“marvelous, baffling & eerily eccentric”
In the history of great ideas, the latest from California's Winchester Mystery House might be the best ever. The Mystery House, one of the most haunted buildings in America, has been approved to let guests stay overnight and drink booze anywhere on premises. Sounds like the start of an excellent horror flick. Built in the 1800s by Winchester Rifle heiress Sarah Winchenster, the Mystery House is a winding maze of staircases to nowhere, tiny hallways, and trap doors.
According to legend, Sarah came to believe she was haunted by the spirits of those killed by Winchester Rifles, and for 40 years until her death, she worked under the guidance of spirit mediums to turn her personal residence into a kind of "spirit trap" created to confuse the ghosts that stalked her. The result is a 160 room mansion built without blueprints and makes absolutely no sense.
Even if the only translucent spirit you see during your overnight stay at the Winchester Mystery House is a bottle of Everclear, the new rules are great news for people hoping to experience a few bumps in the night at America's weirdest mansion.
If the booze and ghosts aren't enough to lure you in for a visit, what about the chance to discover a secret room? The preservation team at the house occasionally finds previously undiscovered rooms in the house, including, most recently, an attic that had been boarded up since Sarah Winchester's death in 1922. It's an attic room that she had sealed off after the 1906 SF earthquake, as she was convinced that evil spirits caused the quake to trap her in the attic. Employees found all kinds of turn-of-the-century goodies inside, including a sewing machine, an organ, a couch, a dress form, and some paintings. Creepy. All together, that means the house has (at least) 161 rooms, including 9 kitchens, 13 bathrooms, 40 staircases, 47 fireplaces, 2000 doors, and 10,000 windows.
Winchester Mystery House is an extravagant maze of Victorian craftsmanship – marvelous, baffling, and eerily eccentric, to say the least. Tour guides must warn people not to stray from the group or they could be lost for hours! Countless questions come to mind as you wander through the mansion – such as, what was Mrs. Winchester thinking when she had a staircase built that descends seven steps and then rises eleven?
Some of the architectural oddities may have practical explanations. For example, the Switchback Staircase, which has seven flights with forty four steps, rises only about nine feet, since each step is just two inches high. Mrs. Winchester arthritis was quite severe in her later years, and the stairway may have been designed to accommodate her disability.
The miles of twisting hallways are made even more intriguing by secret passageways in the walls. Mrs. Winchester traveled through her house in a roundabout fashion, supposedly to confuse any mischievous ghosts that might be following her.
This wild and fanciful description of Mrs. Winchester’s nightly prowl to the Séance Room appeared in The American Weekly in 1928, six years after her death:
“When Mrs. Winchester set out for her Séance Room, it might well have discouraged the ghost of the Indian or even of a bloodhound, to follow her. After traversing an interminable labyrinth of rooms and hallways, suddenly she would push a button, a panel would fly back and she would step quickly from one apartment into another, and unless the pursuing ghost was watchful and quick, he would lose her. Then she opened a window in that apartment and climbed out, not into the open air, but onto the top of a flight of steps that took her down one story only to meet another flight that brought her right back up to the same level again, all inside the house. This was supposed to be very discomforting to evil spirits who are said to be naturally suspicious of traps.”
According to legend, Mrs. Winchester enacted a nightly séance to help with her building plans and for protection from “bad” spirits. While she sometimes drew up simple sketches of the building ideas, there were never any blueprints….or building inspectors! In the morning, she would meet with John Hansen, her dutiful foreman, and go over new changes and additions.
The place is cool. Go with enough time not to be rushed. The architecture inside and out is beautiful (even the weird stuff lol) . If you go in spring the gardens are beautiful! If you go in October they decorate all over for Halloween! And above all be aware because YES it does have activity :-) .
I think this is worth checking out once, but it was a bit overpriced and the tour in the summer was long and very hot/stuffy. There are some really interesting things that this eccentric woman had done to her home, and it is a beautiful home. Kids might get a little bored, except for climbing up the many petite staircases or checking out the gift shop. The bummer is none of the original furnishings are in the house, because they had been sold. They tried to replace some furniture with authentic pieces from that time, but many rooms are empty.
One of the weirdest houses in America, the Winchester Mystery House is most definitely worth a visit for those who've never been there. Yeah, it's a little overpriced, but how can you set a price on visiting a house that had its building plans dictated by ghosts?
The stairways go nowhere, there are doors built into walls, and nothing there seems to make sense. It's like a haunted funhouse, except you can drink booze!
If you don't mind crowds, go during the Halloween season. They decorate special and they offer lots of late-night ghost hunts!
They say that the staff is still finding hidden rooms that were built for Mrs. Winchester to disappear into. The building is crazy, and totally disorienting. One minute you think you're walking down a regular hallway, and the next you realize it's actually shrunken down and the door leads nowhere. The Grand Estate Tour is excellent and gives you loads of history about the house and about the Winchester family in general, plus the staff are so helpful and willing to answer any questions you might have.
Very interesting place to visit. Takes over an hour to walk thru. I was listening to podcast called "99% Invisible" before I went to the house. Check it out: Episode 162: Mystery House
They tell actual story so when you go to excursion you know some extra stuff. We bought our tickets for $36 or so and I think "behind the scenes" tour costs $44
Had a great time, took the Grand Estate Tour. Spooky and fun at the same time. Would love to come back and bring the kids for the nite flashlight tour on Friday the 13th.
If you have the time, the grand estate tour is worth it! It was a cool experience!
Came here a few years back. Historical home with many original pieces. I believe they offer day and nite tours. I would recommend looking up hours of operation :)
It's outrageously expensive $170 for a family of 5, and that was only for the hour mansion tour, the groups are too big, they try to hard to make it seem haunted when it's just a cool place... the gardens are stunning but there's an extra fee to see those or get the full tour... worth a stop but way to expensive and commercialized for me to visit again... or suggest to anyone they "have" to see this place...
If you like history and ghosts this is the tour for you. The place is massive and is kept in pristine condition. If you are in the area it is a must see!
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Winchester Mystery House
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