If you’re at all interested in paranormal activity, then you’ve heard of the Winchester Mystery House.
The grand mansion built by the widow of the Winchester rifle tycoon, the house is a labyrinthine testament to one woman’s quest to avoid the wrath of angry spirits killed by her husband’s invention.
Sarah Winchester spent 36 years building the house, which includes more than 200 rooms and 10,000 windows. After her husband, William Wirt Winchester, died in 1881, Sarah found herself with a 50% stake in the Repeating Arms Company, $20 million. That’s about half a billion dollars in today’s money.
In 1886, Sarah made her way to San Jose, California, and began her multi-million-dollar crusade to build a ghost-proof house. She didn’t stop renovating and expanding her eccentric home until her death in 1922.
The result of her work is truly astounding. There are trapdoors, false doors that lead to treacherous drops, fake staircases, secret passages and other architectural quirks.
Although Sarah never said exactly why she felt the need to build such a strange house, the most popular theory is that she was trying to evade the ghosts of all those killed by the rifle her husband invented. The Winchester repeating rifle was one of the main weapons used in the Civil War, and legend holds that Sarah built the house as an elaborate maze to thwart hauntings.
Another story says that a psychic told Sarah that she had to keep building the house non-stop or else she’d die. Even when the 1906 earthquake damaged a large portion of the house, Sarah refused to stop. She simply boarded up the worst of the damage and kept going.
Visitors and employees alike have reported seeing a spirit pushing a wheelbarrow. Nicknamed Clyde, he’s often seen in the basement or the ballroom. He is reported to be a kindly ghost and does not elicit fear.
The sound of phantom footsteps is a common experience at the Winchester Mystery House. In addition, there are countless reports of an invisible hand tugging on clothing as people pass.
If you’ve always wanted to explore the mystery house, then we have good news. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bay Area landmark is temporarily closed. However, they are offering a 41-minute video tour of the house.
The virtual tour was briefly free but now costs just $5.99 to rent for 72 hours. If you’re bored and stuck at home, it’s a great way to enjoy one of America’s strangest landmarks from the safety of your couch. You can also purchase a “good any time” voucher for a future in-person visit to the house.
In addition, the folks at the Winchester Mystery House are offering a free coloring book, crossword puzzle, and desktop wallpapers to stave off boredom. You can download the freebies here.
In 2018, Hollywood tackled the story of the Winchester Mystery House and Sarah Winchester. The horror film starred Academy Award winner Helen Mirren and offered the chilling trailer below.
Like many low-budget horror flicks, the film was a financial success, earning more than ten times its budget at the box office. Unfortunately, most reviewers felt like the film was “dull” and “pointless.”