14 October 2019
Winchester Mystery House
Winchester Mystery House



Sarah Lockwood Pardee married William Winchester, magnate to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, in 1862. Now, most people know of the Winchesters for the Model 73 Rifle, better known as ‘The Gun that Won the West,’ released in 1873, but Sarah Winchester is responsible for one of the single most fascinating homes in the United States. After her husband’s death from tuberculosis in 1881, Sarah inherited the Winchester fortune, purchased an eight-room farmhouse in San Jose, California, and started building in 1886.

Sarah called the one-hundred-and-sixty-two-acre estate her ‘Llanada Villa’ which is Spanish for ‘house on flat land.’ During the heyday of construction, running most drastically from 1891 to 1900, the house quickly rose from a humble farmhouse to a seven-story Victorian giant. Tabloids from that time reported that Sarah visited a medium who channeled her late husband. The medium supposedly warned Sarah that she needed to continuously build on the home to protect herself from the spirits of the victims of the Winchester Rifle. Whether that is true or not, all that is known for certain was that Sarah certainly built.

Neither an architect nor a master blueprint was used during the haphazard construction process as the team of carpenters worked under Sarah’s direction only. As a result, the house was soon filled with oddities such as stairs that ascend into the ceiling, windows that open into other rooms, a closet that is only an inch deep, skylights in the floor, and a ‘door to nowhere’ that opens directly into a garden fifteen feet off the ground.

When a massive earthquake struck San Francisco in 1906, it destroyed the seventh story tower and greatly damaged the fifth and sixth floors. These were later removed, decreasing the mansion to the four stories that is still is today. When Sarah passed away in 1922, construction abruptly ceased, leaving some rooms and interior sections of the house dangerously unfinished.

Sarah’s niece sold the home almost immediately. In 1923, it was purchased by John and Mayme Brown. They had planned to create an amusement park on the site, including a wooden roller coaster, but the overwhelming interest in the house caused them to shift focus. They opened for public tours that same year. In 1924, Harry Houdini visited the mansion on Halloween. He hoped to debunk the paranormal theories swirling around the home, but only left with more questions. He famously dubbed Sarah’s estate, ‘The Mystery House’ as it is still known today. 




In 1974, the house was granted landmark status and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Winchester Mystery house currently spans six acres. It tops in at a fantastic 24,000 square feet. It features ten thousand panes of glass, two thousand doors, one hundred and sixty rooms—including two ballrooms, thirteen bathrooms, and six kitchens—fifty-two skylights, forty-seven stairways, seventeen chimneys, and three elevators. A stained-glass window designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany was created for the house to have a prismatic effect when the sunlight shone through it, but it was unfortunately installed on an interior wall.

In 2016, a previously unknown secret room was discovered in the attic. It contained a pump organ, a Victorian couch, a dress form, a sewing machine, and several paintings. Stories spread while Sarah was alive of a storage room in the home that contained un-displayed riches, including a spiderweb Tiffany window designed by Sarah herself. To date, no such room has been discovered—not to say that it isn’t in the mysterious house somewhere. It’s incredible to think that a house built in 1886 could still be protecting its secrets over one hundred years later.

As for the paranormal, such beliefs were not abnormal at the time. Fed by the Civil War, in which countless people perished, those left behind were sad and desperate for a way to know that their families were okay in the great beyond. It was confirmed that Sarah did at least have an interest. The house is full of stained-glass spiderwebs and repeating number thirteens—from windows with thirteen panes, ceilings with thirteen panels, and staircases with thirteen steps.

The tale of Sarah and her villa being haunted by the ghosts of the Winchester rifles’ victims was most likely started by the house’s early promoters. In 1967, psychic Susy Smith wrote about the Mystery house in her book, ‘Prominent American Ghosts.’ Historians see Sarah’s perpetual making and remaking of the house as a larger-than-life artistic endeavor, rather than any true attempt to escape spirits. Guns were a fact of life then and gun-guilt didn’t really emerge until the turn of the 20th century. One historian believes that Sarah continuously renovated her home as a way to purposefully employ the San Jose community. She did try to give back, even building a hospital in her husband’s name. The house itself was probably her biggest social work of all.

While we may never know what really drove Sarah Winchester to create such a house, it’s certainly the kind of place I would love to visit.




<< October, 2021  
September 2021 (2)
August 2021 (1)
July 2021 (1)
June 2021 (1)
May 2021 (1)
April 2021 (1)
March 2021 (1)
February 2021 (1)
January 2021 (1)
December 2020 (1)
November 2020 (1)
October 2020 (1)
September 2020 (1)
August 2020 (1)
July 2020 (1)
June 2020 (1)
May 2020 (1)
April 2020 (1)
March 2020 (2)
February 2020 (3)
January 2020 (3)
December 2019 (3)
November 2019 (3)
October 2019 (4)
September 2019 (3)
August 2019 (3)
July 2019 (2)
June 2019 (3)
May 2019 (3)
April 2019 (2)
March 2019 (3)
February 2019 (3)
January 2019 (2)
December 2018 (3)
November 2018 (2)
October 2018 (4)
September 2018 (3)
August 2018 (2)
July 2018 (3)
June 2018 (3)
May 2018 (3)
April 2018 (4)
March 2018 (2)
February 2018 (1)
January 2018 (1)
December 2017 (2)
November 2017 (1)
October 2017 (1)
September 2017 (1)
August 2017 (1)
July 2017 (1)
June 2017 (1)
May 2017 (2)
April 2017 (2)
March 2017 (1)
February 2017 (1)
January 2017 (1)
December 2016 (2)
November 2016 (1)
October 2016 (1)
September 2016 (1)
August 2016 (1)
July 2016 (1)
June 2016 (1)
April 2016 (1)
March 2016 (2)
December 2015 (1)
February 2015 (1)
November 2014 (1)
October 2014 (1)
September 2014 (1)
August 2014 (1)
May 2014 (3)
April 2014 (1)
March 2014 (1)
January 2014 (2)
December 2013 (1)
November 2013 (3)
October 2013 (2)
September 2013 (1)
August 2013 (3)
July 2013 (1)
June 2013 (1)
May 2013 (2)
March 2013 (4)
February 2013 (4)
January 2013 (2)
December 2012 (3)
November 2012 (2)
October 2012 (4)
September 2012 (1)
August 2012 (2)
July 2012 (1)
June 2012 (3)
May 2012 (2)
April 2012 (4)
March 2012 (1)
February 2012 (2)
January 2012 (3)
July 2011 (1)
June 2011 (1)