The Winchester Mystery House was the home of Sara Winchester, heiress to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company fortune. She built the home in San Jose, California after moving there based on the advice of a psychic. Sara visited the psychic after the deaths of her only daughter (1866), and her husband (1881). Sara believed her family was cursed, and the psychic (who was supposedly channeling Sara’s late husband) said the only way to appease the vengeful spirits of those killed by Winchester Rifles was to continuously build them a home to haunt. With an inheritance of $20.5 million, plus $1,000 per day income from her almost 50% ownership of the company, Winchester had the means to create a sprawling, incoherent mystery home for herself and her ghosts. Above is a photo of the Winchester Mystery House, still open to the public for tours. Here are your five facts:
- Construction began on this home in 1884, and continued until Sara’s death, 38 years later. When Winchester died in 1922, the home was still under constant construction and had a total of 160 rooms, 13 bathrooms, 6 kitchens, 40 staircases, 47 fireplaces, 2,000 doors and 10,000 windows. Work on the home stopped abruptly upon her death.
- The number 13 and spider webs held special meaning for Winchester, and these themes are incorporated throughout the mystery house.
- Sara believed she could consult with the spirits for whom she was building, and the home was built according to the ghosts’ demands. As such, the home is void of any reasonable function or layout. Staircases lead to nowhere, floors have doors and windows in them, and other doors open into solid walls.
- While living in the home, Sara would sleep in a different room each night in order to confuse the spirits.
- When Sara died, she did not will the home to anyone, perhaps because she planned to continue to haunt it in the afterlife. It was sold at auction to a local investor and opened as a tourist attraction soon afterward. The home is now a California Historical Landmark, and on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.