The Winchester Mystery House has been on our list ever since we moved out here, but the few times we were in San Francisco, we just didn’t have enough time. We thought that the trip home from the redwoods would be the perfect opportunity to visit!
Some history for those who are interested – the house was built by Sarah Winchester, who was the widow of firearms magnate William Winchester. He died of tuberculosis in 1881 and Sarah inherited $20.5 million and a 50% stake in the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Her 50% stake generated about $1,000 per day of income. Sarah had been living in Connecticut with her husband and consulted a medium after his death. The medium suggested that Sarah move west and continuously build a house to keep away the spirits of those who fell victim to her husband’s guns. The thought was that the continuous construction noise would confuse the spirits of these victims and bring Sarah peace. There are differing stories about whether or not construction was continuous (around the clock), but one mutually agreed fact is that the house was in a constant state of renovation. Construction began in 1884 and ceased upon Sarah’s death in 1922. The house was originally seven stories tall, but the earthquake in 1906 damaged the house and the house today stands at four stories. There is also still visible damage in the house from the earthquake. Sarah directed most of the construction herself, and in an effort to further confuse the spirits, she had many misdirections built into the house. She had stairways to nowhere, windows built into interior walls, stairs with unusual risers, and even a door that opened to the outside on the second floor. All total, there are 160 rooms in the house. It is said that Sarah slept in a different bed each night and that there was only one working toilet in the house (the other toilets were decoys). She had custom made spiderweb windows installed and a window built by Tiffany himself that’s valued at over $30,000 today. A lot of the staircases also have 13 stairs and there are other iterations of the number in the house.
The history of the house is so neat and fascinating – there’s nothing else like it in the world. The Mystery House also inspired Disney’s Haunted Mansion and the mansion in Stephen King’s Rose Red. As expected, the house has also been featured in many paranormal tv series. I can tell you from experience that the house does have a very creepy vibe, so I can definitely see why paranormal experts would be curious about the house.
I think that we kind of lucked out when we went, as they had revamped the tours due to COVID. The tour we took was a one way walk through the house and we got to see 110 out of the 160 rooms! Evidently, tours in the past did not allow access to that many rooms. The day we went was really busy and I think it was one of the first days that they had this new tour with so many people, so it was a bit stop and go. But we did get to spend a lot of time in the house, so we also got to see more of the little details in each room versus just walking through and seeing the highlights.
If you refer back up to Kitchen Window above, you’ll see that window looks down on the board in the bottom right corner!