Some people call the traffic at certain times of day in San Jose other-worldly. Of course, they’re exaggerating. But when talking about the goings on at the Winchester Mystery House, “other-worldly” might not be too far off the mark, if you believe in ghosts.
The gigantic mansion is located at 525 South Winchester Blvd. in San Jose, and it’s thought by some to be haunted by a number of ghosts including the ghost of Sarah Winchester, who was the lady of the house from the beginning of construction in 1884 until her death in 1922.
Predominately featuring Queen Anne Style Victorian architecture, the mansion is noted for its sheer size, odd design elements and lack of any logical building direction, seemingly as per the wishes of Sarah, who oversaw the construction. Truth is, she had no choice.
Identifying the ghosts of San Jose
Aside from Sarah, who are the ghosts that are said to haunt the home? They are the spirits of individuals who were killed by Winchester rifles, manufactured by none other than William Winchester, Sarah’s husband, who died in 1881.
After William’s death, Sarah, visited a medium in Boston. The medium supposedly channeled William’s spirit, which told her that she should leave her New Haven, Conn., home and move west, where she should build a house for the spirits of those who had died from her husband’s firearms. The catch: Sarah must continuously build the home. Construction must never end, else the spirits would kill her. Even if she complied with the order, she was led to believe, both her family and her fortune would be forever haunted.
Plenty of money to build her house
Between a sizeable inheritance and 50 percent ownership of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, Sarah had an income of approximately $1,000 per day – equal to $30,000 per day in today’s money. In 1884, she found an unfinished farmhouse in the Santa Clara Valley and got to work spending the money before any negative effects from haunting could come upon it or her.
And legend has it that the work never stopped from the time she began until she died 38 years later. Crews worked around the clock. The small San Jose farmhouse eventually because a seven-storey mansion. There was no architect except Sarah, who clearly had little idea of how to build a house. Within the structure are stairs with unequal risers, windows that open into other rooms and doors and stairways that lead to nowhere.
When Sarah died in 1922, work on the house immediately ceased, and what there was at the time is what is left. Today the Winchester Mystery House is a popular tourist attraction. It’s also an official California historical landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is currently owned by Winchester Investments LLC.
Highlights of the San Jose mansion
- 160 rooms
- 40 bedrooms
- 2 ballrooms, one finished, one unfinished
- 47 fireplaces
- 10,000+ panes of glass
- 2 basements
- 3 elevators
- Gold and silver chandeliers
- Hand-installed parquet floors
All of these features and hundreds of others supposedly were inspired in Sarah’s mind by the ghosts of those who fell to her husband’s rifles.
So did these spirits kill Sarah because she let up on construction at one point? Did they move into the house? Are they there today – along with Sarah Winchester’s ghost? If you know the way to San Jose, maybe you can take a trip down there and find out.
Read a lot more at the Winchester Mystery House Wikipedia page.