A House 'Built by Spirits'
With the fall season and Halloween upon us, we thought it an appropriate time to revisit a seasonally-appropriate architectural subject: California's most famous haunted residence, the Winchester Mystery House.
On the National Register of Historic Places since 1974, the sprawling Queen Anne Victorian in the Santa Clara Valley boasts an array of architectural oddities, including doors that open to walls and stairs that lead to a ceiling. Owner Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester Rifle fortune, began construction upon purchasing the land in 1884 and continued without ceasing until her death in 1922.
According to legend, she was haunted by the spirits of the thousands who lost their lives from the Winchester repeating rifle. Fearing she would suffer the same fate of her husband and infant child, who died mysteriously 15 years prior, she left the east coast at the suggestion of a psychic and moved west. To keep the evil spirits at bay, she refused to stop building and renovating the 24,000 square foot home, making it one of the most extensive residential building projects in the region's history, and establishing herself as one of the most extravagant and eccentric building patrons of the era. Find out more about her unusual background and personal history here.
Without any specific blueprints, master plan or design intention for the project, the home is a series of labyrinthian hallways, unusual staircases, unused rooms, and doors to nowhere. (Well, except for the two-story drop in one well-documented case, shown in the exterior image above...) Costing the equivalent of $70 million today, no expense was spared in the effort to realize a 'house built by spirits' consisting of 160 rooms, 47 fireplaces, 13 bathrooms, and 40 staircases.
Though it's been open to the public since her death as a popular tourist attraction, the mystery surrounding Mrs. Winchester and her famous home continues today, with numerous accounts of ghost sightings and paranormal activity. Having visited the site years ago, I didn't experience any of these encounters myself, though I found the nature of the construction and architectural peculiarities alone quite fascinating.
Whatever the truths may be, the Winchester Mystery House is undoubtedly an incredibly unusual structure that contains many untold mysteries within its walls- seemingly quite appropriate for California's most famous haunted house...
For a closer look inside, take a quick video tour below or at this link.