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Winchester Mystery House - The Haunted House in the Middle of San Jose, CA

Travelblog Gone with the Wine

Travelblog and lifestyleblog. Life under the Californian sun - Gone with the Wine. Trips, food and wine from all over the world. Solo and family adventures.

Winchester Mystery House - The Haunted House in the Middle of San Jose, CA

Paula Gaston

A few years ago I learned that there is a haunted house very close to where we live. I have heard a lot of stories about these ghosts but never managed to see them, even though I visited this place many times now and studied the history of it. This place is called Winchester Mystery House, and it is in the heart of San Jose, California. 


In 1884 Sarah Winchester bought a farm house in Santa Clara county. Mrs. Winchester was married to William Winchester, the manufacturer of Winchester rifles. Their only child died in 1866 due to an illness, and it was said that Mrs. Winchester never quite recovered from that. She widowed in 1881 when William Winchester died from tuberculosis. After inheriting her husband's fortune, Sarah Winchester was extremely wealthy. A story goes that a medium told her to move to the west and build a house big enough for her and all the spirits of people who died from the Winchester rifle. This story was never confirmed. 

After Mrs. Winchester moved, she hired a group of builders who were expanded the house. Without any kind of plan or an architect, she came up with new ideas for continually building her house. She often ordered builders to leave rooms unfinished when she wanted to move forward with the construction. Eventually, the house was enormous with seven storeys, and very impractical. Some people thought that Mrs. Winchester kept changing her plans in order to distract the ghosts. She also slept in a different room every night. The great earthquake in 1906 damaged the house, and the top floors where no longer used. When Mrs. Winchester died the house had 160 rooms, 47 fire places, 13 bathrooms and 6 kitchens. 

Edit: At fall 2016 a preservation team opened a new room for public. This room was boarded up after the big earthquake since Mrs. Winchester thought, that the evil spirits where behind the earthquake. The room still had some furniture in it, like a Victorian coach, sewing machine and other things belonging to Mrs. Winchester. Winchester Mystery House now has 161 rooms. (October 9th, 2016)

This Victorian house is full of strange things, like steps and doors that don't lead anywhere, secret corridors, and oddly shaped and sized doors and steps. Some of the rooms were sealed after the plans changed. For unknown reasons, the number 13 is repeated in the building in many places. There are 13 window and wall panels in some of the rooms, and 13 steps in some of the staircases. There are also 13 cupolas in the green house outside and 13 holes in each of the sink drains. In Mrs. Winchesters days, the house was actually very modern since it had a heating system, 3 elevators, indoor bathrooms and plumbing. It was built completely from redwood, and some of the window panels were custom made at the Tiffany Company. A few of them are featured in the house and you can see these decorative art pieces on the tour. 

Mrs. Winchester died in her sleep in 1922. She left almost everything to her relatives but the house was not mentioned in the will. It was believed to be worthless and so it was sold. Today it is a tourist attraction surrounded by the city of San Jose. There are multiple guided tours a day, and you can choose a Grand Estate Tour, Mansion Tour or Behind the Scenes Tour. From time to time they also organise special tours like candle light tours or flash light tours. One can not do a self guided tour since it would be hard to navigate in this huge house, and the likelihood of getting lost is great. But you can stay after the tour and walk around the garden freely, enjoy a cup of coffee in the cafeteria or buy souvenirs from the shop. These, you can also access without a ticket. 

The Winchester Mystery House has been one of our guests' favourite places on their trip to California, and I must admit, it is a spooky place to visit!

You will find the Winchester Mystery House at 525 South Winchester Boulevard, San Jose.