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Weird History at the Winchester Mystery House

October 12, 2011

Last week, I fulfilled a longtime dream of mine. I visited the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California.

The front entrance, including crazy-expensive doors that nobody ever went through because Mrs. Winchester didn't ever invite any visitors.

Do you know about this crazy place? Here’s the Wikipedia entry, and here’s the official site, but the short version is: This is the elaborate wackadoo Victorian mansion of super-rich-and-pretty-kooky Sarah Winchester. Apparently, the extremely superstitious Mrs. Winchester believed she was cursed and that the only way to block the curse was to constantly build on to her house. So for almost 40 years, carpenters were at work, day and night, adding to and remodeling the house.

It’s now preserved as a historical site, and the parts that were unfinished at her death remained unfinished, but that still leaves 160 rooms to explore. (Not that you get to see all of them on the tour, but even so it takes an hour and a half, and that’s not even counting the outdoor grounds tour.)

It’s interesting on two levels. If you like Victorian architecture and general old-timey fancy-pantsery, this house has it in spades. Ridiculously expensive wallpaper! Elaborate stained glass! Priceless furniture! Imported marble! That kind of stuff. It’s very pretty, if a little complicated and fussy for my taste. But then there’s the second level — all the construction weirdness that results from 38 years of continuous and rather haphazard construction. Stairways that lead you in circles, a door that opens to a 12-foot sheer drop, hidden entrances and exits, and a general maze-like layout that would be ridiculously easy to get lost in if they let you in there without a guide.

I’ve been itching to visit this place for years, ever since I saw some TV documentary show about it, so I’m over-the-top delighted that I finally got to see it. The verdict: Worth the wait. I loooved it.

Couple more pics: (but only of the outside, b/c they won’t let you take pictures inside the house, and I’m a rule-follower like that)

The "Door to Nowhere" (note the sign) on the exterior of the second story

Mrs. Winchester had all the columns in the house installed upside-down because she thought it was extra-lucky

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 31, 2011 3:40 PM

    Cool place. I visited many years ago. Our tour guide was very ornery and got into a fight with a guest at the end of the tour. I remember thinking that even the workers are creeped out.

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