Investigation Journal

The clatter of hammers and saws punctuated the air throughout the days. And the nights. In the late 1800s, Santa Clara Valley was rural and uncrowded. Sarah had room to build on the 160+ acres she owned.

Mrs. Winchester was her own architect, using no blueprints or plans, aided only by the spirits she consulted in the Séance Room she had built. Nightly, she went there to talk to them and get guidance on what to build next. Did Mrs. Winchester design the house? Or did spirits? Was she compulsive? Possessed? Inspired? Or just plain crazy? No one knows. And perhaps it doesn't matter. What she left was a legacy that enthralls visitors from around the world.

The Winchester Mystery House is a quirky, captivating, and pixilated place that appeals to all ages. Youngsters love the doors that open into walls, a staircase that reaches the ceiling with no outlet, and bizarre twists and turns throughout the house. Adults chuckle at the upside down posts, the window built into a floor, and the cupboard that is only half an inch deep. Bathrooms have transparent glass doors. One bathroom for servants can be locked—but only from the outside. A switchback stairway that climbs only nine feet has seven turns and 44 steps. It didn’t matter; most rooms in the house were never used.

Thirteen was an important number to Sarah. Interspersed among the oddities that cause visitors to smile and shake their heads are exquisite touches, such as ornate glass doors (imported from Europe by the Tiffany Company) costing $3,000 that were installed at the front entrance but never used, silver chandeliers from Germany, beautiful doorknobs, and inlaid floors. Several storerooms containing treasures worth millions today (valued at $25,000 at the time of Sarah’s demise) hold imported wallpaper, crystal light fixtures, furnishings, and hardware.