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When I realized our summer road trip in 2022 would take us right by the Winchester Mystery House, I knew what we had to do. That’s right. We had to stop.

The History of the Winchester Mystery House

The Winchester Mystery House is a historic mansion located in San Jose, California. Its construction began in 1884 and continued for almost 38 years until Sarah Winchester, the widow of firearm magnate William Wirt Winchester, passed away in 1922. The house is renowned for its unique architectural features and its intriguing history.

Legend has it that after the death of her husband and infant daughter, Sarah Winchester sought solace in the belief that she was haunted by the spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles. To escape their vengeful spirits, she began an extensive and continuous construction project on her family’s unfinished farmhouse.

Over the years, the mansion underwent constant renovations, resulting in a labyrinthine structure with bizarre architectural elements. Sarah Winchester employed a team of craftsmen who worked around the clock, building and remodeling the house. The design includes peculiar features such as staircases leading to nowhere, doors that open onto walls, and windows overlooking interior rooms.

The exact reasons behind Sarah Winchester’s eccentric architectural choices remain a mystery. Some believe that she was attempting to confuse or appease the spirits, while others speculate that she was simply an eccentric woman with an unlimited budget. Regardless of the motivations, the Winchester Mystery House remains a testament to an extraordinary chapter in architectural history.

Arriving at the Winchester Mystery House

At the time of our visit, the Winchester Mystery House used timed-entry tickets. We bought ours online for the time that we thought we could make it to San Jose. We were heading on to San Francisco with a tour of Alcatraz that evening, so we needed to book for the morning. We ended up getting one of the first tours of the day.

The Winchester Mystery House San Jose California

We waited outside the ticket booth at opening. You can get glimpses of the property through the fence and landscaping.

The Winchester Mystery House San Jose California

If you don’t have time for a tour, I think it’s still worth stopping to see the outside of the place.

The Winchester Mystery House

This place feels like it should house ghosts, doesn’t it?

The Winchester Mystery House San Jose California

The Gift Shop

Gift shop at the Winchester Mystery House

The gift shop is pretty amazing. We got one of my favorite magnets from anywhere at this shop. The shirts are pretty cool, too.

Gift shop at the Winchester Mystery House

There is a fairly recent film about Sarah Winchester and the house called Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built. I watched it before the trip. Below are some costumes from the movie that are on display in the gift shop.

Gift shop at the Winchester Mystery House

You can also see some of the Winchester rifles.

Rifles in the gift shop at the Winchester Mystery House

Before the Tour

Before our tour actually started, we were able to get a good look at the grounds.

The Winchester Mystery House San Jose California

Ghosts aside, it’s such a beautiful place.

The Winchester Mystery House

The flowers are lovely.

Flowers outside the Winchester Mystery House

Such beautiful roses! I may have taken too many pictures of them.

Flowers outside the Winchester Mystery House

This is such a grand front door.

Front door of the Winchester Mystery House

The Tour Begins

Finally, it was time for our tour. You aren’t allowed to take video, but you can take all the pictures you want as long as you don’t slow down the tour.

The tour begins with some stained glass samples from the home. I love the spider webs!

Stained glass in the Winchester Mystery House

The carriage kind of gives me Haunted Mansion from Disney vibes.

The Winchester Mystery House Carriage

Now, if you recall, the Winchester Mystery House is weird. Whether it’s to confuse the spirits of those shot by Winchester rifles or not, who really knows, but it definitely has odd features. These oddities were being constructed continuously under Sarah’s instruction.

Gotta love these stairs to the ceiling.

The Winchester Mystery House

Or how about the stairs with very little height per step? They say Sarah was small and had rheumatoid arthritis, so this may not just be weird for weird’s sake.

The Winchester Mystery House

Sarah Winchester’s Room

Sarah’s room is beautiful; I’d love to sleep here.

Sarah's room in The Winchester Mystery House

The rose by her picture is a nice touch.

