I have known about the Winchester Mystery House since I was little. I remember watching tv shows about it with my mom and desperately wanting to visit, even before I lived in California. I was always intrigued by the mystery that surrounded the home.
The year was 1881. Sarah Winchester was the heiress to 50 percent of the Winchester rifle fortune. After the deaths of her baby, father-in-law, and husband, she became convinced that she was cursed. She visited a medium who told her that the spirits were angry because they had been killed by Winchester rifles. The only way to appease them was to move west and build a house for herself and the spirits.
The house was originally an 8 room farmhouse. Work started in 1886. It continued for the next 38 years, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. To say the house is maze-like does not describe what it is like to walk through it, up and down stairs, in a pattern that makes little sense. Many people have theorized that Sarah designed the house this way in order to confuse the spirits. The staff needed maps to navigate it.
The front part of the house was originally 7 stories high. Most of it collapsed during the famous San Francisco earthquake in 1906. Sarah believed that this meant the spirits were upset because she was spending too much time on the front part of the house. She boarded it up and continued working on the rest of the house.
Photography was not allowed inside of the house, but I was able to capture its magnificence from the outside. There are many odd features, such as stairways that lead to ceilings, windows that opened into walls, and a recurring theme of the number 13.
One of the most famous features is the door that leads to nowhere. You can see it from a distance in the picture above, and up close in the picture below. I would not want to have been to person that originally discovered this exit.
We took a tour of the basement and saw the heating system for the entire house, which was a boiler room that was warmed with coal.
There were numerous fountains and statues around the house. This serpent fountain is directly in front the of main door.
Here is a more detailed shot of the front door, decorated for Halloween. There seemed to be crushed glass on the stairs, but I am not sure of the significance. Does anyone know?
Sarah wanted to placate the spirits of the Native Americans who were killed by Winchester rifles. To do this she erected this statue of Chief Little Fawn stalking a deer. You can see that they are across the lawn from each other in the first picture below. The other two pictures are closeups of each individual statue.
The house is about 24,000 square feet. There are 10,000 windows, 2,000 doors, 52 skylights, 47 fireplaces, 40 bedrooms, six kitchens, 13 bathrooms, 3 elevators, and one shower. You can easily get lost inside.
Construction stopped on September 5, 1922, the day of Sarah's death.
After World War I, there was a decreased need for military arms in the US, so Winchester shifted its production towards tools and sporting goods. The gift shop is also a museum that houses some of these antiques.
Since we happened to be visiting during the month of October, the grounds were decorated for Halloween.
There was also a maze set up in the gardens that served as a haunted house at night, which we didn't get to check out.
However, they did have a scavenger hunt through the maze for visitors during the day. My cousin Vicki and I took a moment to pose.
Have you ever visited the Winchester Mystery House? Are you interested in visiting now? Any interesting haunted places in your home city? I would love to hear about them.