At 521 South Winchester Blvd. in San Jose, California stands one of the most interesting and haunting homes in the country. The “Winchester Mystery House” as it’s now known to countless tourists and adventure-seekers around the world is a labyrinth of eccentric, Victorian style architecture which was in continuous construction for 36 years. What makes it so important, beyond the nightmarish length of the remodeling session, you may ask. Well, the owner, Mrs. Sarah Winchester was the widow of William Winchester, one of the very wealthy businessmen behind the famous Winchester rifle, and according to Mrs. Winchester all the additions, remodels, renovations, and demolitions which were completed were done to appease and confuse the countless ghosts that haunted her after being killed by the gun that bore her name.

A Maze and A Home

As a result, the Winchester House includes a horror movie’s worth of hidden passageways, doors and stairways which leads nowhere, and windows which opened onto other rooms as opposed to outside walls. These renovations and remodels were performed by an army of carpenters, contractors, and engineers and often involved rebuilds of only recently finished projects. Yet, for 36 years these expansions and remodels were demanded and performed without fail. While this may seem like arbitrary madness to a modern homeowner, it’s without a doubt that certain methods, patterns, and precise designs were put in place at the Winchester House, leading some to wonder just how crazy the plans were.


The workers who helped build the Winchester House into the colossal 7 story, 160 room mansion it remains today were almost always made to design their work around the number 13. Sarah Winchester believed this specific number to be a deterrent against evil spirits (something which has since flipped in meaning). According to the Winchester Mystery House these include:

  • 13 Bathrooms
  • 13 Panes in most windows
  • 13 Windows in the 13th bathroom
  • 13 Stairs leading to the 13th bathroom
  • 13 Hooks in the hidden seance room
  • 13 Glass cupolas on the greenhouse
  • 13 Gas jets in the ballroom chandelier

These deterrents, along with Mrs. Winchester’s many traps, deceptive remodels, and seance room, however, weren’t enough to give her comfort. She continued to build and augment her home until her death on September 5, 1922.

The Legacy of the Winchester House

The eerie, winding chambers of the Winchester House have been a source of inspiration and fascination for people all over the world. The stairs which lead nowhere, windows in the floors, doors which open to a steep fall, and cabinets which lead through endless darkened back halls unseen have become touchstones in the world of the macabre and the frightening. Today, tourists and thrill-seekers from all over the world visit the home of Sarah Winchester and wander the same labyrinth she designed for her countless visitors nearly 100 years ago.

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