The Winchester Mystery House, located in San Jose was the last stop on our trip to California, actually we stopped on the way to the San Francisco Airport. I would not go so far as saying I was disappointed, but the awe and mystery just was not there.
So the story goes, Sarah Winchester was the widow of William Wirt Winchester and heiress to his estate. He died from tuberculosis in 1881. Sarah felt that her family was cursed, and sought out spiritualists to determine what she should do. A psychic told her that the Winchester family was cursed by the spirits of all the people who had been killed by the Winchester rifle, and she should move west to build a house for herself and the spirits. She believed that if construction on the house ever stopped, she would die.
I have known about the houses existence for a while and have seen stories and documentaries on it, some of which were related to the supernatural. They always painted it as a crazy, whacky and haunted house with stairways and doors to nowhere and other bizarre things. The only thing that was crazy about this house is that it was under constant construction, supposedly 24 hours a day, from 1884 until 1922 when she died in her sleep. Construction immediately stopped upon her death.
When she was not designing new parts of the house she was remodeling existing parts and this is where I think things like the stairway to nowhere occurred by chance and not something purposeful or devilish. I think the same applies to the door to nowhere and that Mrs. Winchester had plans to extend in that direction.
In the documentaries they talk about the sinister 9 flight staircase that goes between the floors. In reality Mrs. Winchester had severe arthritis and she had the stair case rebuilt with 2” steps and 24” treads allowing her to walk upstairs more effortlessly. Obviously at 2″ at a time it takes many more steps.
One of the most fascinating aspects for me of the house were the front 30 rooms. These rooms were ravished by the 1906 Earthquake and were left in their ruined condition, closed up and never used again. It was fascinating to look at the cracked and missing plaster in the walls and ceilings. Time stopped in these rooms and it was way underplayed by the guide. I really was mesmerized in these rooms at the destruction; this was visual history of a devastating event.
I was a somewhat disappointed in the tour and the house. I was expecting something more spectacular. Many of the interior rooms were simple bead board and wood trim although a few rooms were quite ornate and beautiful. There were some fascinating aspects as Mrs. Winchester spent a lot of money on new technology at that time including electricity, plumbing and even elevators. All of the original furnishings have been long gone and no pictures exist of the interior when Mrs. Winchester lived there. It was an interesting visit of the 160 room Victorian Mansion even though I did not see a ghost…….
(They do not allow photography inside the house, so I borrowed any interior photos from the internet)