The Winchester Mystery House

By Eric Bean

dbean6@mail.ccsf.edu

 

Home to a variety of fun and spooky year round activities, the mansion has many architecture oddities that undoubtedly add to the unique and spooky history of the Winchester Mystery House®

About an hour south of San Francisco you can find one of America’s most eccentric and mysterious homes. Now called the Winchester Mystery House®, It is an architectural curiosity, and historic landmark that is well known for its freaky paranormal activity. It’s home to all kinds of fun and spooky year round activities, including various tours of the mansion with holiday themes both inside and outside. Inside, depending on the time of year, you will find anything from a haunted halloween theme to a fall or christmas theme, or you can step outside for a stroll through the Winchester Estate’s Victorian Garden.

Why is this house so mysterious, you ask? Sarah Winchester, widow of William Winchester of Winchester Rifles, and heiress to a large portion of the Winchester® Repeating Arms fortune moved into the house in 1886. But before this she was stricken with untimely and tragic losses, which some say may contribute to the paranormal activity in the house over the years. In 1866 Sarah and William lost their only child at 5 weeks old. In 1873 the Winchester® rifle Model 73, known as “The Gun that Won the West,” was released, it was a weapon that would lead to the death of many. And this they say, may also contribute to the spooky spirits in the mansion. A few years later in 1880 William’s father unexpectedly passed leaving his fortunes to William who was already sick with tuberculosis and would himself pass away just 3 short months later in 1881. 

Creepy Hallway. Photo courtesy of Winchester Mystery House

In 1885, looking for a fresh start, Sarah Winchester, now reportedly worth nearly $20 million dollars with 50% of the Winchester® Repeating Arms stock, moved out west. In 1886 Mrs. Winchester purchased a two-story farmhouse near San Jose, CA, which she eventually named Llanada Villa, and has come to be known as the Winchester Mystery House®. The story goes that Sarah became somewhat of a recluse and became intensely fixated solely on the renovation of the mansion. For her, it was a never ending endeavor because the house was still under renovations when she died in 1922. She left behind a sprawling 24,000 Sq.ft goliath of a home, designed with an eclectic Victorian-era curiosity of varying styles ranging from Gothic revival to Queen Anne. The Mansion has many oddities that undoubtedly add to the unique and spooky lore. There are doors leading nowhere, staircases that go into the ceiling, and noone knows exactly why they were built that way. 

Unhinged exterior light show during Halloween.
Photo courtesy of Winchester Mystery House

The Winchester Mystery House® somewhat of an architectural oddity has 10,000 windows, 2,000 doors, 160 rooms, 13 bathrooms, 9 kitchens and one séance room. With never ending, staggering roof lines and exquisite details like hand laid floors, Tiffany-like stained glass and custom chandeliers. Today, visitors are forever stunned by the relentless creativity, expense and extremely unusual motivations poured into every detail of this beautiful but bizarre and mysterious mansion.

Guests experience in one of the attic areas of the Winchester Mystery House.
Photo courtesy of Winchester Mystery House

Whether you’re in the mood for a paranormal encounter, on the “walk with Spirits tour”, a Victorian holiday tour, complete with beautiful décor and festive music. Or, maybe a leisurely stroll through the Winchester Estate’s Victorian Garden where you’ll see cherry laurels, boxwood hedges, and hundreds of varieties of tree and plant life, dotted with original mythological statues to provide beautiful color and intrigue all throughout the year. Or, if you feel like getting in on the action you can always try your hand at ax throwing. Regardless, this mystery house has something for everyone and every mood all throughout the year.

Guest practicing his ax throwing at Winchester Mystery House.
Photo courtesy of Winchester Mystery House.

It’s best to plan well in advance as tickets can sell out and the various holiday or seasonal tours only last for a limited time. Next up, from November 25, 2022 through January 1, 2023, Winchester Mystery House will present daily mansion tours developed specifically for the holiday season. There are also special limited engagements during this time. The “Holidays with the Historian” tour. led by Janan Boehme, Winchester Mystery Houses’ historian and Victorian customs expert. Also, check out the Winchester Mystery House 4th Annual Menagerie Holiday Oddities & Curiosities Market. And to top it off they will present four shows with Aiden Sinclairs “Ghost of Christmas Passed” an interactive evening with paranormal illusions. For more information go to WWW.winchestermysteryhouse.com/holidays/#

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