Check this monster of a home out! This is an overhead view of the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA. At the time of Sarah Winchester’s death, this property stretched over six acres, and contained 160 rooms, 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, 47 stairways, 47 fireplaces, 13 bathrooms, and 6 kitchens. When the carpenters (which were hired to work shifts so building never stopped) learned of her death, they left nails half driven and walked away. Many people drive by it everyday and have no idea the story behind it. So, I decided to check it out.
I was blown away to learn Sarah Winchester’s story as most of it seems surreal. Born sometime around 1840 and into money, Sarah Pardee was considered the “Belle of New Haven.” She met and married William Wirt Winchester and lived a wonderful and happy life. Unfortunately, their daughter passed away by a mysterious illness known as marasmus, which put Mrs. Winchester into a serious bought of depression. Eventually her husband also passed away leaving a void in her life that I think she always looked to fill but couldn’t.
Finally, she met with a Boston Medium who told her the family and she were haunted by all of the spirits that her late husband’s guns (and Winchester Family) had killed. The medium told her to move west and build a great home to appease the spirits. The medium said if the building never ceased, Mrs. Winchester would be left alone. So, she packed up and headed to Menlo Park, CA until finally picking a spot in the Santa Clara Valley (once a prolific orchard area now completely commercialized).
Once settled, Mrs. Winchester began to develop into somewhat of a folklore hero. People didn’t know what to think of her. She paid twice the normal wages (back then it was a dollar and a half a day!), made considerable contributions to orphanages, and spent countless hours with children. However, she also allegedly wore a black veil across her face while inside her home and would fire workers if they saw her face by accident.
Then there was the weird stuff. Neighbors would hear a bell ring at midnight and 2 a.m., which according to ghost lore are the times for the arrival and departure of spirits. Mrs. Winchester never slept in the same bedroom two nights in a row, in order to confuse any evil spirits that might be waiting for her. The Blue Room, where Mrs. Winchester supposedly would go every night to commune with the spirits, consisted of a cabinet, a table with pen and papers, a closet, and a planchette board – used for transmitting messages from the beyond. It was rumored she would wear one of 13 special colored robes and receive guidance from various spirits for her construction plans.
I had the opportunity to visit the house and take a tour. It’s quite a bizarre place. Stairs lead to nowhere, windows are inside, not to the outside, and there’s definitely a creepy vibe. However, it was totally worth it. It’s a piece of California history that few get to experience, but it’s something you learn from and can appreciate. If you get a chance to visit the Winchester Mystery House you really should do it.