I’m sure you’ve heard all of the wild stories about this strange a kooky house. Sara Winchester, the widow of William Winchester, saw a psychic sometime after 1881 who told her that her husband succumbed to the vengeful spirits of those killed by Winchester firearms and, to protect herself, she had to buy a home and constantly add on to it to confuse the spirits so they would leave her alone.

I’d bet money that psychic had a brother in the construction business.

Sara Winchester did just as she was told. She bought a home in 1884 and, until her death in 1922, the home was expanded, altered, added on to, demoed, and then it all repeated again. Today, the home has 13 bathrooms, 160 rooms, 10,000 windows, 2,000 doors, 17 chimneys, stairways that end at the ceiling, doors that open to a 20 foot drop, and staircases with over fifty steps that rise only nine feet.

This was a place I’d wanted to see forever… madness in architecture… and, in 2008, I got my chance as I roadtripped across California and the American Southwest.

The Winchester Mystery House was everything I could have hoped for. Not only was it a befuddling structure, but it was beautiful as well. The landscaping was unique and fun, the house actually had some practical uses for a woman of advanced years (Sara Winchester’s arthritis was the reason she had the 50-some odd steps that only went up nine feet) and it was an unexpected history lesson as part of the house still retained damage from the 1911 San Francisco Earthquake, an event that freaked Mrs. Winchester out so badly that she demanded that the damaged section of the house be sealed off and never opened again.

This is a place I fully intend to return to in the future and, if you’ve never experienced the madness in house form for yourself, I highly recommend the trip.

Approximately $20,000 of stained glass that was never installed in the mansion.
Legend says that Sara loved the number 13, so all of the clocked in the mansion are set to 1:13 PM or 1313 hours.
The low-rise stairs. Useful to a woman who was crippled by arthritis.
Beautiful cork floors.
More low-risers.
This chandelier only came with 12 candles, so Sara Winchester had an extra added so there would be 13.
Random tiny balcony. Did Sara have cats?
The front door of the mansion — no one is allowed to use it as, according to legend, Sara wouldn’t even let Teddy Roosevelt enter through the front door.
The tour group going up the low-risers.
Some of the lawn sculptures. Sara was terrified that the Native American spirits that had been killed by Winchester Rifles were haunting her, so she tried to appease them.
This door opens to a twenty foot drop.
Here’s the door from the outside.
Stairs that lead to nowhere.
Going on the second tour. Hard Hats are required!
Sara would use these skylights to eavesdrop on her staff. She paid well, but did not tolerate them gossiping about her. If they did, she fired them on the spot.
The spider windows.
The chimney that didn’t quite make it.
No skylights? No problem! Just put a window in the floor!
Earthquake damage from 1911.
These roses grew in bunches. I’d never seen anything like it before.
One of the only pictures of Sara Winchester during her mansion days. Thank you for this creepy and kooky house, ma’am!
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Written by Jason Gaston

Father, teacher, writer, photographer, artist, actor, male model, and inventor of the semicolon.

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