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Visit the Winchester Mystery House

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The Winchester Mansion was a modern marvel when construction was (first) completed in 1884, with indoor plumbing, a hot shower, and central heating. With over 160 rooms and 40 bedrooms and 10,000 brightly colored window panes, the Winchester Mansion was one of the biggest mansions in the Bay area in its day.

But that wasn’t enough for eccentric individual Sarah Winchester, heir to the Winchester gun fortune. She demanded that the house be under constant construction and, for the next 38 years, workers added doors to nowhere, stairs that stopped, and more secret passages than Narnia. A particularly odd delight is a cabinet that, when opened, extends through thirty rooms of the house.

No one is quite sure why Miss Winchester demanded constant changes to her very large house. Of course, there are stories.

The most prevalent story is that Miss Winchester was being haunted by the spirits of those killed by the Winchester rifle. In order to keep her paranormal tormentors at bay, she wanted them to get lost in the many intricacies of the house. That way, the theory went, they’d never bother her.

A massive earthquake struck the Bay Area in 1906 and severely damaged the top three stories of the seven story mansion. Sarah instructed workers to board up the top three floors, the damage never to be repaired.

Today, some historians believe that Sarah Winchester constructed the house this way not because of her fear of angry ghosts, but because of her debilitating arthritis. Stairs that went nowhere existed simply because she told the workers to stop working on them for she wouldn’t be able to climb them anyway.

A Mansion Tour, Garden Tour and “Behind the Scenes” tour are all available. (Behind the scenes tour not available for children under 9.) There are also Flashlight Tours on special dates. The Winchester Antiques Products Museum and the Winchester Firearms Museum are also housed nearby.

Know Before You Go

From Sacramento and the Central Valley: Take I-680 South to San Jose. Take Mission Blvd. exit in Fremont and connect to I-880 South. Take I-880 South to San Jose. Take Stevens Creek Blvd. exit. Proceed West on Stevens Creek Blvd. to Winchester Blvd. Turn left onto Winchester Blvd. and proceed two stoplights, and the Winchester Mystery House™ will be on your right.

A peculiar mansion built by the troubled heir to the Winchester gun fortune.