The Winchester Mystery House
Friday, 28th March 2008 by Alex Turnbull
Here in San Jose, California we find the bizarre sprawling complex known as The Winchester Mystery House. It is the creation of Sarah Winchester (the widow of gun magnate William Winchester) who began expanding this country farmhouse when she moved here in 1884. Supposedly Mrs Winchester was so terrified of the ghosts of people killed by Winchester rifles that she consulted a spiritualist, who told her:
build a home for yourself and for the spirits who have fallen from this terrible weapon, too. You can never stop building the house. If you continue building, you will live. Stop and you will die.
And build she did – allegedly around-the-clock, without interruption for the next 38 years until her death, Mrs Winchester built, rebuilt, altered, changed, constructed and demolished one section after another. The ‘mystery’ of the house is found in its weird and nonsensical architecture – staircases that lead nowhere, hidden rooms, doors that open on to sheer drops, cupboard doors that open to solid brick walls, and a myriad of secret passages!
Despite an earthquake taking down 3 floors in 1906, today the mansion still comprises 160 rooms, 47 fireplaces, 10,000 window panes, 17 chimneys, 950 doors, and 40 staircases! The Winchester Mystery House’s unusual history, combined with the unsurprising rumours that it is haunted, have firmly planted this place into American popular culture.