Sarah Winchester Mystery House – On my list of places to visit

I heard about this house some years back, but it wasn’t until I came across a blog post recently that I decided to do a little research. The creepy, labyrinthine mansion, the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, screams HAUNTED, so of course I plan on visiting it some day. The mansion has 160 or so rooms, 13 bathrooms, doors that lead to nowhere, staircases that bring you to dead-ends, bookcases and closets opening into nothing but wall. The number 13 features prominently in the house. 13 windows per room, 13 panes per window, 13 lights on the chandelier, 13 bathrooms, among many others. According to Wikipedia, many of the serving staff required a map to navigate the sprawling house. It looks like a fairytale castle with all the rooftops and turrets.


Pic from Wikimedia Commons:
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, 571113

Who was behind this house of wonder? A lady named Sarah Winchester. She was the heir to the Winchester Rifle fortune, who suffered terrible personal tragedy. Her daughter died in infancy and her husband passed away years later. She went on to buy an eight room farmhouse back in 1886 on a huge plot of land, 161 acres. Sarah started building, and she never stopped until her death, 38 years later. Construction was carried out 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

What was her reasoning? A medium told Sarah she was haunted by the spirits of the Indians and others who had died from a Winchester rifle. Her misfortune was down to them. Unless she kept building and kept the house unfinished, the evil spirits would come for her.  A statue of Chief Little Fawn, a Native American leader who died defending his land, stands in Sarah’s garden, perhaps one of her ways of appeasing the restless spirits. Sarah held séances where she convened with good spirits. The blue Séance Room had just one entrance but three exits – one of which opened above the kitchen below. The Séance Room held 13 coat hooks – for the ghosts Sarah communicated, some have suggested. She slept in a different bedroom each night to keep the evil spirits from finding her. Some people believe she created the twisty maze of a house with stairs leading to ceilings, doors opening into air, corridors going nowhere to confuse the spirits.

Though many would write Sarah off as a nutcase, she had a shrewd, practical side. Her estate was almost self-sufficient. She had orchards – the food was sold at market, a carpenter’s workshop, indoor plumbing, electricity (at a time when most houses didn’t) that she produced herself, a water tower and much more. She was enterprising, industrious and intelligent, an independent lady by all accounts.

If you’d like to take a virtual tower of the house, there are many videos on YouTube. One I liked in particular was The Winchester Mystery House Story.

Just remember, if you plan on visiting the Winchester House, don’t stray too far from your tour group. You may never find your way out! I’m wondering if Sam and Dean from Supernatural are descendants of Sarah’s. 🙂 What do you think of this house?


About Emma

Buffy fan, avid reader, writer.
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31 Responses to Sarah Winchester Mystery House – On my list of places to visit

  1. Ooh, creepy and…fun. 🙂

  2. Mae Clair says:

    Very, very cool! I love the “doors that lead to nowhere and the staircases that bring you to dead-ends.” And the prominence of the number 13? What a great place you’ve discovered, Emma. Creepy old houses with legends are the best!

    • Emma says:

      I got chills watching the video on YouTube when the camera pans up the stairs and comes to an abrupt dead-end. You can almost imagine ghosts continuing straight on through walls.

  3. I heard that a person got lost in the house once,and that Sarah Winchester personally led them out! So…yeah…if you visit you might to keep tight to that tour group! Great post Emma!

    • Emma says:

      So creepy! I wonder if it really is haunted or if these tales are simply crazy legends spun to trap tourists. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Debbie.

  4. Amanda says:

    This place sounds very creepy and cool 🙂

  5. I once saw a special about this house. It’s really strange. I think it would have been horrible to believe what she did. I didn’t know about the Native Americans. Great article, Emma. There are so many interesting places all over the world.

    • Emma says:

      We can thank the medium who told her she was cursed for how she spent the rest of her life. I do wonder thought how much of this is true. The story could have spun and spun over the past hundred years.

  6. beckyday6 says:

    Haha that’s so funny, I was going to say wonder if she’s related to the Winchester brothers, but you beat me to it. 😛

    This is such an awesome post, it sounds like my dream destination I would spend so many hours thinking up little stories and scenarios in my head. I love anything related to secret passageways and hidden doors etc. What a spooky adventure!

    • Emma says:

      Ha ha. The Supernatural boys immediately popped into my head.

      I really want to go there, but when I visit places I prefer to walk around at my own pace for the most part, rather than with a guide and a big group of people, which I think is what you’d have to do at the Winchester House. Yes, passageways! I loved wardrobes when I was a kid, always hoping I’d find another land behind them. 🙂

  7. Sad story for the lady, but a bit of spooky fun for the rest of the world!

  8. This sounds familiar. I think maybe I saw it on Ghost Adventures or something. I was fascinated by it. Reading about it here got me thinking if this house had an influence on the movie 13 Ghosts in any way. The significance of 13, mazes, etc.

    • Emma says:

      I think Ghost Hunters or some crew like that did base an episode there. I can’t remember 13 Ghosts, but I’ll check it out. Thanks, L.J.

  9. Guess what? I’ve been there :p of course, I was around 10 at the time. I just remember being very confused at why staircases went into walls and doors opened into walls, it was weird. My parents told me a different version of the actuall story, and then I just wanted out of there. After that I peeked at the rest of the house from behind my mom and held tightly to her shirt. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. But now I’m a big boy, so I wouldn’t mind going back.

    • Emma says:

      Cool. You’ll have to go back and see it through adult eyes. What was your parents version?

      • I think they told me the house was built on an Indian boneyard, and their spirits possessed the owner driving her crazy and that’s why the house was so crazy, and that the place was still haunted. At the time I had just seen Poltergeist and The Exorcist so I had all those scenes running through my overactive imagination, i just knew something was gonna possess me. Of course my parents told me a lot of stuff to scare me.

      • Emma says:

        That is creepy. I love that your parents told you that when you were a kid. 🙂

  10. Daniel says:

    Cool. I recently did a blog post about this too!

    • Emma says:

      Daniel, it was your post that led me to doing the research. Lucky you to have gotten to walk those twisty hallways. I hope to visit myself some day.

  11. Debra Kristi says:

    I love this house. I’ve always been fascinated by it, and have been fortunate enough to have walked its halls on several occasions. Somewhere I have an old picture of my husband and me (back when we were in college) sitting on a bench in front of the old place. It was so sad to see the beautiful stain-glass windows she had, that never saw the sun because she built walls on the other side of them. The place really is a gem. I hope you get to visit it. If you make it that far, you should keep going and visit Hurst Castle. You won’t regret it.

    • Emma says:

      I’d love to see that pic of ye. I read that Hammer is planning to do a horror film based on the house.
      Those stain glass windows are featured in videos on YouTube. She had lots more that didn’t even make it into windows. They’re just standing on the ground, waiting for someone to place them.
      I’ll check out the castle now. Thanks, Debra.

      • Debra Kristi says:

        If you tour the home they take you through the room where all those windows are. It’s really sad. So much beauty going to waste.

        I’m not surprised about the planned horror movie. I don’t know if I’d want to watch it or not.

        I’ll have to look around to see if I can find all my old pictures. I’m sure when I find them I’ll be sporting some fabulous 80’s hair style. LOL.

      • Emma says:

        80’s rocks!

      • Debra Kristi says:

        Ugh! I included the right link. Forgive me for writing the name of the wrong castle. Tired mom moment. I’ll look for the picture.

  12. Story Addict says:

    Holy shits, I got chills reading this haha. And to think I live only hours away from this place. Sounds perfectly creepy. Thanks for the share, Emma!

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