Winchester Mystery House

"View of Winchester Mystery House before the earthquake near San Jose, Calif."

Seeming to be a beautiful, if gigantic, Victorian home set within sunny Bay Area, California, the Winchester Mystery House holds a dark and unusual past. Looking at the house from the exterior, you'd think that an entire city could fit within its extensive walls, which was even more true before the devastating earthquake in 1906. The unusual interior, however, strikes an unsettling feeling in even the most stoic of visitors, if only because the legend.

The builder was one Sarah Winchester, heiress and widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester. Legend claims that after her husband's death in 1881, Sarah became convinced that she was being haunted by spirits of the unfortunate souls killed by her husband's guns. A believer in spirtualism, Sarah consulted a medium and learned that she must move West and begin building a house that would never be finished. To confuse the spirits, Sarah built "mystery" rooms onto the house such as stairs that lead to nowhere, upside down rooms, doors that open to brick walls, and more. Sarah made the workers go around the clock, 24 hours a day for 38 straight years. Before Sarah's death, the Winchester House contained 160 rooms, 40 bedrooms, two ballrooms, two basements, and over 10,000 panes of glass. Some visitors even claim to hear the builders still adding on to the home, as Sarah's work was never finished.

There are a variety of ways to experience the Winchester Mystery House. Daily tours of the grounds and mansion can be self-guided or not depending on your level courage. Tour the house, the gardens, and even the museums showcasing collected antiques and the Winchester guns that started the paranoia. Special events, like the Flashlight Tour (given every Friday the 13th and in October) and the Spirit of Christmas, offer unique looks into the house's history both paranormal and physical. Sightings and strange occurrences are certainly not uncommon in this maze of a house so the question is, do you believe?

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