Sarah's room in The Winchester Mystery House

And here’s her bed. See why I’d like to sleep here? Apparently, she died in this room in 1922 of heart failure. She was 82.

Sarah's room in The Winchester Mystery House

Bringing the Outdoors Inside

The skylights and windowed hallways are perfect for nurseries.

The Winchester Mystery House

I love how much light gets into these spaces.

The Winchester Mystery House

Isn’t this room lovely?

Winchester Mystery House

But things still get weird sometimes.

The Winchester Mystery House

Continuing the Upper Levels

There are so many cozy spaces in the house. The mansion has 40 bedrooms, and there are all kinds of spaces that just invite someone to curl up and read a book.

The Winchester Mystery House

Sarah was big on the number 13. Here is another example of that–13 hooks.

The Winchester Mystery House

Anyone want to use the bathroom with the window in the door?

The Winchester Mystery House

Before Sarah came to San Jose, she had already lost her infant daughter and husband. She was able to provide a home for a niece for 15 years.

The Winchester Mystery House

Not only that, she provided construction jobs for her ongoing restoration and additions. She may be odd in some ways, but she was generous.

Winchester Mystery House

From the upper levels, you have chances to look outside,

Winchester Mystery House

I think it helps you understand the size of the house even more. At its largest, the mansion was seven stories tall. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake caused significant damage, and the house was never fully restored. Sarah was actually trapped in one of the bedrooms when the earthquake occurred. Apparently, she often slept in different bedrooms; some believe it was to “confuse the spirits.”

Below is a room that shows the earthquake damage.

Winchester Mystery House

The Grandness of the Downstairs Rooms

The downstairs rooms are incredibly beautiful.

Winchester Mystery House

There are still oddities. This dining room has a twin. Yes, there are two identical dining rooms across the hall from each other.

Winchester Mystery House

I also love seeing period kitchens. I’m fascinated with day-to-day life in the past.

Winchester Mystery House

The beautiful ballroom is another fabulous room. It’s the largest in the house. This organ is in the ballroom.

Winchester Mystery House

There’s also an enormous fireplace on one wall. Here is one of the beautiful stained glass windows that are on each side.

Winchester Mystery House

And how awesome is this little nook?

Despite all the weirdness, the Winchester Mystery House is a gorgeous mansion.

If you’re wondering if you should take a tour, my answer is absolutely! Even if you’re unsure about the paranormal aspects of the place, the architecture is worth checking out. The tour is quite informative.

I’d been wanting to check this one out for many years, so I was glad to have the opportunity to check this one off my list. I’ve only shown you a fraction of our photos and shared a piece of the Winchester story. There is so much here for you to experience for yourself. This is a good one.

Winchester Mystery House
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Check out some other adventures!

Monterey Bay Aquarium–Monterey, California

San Francisco’s Chinatown

Hollywood and the Walk of Fame

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 Comments

  1. What a sad story in such a beautiful setting. I need to add a visit to the Winchester Mystery House to my bucket list.

  2. What an interesting place! I love that the Winchester House has so much light! And it’s beautiful!

  3. Winchester Mystery House is so fascinating and intriguing! Would love to tour this historic mansion next time I visit San Jose, California. And so wish I could have a conversation with Sarah Winchester to learn about the why behind her architectural decisions.

  4. This looks like a fun place to explore! We love offbeat attractions! If you get back to D.C., check out the Mansion on O Street! It was also the brainchild of an eccentric woman and has tons of rooms and over 70 secret doors and passageways!

  5. Cindy Moore Reply

    So cool! I’d love to your the Winchester Mystery House. I’ve read a lot about it.

  6. Lisa, Casey, Barrett Dog Reply

    The Winchester Mystery House is beautiful. A sad story though.

  7. I love the Winchester mystery house! There was a point where I constantly watched documentaries on it, be it with paranormal researchers or historical ones!

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