Exploring the Winchester Mystery House

I’ve written a few posts on my end of summer trip to California (Napa and San Fran), but one experience I haven’t shared is my visit to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose. The house initially caught my attention when I heard that it was the inspiration for Stephen King’s Rose Red, which aired in the early 2000s. I loved the show and am a huge fan of the horror genre and anything related.

The House was in an extremely weird location – considering how big it is! Right around shopping centers filled with retail stores and restaurants, it’s cool to see this historic landmark among modern day things. I’m curious what was around “back in the day.”

Photo courtesy of The Winchester Mystery House

The 160-room, $5.5 million house was built by widow Sarah Winchester, after making the move from Connecticut to California, following the death of her husband and daughter (and a hefty inheritance). The move was prompted after Sarah visited a psychic who informed her that spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles (yes, her family was of the Winchester Rifle Co.) sought revenge and killed her loved ones and had placed a curse on her. According to the psychic, she could escape this curse by moving out west and building a house under direction of the spirit. So she did just that. 24 hours a day (including holidays) for 38 years straight (until 1922), the house was under construction.

In 1922, Sarah Winchester passed away and the house was sold for next to nothing, in comparison to what she spent on it. Even crazier, after all of the work that went into the house, nobody lived in it after her passing, and most of the house went unused entirely (fun fact: the only people to ever walk through the front door were Sarah and the head architect – and it only happened once).

The glass windows in the house were exquisite, with materials imported from Europe and several purchased from none other than Tiffany & Co. There’s also a huge “storage room” filled with unused materials that were purchased while the house was still under construction. If only I could use some of the glass for my windows!

Photo courtesy of Winchester Mystery House

But what I found most intriguing on the tour was the crazy direction Sarah gave on building the house. It’s clear that she didn’t take what the psychic told her lightly, as she was superstitious and spiritual in every room:

  • The number 13 was significant throughout her home (e.g. 13 windows in each room, 13 hooks on the wall, 13 panels in the ceiling)
  • Spiritual symbols such as rainbows, moons, and spiderwebs can be found throughout
Additionally, Sarah build odd areas around the house to “trick” the spirits. These were the craziest to see and makes you wonder what she was like when living! Things like doors and cabinets opening to a wall, stairs to the ceiling/nowhere, windows with no outside view, a door that opened and had a 15 ft. drop if you stepped through (see image below – look to the right)! Can you imagine living in the house and forgetting where the trick doors were?!
Image courtesy of Winchester Mystery House

My mom and I decided to squeeze the tour in before heading to the airport and were so glad we did! We couldn’t stop speculating about everything we saw and head about during our tour. If you find yourself in/around San Jose, you should absolutely stop by the Winchester Mystery House and see it in person! Keep in mind that there’s no A/C in the house, so be prepared!

Winchester House Pre-1906 Earthquake
Image courtesy of Winchester Mystery House (C) 2014

The Winchester Mystery House offers Friday the 13th tours as well as select nights in October, which I think would be the ultimate creep-fest (but I’d SO love to do it)! The standard mansion tour (which we did) lasted just over an hour, but there are other in-depth options as well. Tours start at $25 and run every 15 minutes. Tickets are available at the door or online.

I received 2 complimentary tour tickets for review purposes. All opinions are my own.
  • I live in San Diego, but grew up in the Bay Area, and used to take trips to the Winchester Mystery House on summer vacations! How fun! Reading your review definitely brought back memories! Thank you for sharing :)