Let the mystery begin. . .
Last Friday (the 13th), me, Brooke and our pal/peer Parul took a little field trip to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. It was crazy-kooky fun.
Here’s a little background info:
Sarah L. Winchester was the widow of William Wirt Winchester, inheritor of the famous Winchester Rifle Company. In addition to killing countless Injuns and whatnot, the Winchester repeating rifle made the family tons of money. All was well in Winchesterland until Sarah’s newborn baby died, followed shortly by her husband and father-in-law. She concluded that the spirits of those felled by this weapon were exacting their revenge upon her family — and subsequently went totally batty.
A medium in Boston supposedly advised Sarah to head West and build a house for herself and the spirits, which she promptly did. Her psychic counsel also compelled her to never stop building, lest the spirits visit their righteous anger upon her. She set about spending her $20 million inheritance by renovating and adding more rooms to the house, with work continuing round-the-clock for the next 38 years. (Would’ve made an awesome reality show on the HGTV.)
Due to the lack of a master plan and constant construction, the house became very large and quite complex; many of the serving staff needed a map to navigate the house. The house also features doors that open into walls, staircases that lead nowhere, the recurring number thirteen, and windows that look into other walls. There are two theories as to why Mrs. Winchester built such an unusual house. The first is by far the most popular and states that she built the house to confuse the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles. The second, much less popular, is that while Mrs. Winchester was an exceedingly wealthy woman and could build her house any way she wanted; she had no architectural training at all, so some of the oddities could be simple design error.
Umm, I was there, and there’s no way this place is the result of "architectural error." Sarah, who stood about four-foot-something and retrofitted her home Hobbit style, clearly had a master plan. The séance room, with its single entrance and multiple secret exits, is proof enough.
It’s total coincidence that we took the tour on Friday the 13th, but it added extra resonance to the experience. Thirteen was a number of great significance to Sarah — she worked the number into just about every aspect of the house. There are thirteen bathrooms, thirteen windowpanes in many rooms, thirteen panels on this or that wall, and so on. Her will was even written in thirteen sections, which she signed thirteen times. (Interestingly, she "forgot" to put the house in.)
Here are some shots I took. Unfortunately, the unsettling nature of the house’s bizarre design is impossible to capture in photographs. You really have to be there.
The "Door to Nowhere."
Spooky stairway. I think this one actually leads somewhere.
Chimney climbs three stories and stops abruptly about four feet from the roof.
All of the steps in the house are tiny and labyrinthine.
Cool view of outside from inside.
High class stained glass.
Steps go down, steps go up. But they never take you higher.
Séance room; one of several exit doors that cannot be opened from outside.