veen on the road: the winchester mystery house.

i first heard about the winchester mystery house on an episode of stuff you missed in history class years ago, and i vowed that if i ever made it to san jose i had to see it for myself. when it turned out that our return trip to los angeles had us stopping over in san jose for a night, i knew my time had come.

the winchester mystery house is hands-down one of the most interesting places i have ever visited.  when sarah winchester, widow and heir to the winchester rifle fortune, was told by a psychic in new york that she would be haunted by the spirits of people killed by the rifles unless she moved west and had continuous construction occurring on a house for the rest of her life, she took the advice to heart.

sarah found an eight-room house on what was then the outskirts of san jose and got to work. for the next 30 years construction took place day and night until sarah’s death in 1922. the result is a 160-room house full of mysteries: doors that open to walls; staircases that end in ceilings; doors on upper floors that open to nothing; a room with one entrance but four exits; and many more. some rooms are super tiny while others are sprawling. one wing was almost entirely abandoned after the earthquake of 1906.

over the course of about 65 minutes we journeyed through most of the house, learning about sarah’s life, her eccentricities, and the oddly modern [at the time] touches she placed in her home: tiny risers to accommodate for her arthritis, a shower in one of the bathrooms, and an enclosed carriage entrance so that she would not be exposed to outside elements when getting into or out of her carriage.

photos are not permitted inside the house, so we only have our memories of the visit, but those are definitely enough to tide us over. and if you are ever in or around san jose, i highly recommend stopping by and checking out the winchester mystery house for yourself.


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