WINCHESTER MYSTERY HOUSE

525 South Winchester Boulevard, San Jose, CA

(408) 247-2000

Status: Former Residence; World Famous Landmark and Haunted Tourist Attraction

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History

The house that Sarah built. . . Or rather the house that ghosts built.

Sarah Winchester was the widow of William Wirt Winchester – treasurer of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company until his death – and heiress of 50% of said company.

When her husband and infant daughter passed Sarah moved from New Haven, Connecticut to San Jose, California. Legend says a medium in Boston, in communication with her deceased husband, told Sarah to move west or she may have just been looking for a change after so much tragedy in her life. Her 50% ownership of Winchester Arms made her worth $20.5 million ($543 million in today’s dollars) with an income of $1,000 ($26,000 in today’s dollars) a day.

In 1884 she bought an 8 room farmhouse sitting on 162 acres in the Santa Clara Valley and the legacy of the Winchester Mystery House began. It is widely believed that Sarah was contacted by the spirits of the people killed by the Winchester rifle – it was known as the gun “that won the West” and it’s victims were countless – and the mansion was her way of atoning for the killings that made her a rich woman. It is even more commonly believed that Sarah spoke with other spirits who instructed her how to build the house so she could hide from the guns’ victims. Of course, none of this can be proven, as Sarah left this Earth many decades ago.

Sarah did sleep in a different room almost every night which makes the legend she was hiding from vengeful ghosts sound more believable.

What cannot be disputed is the mansion she built is perhaps the most bizarre structure on Earth. Stairways to nowhere, dead end hallways, stained glass windows that no light can ever shine through, windows that look into other rooms and many more oddities. Sarah never used an architect and she designed every square inch of the house herself with a little help from the Great Beyond – or so the story goes.

The house, itself, is so strange environmental psychologists have suggested that it’s almost twisting of reality accounts for the experiences visitors have had in the house that are labeled as paranormal.

 Legend says the additions and changes to the house started shortly after Sarah bought it and continued day and night until the day she died – September 5, 1922 – when work stopped abruptly. According to her biographer this was simply not true and many times Sarah dismissed all workers for months at a time before work continued again.

Upon Sarah’s death work did stop on the house and all of her possessions – excepting the house which was never mentioned in her will – were passed on to her niece and her personal secretary.

The house was sold to a private developer for $135,000 who then leased it to John and Mayme Brown. 5 months after Sarah’s death the house was opened to the public for tours with Mrs. Brown as the first tour guide. The Browns would eventually buy the house.

Today the house is owned by Winchester Investments LLC a privately owned company owned by the descendants of the Browns. Public tours are given including a daytime one started in 2017 which allows access to many rooms that were previously closed to the public.

 

Paranormal Activity

Hauntings may be an inexact description of this section of the article. Yes, this house makes many of the main stream lists of the most haunted places in the US, in North America and in the world. But is it really haunted? Is there any real paranormal activity here at all?

Sarah was an enigma for her time; she was a recluse – she even failed to answer the door when President Teddy Roosevelt came calling – and she was a rich woman who did perfectly fine with no man to administer her affairs. That was practically unheard of in her time and viewed very suspiciously.

It has also been postulated that Sarah had no reason to feel guilty about the guns that had made her rich. Guns did not have the reputation that they do now. A gun was simply considered a household item much like a broom or an ice box.

The problem with looking at this location this way is that it is pushing 21st Century values and morals on the late 19th, early 20th Century. Not to mention that every person and individual has their own beliefs and its already been said that Sarah did not follow the social customs considered normal for the time. Can anyone really know the mind of Sarah Winchester other than Sarah Winchester?

There is no other house like this house and the builders did follow the directions of Sarah in building such a unique and unexplained mansion. Who’s to say that the souls killed by a Winchester firearm didn’t direct Sarah what to build and or that she did build the house in a maze in an attempt to fool the ghosts looking for her; in fact, to hide from them.

If you don’t put faith in what you believe you’ll go nowhere.

The following is a list of paranormal activity that has been witnessed in the house and on the grounds:

Apparitions in period clothing; figures looking out of the windows when the house is known to be empty; apparitions of animals; shadow figures; disembodied voices; unexplained noises; phantom touches, tugs and pushes; cold and warm spots; feelings of not being alone and feelings of being watched and of unease.

Sarah was wrapped in mystery when she was alive, and her house remains so.