San Jose, CA

Let's Talk About the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA

Evie M.

Have you ever heard of the woman who built a mansion with staircases that lead to nowhere, spralling dead-ended halls and doors with nothing behind them? Maybe you've even seen the signs driving along highway-99: Winchester Mystery House ten miles ahead!

If you haven't, you're in for quite the story.


Let's start with the history of the Winchester Mystery House.

The Winchester Mystery House, located in San Jose, California, is as much of a state marvel as it is a curiosity. Now a historic landmark, the mansion was once the home of Sarah Lockwood Pardee Winchester, widow of William Wirt Winchester and the heiress to a staggering stake in the Winchester estate.

Sarah faced deep tragedy in her life. First, her infant daughter died, and a few years later, her husband from tuberculosis. After her husband's death, Sarah packed up and left their former home in New Haven, CT, moving to San Jose, CA. She then purchased a farmhouse with a modest eight rooms and started what would be known as the world's longest home renovation, which only stopped once Sarah died on September 5, 1922. Over the years, Sarah's little farmhouse would take on a number of strange changes, turning it into a monster of a mansion and a fascinating exhibit for curious onlookers.

From 1886 to her death in 1922, Sarah ordered a number of bizarre renovations.

-24,000 square feet of space.

-2,000 doors

-52 skylights

-10,000 windows

-13 bathrooms

-160 rooms

-6 kitchens

-47 stairways and fireplaces

-17 chimneys

In 1923, the price for this mansion would be $5 million dollars, or a whopping $71 million now.

Why did Sarah build the Winchester Mystery House?

There are many theories circulating as to why Sarah would spend countless dollars and her life creating such a house. The most popular belief is that Sarah did so out of terror. Legend has it, to ease the grief of her husband's death, Sarah sought out a medium who was able to communicate with her husband. He told her the death of their baby, Annie, was the price for all the people killed by Winchester brand rifles. Her husband's spirit is the one who told her to up and leave their old home and move out to San Jose, California, where she was to build a palace for the angry spirits.

"If you continue building, you live," the medium had told a terrified Sarah. "Stop, and you will die."

Along with all of the incredible renovations, Sarah made unusual requests like stairways that go to nowhere, trapdoors, skylights built into the floors, and even a door on the second floor that leads only to a drop off down to the yard beneath. Amongst all these curious designs, the house layout was like a maze, which is said to have been done in order to confuse the ghosts haunting Sarah.

Another explanation says Sarah was not trying to appease vengeful ghosts at all, but that her mansion took after the work of english philosopher Francis Bacon. Some say the clues to the true meaning of the houses bizarre design can be found hiding in the ballroom, the Shakespeare windows, and the iron gates outside of the manor. This rumor also suggests Sarah was a member of a secret society like the Freemasons.

Some people think Sarah simply went insane dealing with the loss of both her child and husband. Though Winchester Mystery House historian Janan Boehme says the constant renovations simply reminded Sarah of building her marital home with her husband back in Connecticut.

The world will never know the true mystery, but what we do know is Sarah Winchester and her spectacular mansion are both marvels, but like all fascinating and awe inspiring things, you'll need to go visit for yourself to truly understand.

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