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South Bay History Lover's Guide To Winchester Mystery House

(credit: Randy Yagi)

We take a look at one of the most curious and spectacular, and most popular destinations in San Jose, the Winchester Mystery House. Located just south of San Francisco, San Jose has several different historical landmarks to choose from, whether you are looking from a genealogical perspective or even wanting a destination for the whole family, the Winchester Mystery House fulfills both. Well-known as a haunted house, along with its architectural oddities, the story behind the house is filled with history and intrigue, making a visit both educational and entertaining.
Winchester Mystery House
525 S. Winchester Blvd.
San Jose, CA 95128
(408) 247-2101

Conceived by Sarah Winchester, wife of William Wirt Winchester, son of the historic gun manufacturer, who also lost her infant daughter to disease and never fully recovered. 15 years later she also lost her husband to tuberculosis, which added to her depression. Inheriting a fortune, quite literally, she began to build the planned eight-room house, which by the time of her death, became a 7 story, 160 room mansion. The fascinatingly odd design of the house, and rumors of her ghost still residing, have brought spectators from all over the world to try and understand the strange architecture and reason behind it.

Sarah Winchester

Plagued with the loss of her child and husband, Sarah Winchester went into a tailspin of depression. Although not a direct descendant of the gun maker, only by marriage, it is said she was advised by a spiritual medium to move out West and build a house in order to appease angry spirits, Native American and Civil War soldiers specifically, killed by the famous brand of gun. Living in fear of her own life, assuming the death of her husband and child were part of a curse, Winchester moved out West and found the spot to begin building the home. She had construction going round the clock, literally, for years up until her death.

The House

Featuring stairs that lead to ceilings, windows on floors, with a constant "13" theme throughout, the house is extraordinary and unique, and quite confusing at the same time. Having a belief in spirits, with nightly séances in her "blue room," Sarah Winchester was said to have been guided by the spirits in the construction of the home, which many concluded why it didn't make much sense.  Even though she built the house for the spirits, there was still a deep-seated fear that they would do her harm, as they did with her child and husband, which is also a possibility for the random structuring of the house. She never spent two nights in the same room so the spirits would not be able to find her.


Quite literally one of the biggest attractions in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Winchester Mystery House has several different tours available. The grand tour takes you beyond the usual hour long tour walking through the house, exploring the grounds, stables, garage and greenhouse to name a few. On every Friday the 13th a flashlight tour is offered, to invite the spooky and eerie of the estate.  The popularity of this tour sells out quickly, and tickets go on sale one month before the event.

Related: Haunted Bay Area


There have been several alleged sightings of ghosts and people have said they hear the voice Sarah Winchester speak to them. With hotspots throughout the estate, the basement is one of the places with the most activity, with some people reporting hearing baby cries as they walk through. Featured on paranormal investigation shows, the Winchester Mystery House is one of the most active spots in California.


Even with the eerie aspects of the Winchester Mystery House, what has really lured so many people year after year is the fact that it's fun for the whole family. Odd and curious, beautiful and educational, many families repeatedly go year after year as an adventure everyone can enjoy.

Related: Best Family-Friendly Getaways Near The Bay Area

Andrew Wilson started a music webzine to photograph and write about his favorite artists. He quickly notoriety as both a writer and photographer, and has since been published to a variety of national news sites. Andrew resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and is pursuing a degree in landscape photography.
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