Everything You Need to Know About the Winchester Mystery House
The Bay Area has its share of legends. However, none are quite as strange as the story of the Winchester Mystery House, which is now offering safe and socially distanced ways for you to explore in person or from the comfort of home.
The Winchester Mystery House has captured popular imagination. "Mythbusters," "Ghost Adventures," and "Ghost Brothers" have all produced programs about the House. It made its spectacular big-screen debut with the horror film "Winchester" in 2018. The film tells a fictionalized version of the story behind the mansion; but many people believe that the truth is far stranger than fiction.
The Spooky History of the Winchester Mystery House
When Sarah Winchester’s husband, William Wirt Winchester, died in 1881, she became one of the wealthiest women in the world. Unfortunately for Sarah, the fortune came with a dark side. She became convinced that she was cursed.
She was certain that relocating was the only way to evade the spirits that plagued her. In 1886, she left her home in New Haven, CT, for a new life in San Jose, CA. There, she bought a simple eight-room farmhouse that she would go on to transform into a marvelous, madcap, 160-room mansion that would come to be known as the Winchester Mystery House.
The Oddities of the Winchester Mystery House
The sheer size of the House is the first thing you will notice when you arrive. However, that is the least remarkable thing about this attraction. For example: though there are more than 2,000 doors, they don’t all lead where you would expect. One opens to a sheer 15-foot drop into an outdoor garden. If you step through another, you will land eight feet below in a kitchen sink.
Some of the staircases in this home are truly peculiar. Instead of taking you to another floor, they lead right into the ceiling. There is a vast network of secret passages twisting throughout the property. One cabinet door opens to a hive of 30 additional rooms. Many visitors are fascinated by the vast collection of windows, more than 10,000, and the fact that some of the loveliest Tiffany stained glass is hidden away where no light can reach it.
The biggest question is why. Why did Sarah Winchester continue to make changes until her death? Some say that she believed she would die as soon as the house was declared complete. Others say she created a labyrinth to confuse and evade the spirits that followed her. Whatever you believe the reason is, the Mystery House is sure to stay in your mind long after your visit.
The Winchester Mystery House can be found in San Jose, which is about an hour south of San Francisco. If you want to take in some of the other activities available in San Jose, you may wish to rent a car for the trip. Otherwise, public transportation can get you there. Caltrain will take you from San Francisco to the Santa Clara Transit Center, where you can board a bus to the Winchester and Olsen stop. Walk or hail a ride about two miles to the Winchester Mystery House.
Planning Your Visit
Beginning Wednesday, July 29, the Winchester Mystery House will launch the Walk with Spirits Tour, a new outdoor evening experience that explores the legendary estate’s supernatural lore. Guests will roam the expansive grounds of the world’s most haunted mansion while hearing tales of its former and (possibly current!) inhabitants, as well as peer through its many windows and doors to see what might materialize…if they’re open to receiving the signs.
Tours will be offered Wednesdays through Sundays beginning at 8 p.m. Tickets ($14.99—$24.99) for timed-entry admission allowing for social distancing will be available beginning Friday, July 24.
Tour sizes will be restricted to those in a visitor’s immediate household and capacity will be reduced to ensure social distancing. All guests and employees will be required to practice social distancing and wear face masks. Additional precautions include hand washing and sanitizing stations throughout the property and enhanced cleaning of the estate.
Guests interested in exploring Winchester Mystery House from home can take the Immersive 360 Tour ($8.99) or the Video Tour ($13.99 to purchase, $5.99 to rent) available online.