Touring the Winchester Mansion

Posted on: 8th Jul 2013  /   Categorized: Geeking Out

A few weeks ago my husband and I made a trip down to northern California, including a special detour to San Jose so I could cross off one of my life-long goals: to finally see the Winchester Mansion (or Winchester Mystery House). This house has been on my bucket list since I was a kid, ever since I heard the completely bizarre and fascinating history behind the house.


It was built by Sarah Winchester, wife of William Winchester (of the famous Winchester rifles). The rumor/myth/belief behind the house is that, after her husband died, Mrs. Winchester was told by a Boston psychic that the spirits of those killed by Winchester guns would haunt her the rest of her life, unless she built a house . . .  but never finished it.


With those orders in hand, Mrs. Winchester bought a small farmhouse near San Jose, CA, and started building.


Construction continued 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for 38 years.




Then, on September 5, 1922, Mrs. Winchester was found dead of heart-failure in her bed. Construction stopped immediately. As so much mystery and curiosity had surrounded the house, it was purchased by a private company and opened for public tours within a year.


According to the web site, the sprawling mansion contains 160 rooms, 47 stairways, 47 fireplaces, 13 bathrooms, and 6 kitchens. Much of it was left unfinished (including nails half-driven in, which seemed to annoy my carpenter husband a great deal).


And it is bizarre. There’s a stairway that runs up into the ceiling, a door that opens up into nowhere, cabinet doors that open onto walls, a window in the floor, and (my personal favorite) a séance room where Mrs. Winchester would commune with the spirits nightly. There was only one entrance to the séance room – for which Mrs. Winchester held the only key – but there are three exits. One door opens up to a drop that would land a person in a kitchen sink one floor below, and one exit has a door handle only on the side of the séance room – from the dressing room it leads into, it appears to be just a paneled wall.


Why so much kookiness? There are two theories – one, that Mrs. Winchester had no training in construction or architecture and simply didn’t know what she was doing, or there’s the more intriguing theory that she was attempting to confuse the spirits by building so many nonsensical things into her house.


The 160-room mansion was a treat to visit, for its fascinating history, beautiful Victorian architecture, and, of course, for all the story fodder. If a crazy lady trying to confuse dead spirits by building a mansion-turned-carnival house doesn’t spark some writer-y ideas, I don’t know what will. If you’re ever in Northern California, I definitely recommend checking it out!


Unfortunately, picture aren’t allowed inside the house, but here are some I took from the grounds:


Winchester 1


Winchester 2


Winchester 3

(The door to nowhere.)


Learn more about the house at


  1. fishgirl182 commented on:

    oooh nice! i grew up next door to san jose and actually never went to the winchester house until about 5 years ago. i don’t know, it was just always there and we never made a trip. it was really cool seeing it finally though. i wish the tour had been a little scarier. it was very dry. though i think the nighttime tour would have been fun. glad you got to cross it off your bucket list.

  2. am2142 commented on:

    Wow, that sounds like a WACKY house! I’ll have to see about going there next time I’m in CA. Thanks for the suggestion, Marissa!

  3. Marissa commented on:

    I agree, Fishgirl, I wasn’t overly impressed with our tour guides, and I was hoping for more ghost stories and such! I guess we’ll just have to use our imaginations. I hear they do an excellent Halloween event…

  4. Kenzie S commented on:

    Oh wow, that is so neat that you were able to tour the Winchester House! I’ve heard many stories about it and read up on it a few years ago but, sadly, have forgotten about it until now! I am going to have to put this on my bucket list! The house looks gorgeous from the outside, I would love to see the kookiness inside!

  5. Vyki Carswell commented on:

    This is the first I have heard of this place! Now I have a new item for my own bucket list. I’m glad you posted about this place because it is a must see!

    Vyki @ On The Shelf

  6. Rae commented on:

    I really enjoyed reading your post. I cracked up a little. I think I’d like to visit it too!

    Enjoyed the pics!

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