaries and enjoy the four fountains and many sculptures to be found in the gardens.
The estate is also home to two museums, namely the Winchester Historic Firearms Museum and the Antique Products Museum. Housing one of the largest collections of Winchester rifles in the country, the Winchester Historic Firearms Museum explores the history of the Winchester rifle and how it was developed into the historic rifle it is today.
The Winchester Antique Products Museum showcases other products designed and made by the Winchester Company for everyday life, such as roller skates, Winchester safety razors, and fishing tackle, and hardware items, among others.
The Winchester Mystery House hosts a variety of special events throughout the year. Halloween Candlelit Tours are especially popular and offer guests an immersive experience by flickering candlelight. This guided tour explores the bewildering maze of rooms, passageways, and hallways of this storied 160-room Victorian mansion by the light of candles and lets the imagination run riot.
Every Friday the 13th the Winchester Mystery House has a special bell ringing ceremony where the bell is rung 13 times at 13h00. The Mansion also offers unique ‘Flashlight Tours’ on the evenings of Friday 13th where guests meander through the ‘haunted’ house with only the light of the moon and a small flashlight.
The Winchester Mystery House and Museums are open every day and visitors can enjoy a range of tours, including a Grand Estate Tour, a Mansion Tour, and a Behind-the-Scenes Tour, all of which need to be reserved in advance.
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525 S Winchester Blvd, San Jose, CA 95128, Phone: 408-247-2000
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