Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House

Infobox_nrhp | name =Winchester House
nrhp_type =

caption = View of the mansion from the southeast.
location= San Jose, California
lat_degrees = 37
lat_minutes = 19
lat_seconds = 4.7
lat_direction = N
long_degrees = 121
long_minutes = 56
long_seconds = 59.92
long_direction = W
locmapin = California
area =
built =1884
architecture= Late Victorian
added = August 7, 1974
governing_body = Private
refnum=74000559cite web|url=|title=National Register Information System|date=2007-01-23|work=National Register of Historic Places|publisher=National Park Service]
The Winchester Mystery House is a well-known California mansion that was under construction continuously for 38 years, and is reputed to be haunted. It once was the personal residence of Sarah Winchester, the widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester, but is now a tourist attraction. Under Sarah Winchester's day-to-day guidance, its "from-the-ground-up" construction proceeded around-the-clock, without interruption, from 1884 until her death on September 5, 1922, at which time work immediately ceased. [ [ A Mystery House, Frommer's San Jose, retrieved Oct. 30, 2006.] ] The cost for such constant building has been estimated at about US $5.5 million [ [ Amazing Facts, Winchester Mystery House, retrieved Nov. 7, 2007] ] (if paid in 1922, this would be equivalent to almost $70 million in 2008 dollars). [ [ CPI Inflation Calculator, Bureau of Labor Statistics, retrieved Nov. 19, 2007] ]

The mansion is renowned for its size and utter lack of any master building plan. According to popular belief, Sarah Winchester thought the house was haunted by the ghosts of individuals killed by Winchester rifles, and that only continuous construction would appease them. It is located at 525 South Winchester Blvd. in San Jose, California.


Deeply saddened by the deaths of her daughter Annie in 1866 and her husband in 1881, and seeking solace, Sarah consulted a medium on the advice of a friend. According to popular history, the medium, who has become known colloquially as the "Boston Medium", told Sarah that she had the feeling that there was a curse upon the Winchester family because the guns they made had taken so many lives. She told Sarah that "thousands of people have died because of it and their spirits are now seeking vengeance."

Although this is disputed, popular belief holds that the Boston Medium told Sarah that she had to leave her home in New Haven and travel West, where she must "build a home for yourself and for the spirits who have fallen from this terrible weapon, too. You can never stop building the house. If you continue building, you will live. Stop and you will die."

There is another version of the story stating that the spiritual medium told Sarah Winchester that wherever she went, the spirits would follow to haunt her so she built an outrageously confusing house and slept in different rooms every night to confuse the ghosts pursuing her.

Sarah inherited more than $20 million upon her husband's death. She also received nearly 50 percent ownership of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, giving her an income of roughly $1,000 per day, none of which was taxable until 1913. This amount is roughly equivalent to $21,000 a day in 2008. All of this gave her a tremendous pool of wealth from which to draw to fund construction on the mansion.

The house today

Prior to the 1906 earthquake, the house had been built up to seven stories tall, but today it is only four stories. The house is predominantly made of redwood frame construction, with a floating foundation that is believed to have saved the estate from total collapse in both the 1906 earthquake and the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. There are about 160 rooms, including 40 bedrooms and two ballrooms. The house also has 47 fireplaces, 10,000 window panes, 17 chimneys (with evidence of two others), two basements and three working elevators. Winchester's property was some 162 acres (650,000 m²) at one time, but now the estate is just 4.5 acres (24,000 m²) — the minimum necessary to contain the house and nearby outbuildings. It has gold and silver chandeliers and inlaid parquet floors and trim. There are doors and stairways that lead nowhere and a vast array of colors and materials. Before the availability of elevators, special "easy riser" stairways were installed to allow Winchester access to every part of the mansion, to accommodate her severe arthritis. Roughly 20,500 gallons (76,000 liters) of paint were required to paint the house. Due to the sheer size of the house, by the time every section of the house was painted, the workers had to start repainting again.

The house also has many conveniences that were rarely found at the time of its construction, including steam and forced-air heating, modern indoor toilets and plumbing, push-button gas lights, a hot shower from indoor plumbing and even three elevators, including one with the only horizontal hydraulic elevator piston in the United States.

Today the home is owned by Winchester Investments LLC [ HouseFront] ] and it retains unique touches that reflect Winchester's beliefs and her reported preoccupation with warding off malevolent spirits. These spirits are said to have directly inspired her as to the way the house should be built. The number thirteen and spider web motifs, which she considered to be lucky, reappear around the house. For example, an expensive imported chandelier that originally had 12 candle-holders was altered to accommodate 13 candles, wall clothes hooks are in multiples of 13, and a spider web-patterned Tiffany window contains 13 colored stones. In tribute, the house's current groundskeepers have created a topiary tree shaped like the number 13. Also, every Friday the 13th the large bell on the property is rung 13 times at 13:00 (1 P.M.) in tribute to Sarah.

Several different tours of the house are available, including flashlight tours at night on dates around Halloween and each Friday the 13th.


External links

* [ Winchester Mystery House website]
* [ The Mystery House Blog features regularly updated images of the mansion] (most recent update November 2005)
* [ Video Tour and Historic Documentary of The Winchester Mystery House] from YouTube
* [ A room-by-room commentary on the mansion] from
* [ "The History of One of America's Most Haunted Houses"] by Troy Taylor
* [ Santa Clara County: California’s Historic Silicon Valley, a National Park Service Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary]

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