Constructed between 1884-1922, the Winchester Mystery House is an enormous Victorian style mansion in San Jose. It was built by Sarah Winchester, who was widow of William Wirt Winchester, the maker of the Winchester rifle. The house is significant not only for its size but the fact that there is was built without any plan to speak of, so it is essentially a labyrinth of hallways and rooms. In fact the house is so massive and confusing that tour guides adamantly warn visitors to stay with the group or they may be lost for hours. The house is believed to be very haunted; some of the ghosts are considered those killed by a Winchester rifle. Tragically, Sarah's daughter and later, her husband, died which caused her tremendous mental and psychological anguish. Sarah would hold seances to try to receive inspiration about how to design the house. Despite the house's paranormal character, it is a great example of Victorian architecture, albeit an extremely haphazard one. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Sarah Winchester was born Sarah Lockwood Pardee in 1840. She married William Wirt Winchester, son of Oliver Fischer Winchester, Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut and manufacturer of the famous Winchester repeating rifle in 1862. They appeared to have a happy and comfortable life when they had their daughter Annie. As stated above, tragedy struck when Annie contracted a mysterious childhood disease marasmus and died in 1866. Sarah was devastated by the death of her daughter and was faced with yet another blow when her husband died 15 years later from tuberculosis.

These tragic losses help to explain the instability of Sarah's mental state while designing her new home. The design called for things such as upside down columnns in an attempt to confuse the spirits. The house was completed in 1886 and was a massive accomplishment. Originally it was seven stories tall but after an earthquake in 1906 but only stories remain after that natural disaster. It now has approximately 160 rooms. Those rooms include: 40 bedrooms, 2 ballrooms, 47 fireplaces, 17 chimneys, 2 basements and 3 elevators. With the devastation that she encountered coupled with the $20,000,000 that she had, it is easy to see how such a home was created. Sarah Winchester died on September 5, 1922. Today the home is owned by Winchester Investment LLC and is open to the public for tours. 

Miller, Brent." The Winchester Mystery House. National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places. August 7, 1974. "Sarah Winchester: Woman of Mystery." Winchester Mystery House. Accessed April 16, 2014. http://www.winchestermysteryhouse.com/sarahwinchester.cfm.