The largest 'haunted house' in the world sits squarely in the heart of Santa Clara County. The "Winchester Mystery House'" is located at 525 Winchester Blvd. in San Jose, California, right next door to 'Century 21 Theater'(1st of the Century theaters) and one block west of 'Santana Row' Shopping Center.
Having grown up just ten-blocks away, this California Historical Landmark has always been a local treat for me, whether just driving by or taking the tour over the years. I used to get discounts, because three of my seven siblings worked there as tour guides!
Rumor has it the place is haunted...and, IT IS! (in my opinion) Why else would they call it a "mystery house"! To understand whyits 160 rooms stretch seven stories high, have 47 fireplaces, and took over 38-years to build--you have to take a peek into American history!
Sarah Pardee and William Wirt Winchester were married in New Haven, Connecticut during the Civil War in 1862.. Prior to that, William invented the famous Winchester repeating rifle, and amassed a fortune.
The couple's only daughter Annie, died shortly after birth, thus tearing them apart emotionally. In 1881, William died of tuberculosis, leaving Sarah with a second heart-ache...and a 20-million dollar inheritance!
Upon consulting a psycic, Sarah was convinced her family was cursed by all the deaths incurred by the rifles, and decided to move toward the western sunset. Arriving in the Santa Clara Valley in 1884, she bought a six-room house on 162-acres--for which it was foretold she needed to build upon constantly...or else...die!
She did just that...BUILD, in radical fashion! Sarah eventually employed 22 carpenters working 24 hours a day, often 7-days a week. Along with three elevators, there were numerous stairways built, some of which led to dead end walls....along with upside down stair posts, trap doors, un-explained passages, bathroom doors made of glass, closets that emptied into open air and a fall to the garden, countless chimneys, and onlytwo mirrorsexisting in the entire mansion. Sarah believed that ghosts feared their own reflections, and they also liked to appear and re-appear in her many chimmneys.
What was weird to most, made control-freak type sense to Sarah, who constantly wanted to maintain a strangle-hold on ghosts, spirits and other evil intruders who continually haunted her fortune--which, again, came from making that deadly rifle!
Sarah was also obsessed with the number 13, having most windows built with 13 panes of glass, 13 panels on each wall, and parkay floors with squares 13 feet wide and 13 feet long. Meanwhile, the constant hammering and delivering of new materials to the mansion finally eased up in 1906.
That's when the infamous San Francisco earthquake rocked and damaged the mystery house as well, partially trapping Sarah in one of the rooms. As imagined, she started building again, and didn't stop for 16 more years! The construction finally came to an end with Sarah Winchester's death in 1922, and the estate was inherited by a niece, Francis Marriott--who soon realized Sarah's fortune had dwindled to nearly nothing.
It was rumored there was a hidden safe filled with a fortune in gold and priceless jewels, however the safe's that were eventually discovered contained nothing but fish lines, old socks and newspaper clippings.
In 38 years Sarah spent 5.5-million dollars building the Winchester Mystery House. That converts to about 75-million in today's dollars!
It became a California Historical Landmark in 1930, as Robert L. Ripley was one of the first to showcase it as a popular tourist attraction in his daily column, "Ripley's Believe it or Not!" Today it remains just that, a tourist attraction!
Over the years there have been thousands of stories about voices moaning, walls knocking, cold spots in certain rooms, floors shaking and mysterious whistles and howls nearing closing time when the tours end.
My younger brother Rob once told me one of the employees was accidently locked in the compound over night, and when morning came...he was found white-faced, trembling and incoherant following a night of haunting fear and emotional trauma.
Can you believe that? I can, in my own, fun kind of way...especially around Halloween! Come on! Where'sYOUR spirit???
Should you find the desire to find out for yourself, both mansion and estate tours run daily from 9am to 7pm.(unless it's really dark by then) It costs more than when I was a kid though.(sorry)$33.00 for adults and $30.00 for children and seniors.It may seem frightenly expensive, but it's well worth visiting...at least once in your lifetime!