525 S Winchester Boulevard
San Jose, CA 95128
Rumored to be the most haunted mansion in the Bay Area, San Jose’s infamous Winchester Mystery House is both home to ghouls galore and an architectural road map to the psyche of its disturbed and eccentric creator, Sarah Winchester. After the 1881 death of her gun-magnate husband (whose family manufactured the famous Winchester repeating rifle), the distressed New England society wife was advised by a medium that she must move west to flee the ghosts of those who had fallen victim to rifle’s fire.
Once in California, Mrs. Winchester purchased an unfinished farmhouse in the Santa Clara Valley and began her life’s work on a “house of spirits,” constructed with the assistance of friendly ghosts she contacted through her seance room. Built to confuse the malicious spirits pursuing the widow, the house has no overarching rhyme or reason in its plans—except to make it impossible to navigate without knowing where you’re going.
The result is a maze of twisting hallways, secret passageways, stairways going nowhere, and even doors in the floor. When Sarah passed away in 1922, the still-incomplete (after 38 years of construction) house sprawled out over six acres and held 160 rooms, 2,000 doors, 47 stairways, six kitchens… (you get the picture).
Today, the legend and the legacy live on in Sarah’s bizarre Victorian beauty. The house is painstakingly maintained and constantly restored, with lavish furnishings like those Mrs. Winchester herself would have chosen. And visitors are treated to the oddities as well as the spooks (there are reports of frequent ghost sightings).
The Winchester Mystery House is open daily and offers an array of guided tours, ranging from 25 minutes to two hours (from $5 per person). Special events, from wine walks to October “Fright Nights” are often offered (check the website for details and schedules.
Read more haunted San Jose activities.
Take Caltrain to Santa Clara and then the VTA bus 60 to the Winchester Transit Center.