Tour the Architectural Curiosities of the Winchester Mystery House

The Winchester Mystery House is a mansion built by Sarah Winchester, the widow of firearms mogul William Winchester. This massive house is an old Victorian constructed over the course of 38 years in San Jose. Wandering the 160 ghostly rooms of this mansion, you’ll come across doors that lead nowhere, many architectural and decorative elements that add up to 13, and spooky spiderweb stained glass windows. The legend is Sarah kept building this mansion to evade the spirits of those that had perished at the hands of the Winchester rifle.

To Get There

525 S Winchester Blvd, San Jose, CA 95128
There is a large parking lot here, free for visitors
Open daily: 10am to 4pm weekdays / 10am to 4pm weekends

The History

After losing her infant daughter and then shortly after her husband, Sarah Winchester left New Haven and moved to San Jose. She bought an eight room farmhouse and began renovating. She bought the home in 1886 and continued construction on it until 1922. This mansion is now over 24,000 square feet with 10,000 windows, 2,000 doors, 160 rooms, 52 skylights, 47 stairways and fireplaces, 17 chimneys, 13 bathrooms, 6 kitchens… and only one shower.

There are several quirky elements in the house that add to the mystery of her architectural decisions. Below is a door that opens to the exterior of the building, but it’s on the 2nd floor. If you walked through it you’d fall straight down.

Sarah was a very small women that stood at about 4’10” and had arthritis. She had several custom “easy riser” staircases built for to make it easier for her.

In the image on the left below you can see that this staircase leads nowhere. It just ends at the roofline.

Many people wonder why Sarah Winchester made these strange decisions. Supposedly she was haunted by the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles. Many people believe the house is still haunted to this day. The other story is that this was a life long passion project. She was an intelligent woman who loved architecture and so made it her life’s work to continuously experiment.

The house was even larger than it is today before the 1906 earthquake that destroyed some of the higher stories. It was seven stories high and now only stands four stories tall. You can still see a lot of the damage from the quake in parts of the house like in the image below.

This mansion is a beautiful and intriguing place to visit if you are in or near San Jose. Do you know of any other cool places to visit in San Jose? Please leave them in the comments below.