Winchester Mystery House

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on June 29, 2006. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: activity, Albuquerque, destination, family travel, Hershey, Kate Hamman, offbeat travel, Orlando, Pigeon Forge, road trip, San Jose, Santa Claus, Spring Green, student travel, theme park, vacation package.

Winchester Mystery House

Sarah Winchester, the rifle fortune heiress and widow, began construction on the Winchester House in 1884 and continued to build until her death 38 years later. Located in San Jose, California, the elaborate house and its myth have been attracting people for years.

A Victorian mansion, the Winchester Mystery House, consists of about 160 rooms, three working elevators, 47 fireplaces, two basements, 467 doorways, and more than 1,200 window frames. On paper, it seems that it is just an eccentrically large mansion, but it's not just size that makes the Winchester house so appealing.


There is no known blueprint of the house, as Mrs. Winchester would often draw up new plans on napkins or random bits of paper, so no one is quite sure of the exact layout or how many rooms actually exist. Many consider the house to be a labyrinth, where stairs lead to the ceiling and windows lead to the floor below.

Many of the house's mysteries are addressed on the tours. On the "Mansion Tour", guides will discuss the mystery surrounding why Mrs. Winchester continued to build. The "Behind-the-Scenes Tour" gives guests the opportunity to explore areas that have remained untouched for more than 75 years and to see how the mansion operated when Mrs. Winchester was head of the house. Single-day adult admission is $22 for the Mansion Tour and $19 for the Behind-the-Scenes Tour. A combination of both tours is the most economical for $27 per adult. This price also includes entrance to the Victorian Gardens and to the two museums, the Winchester Firearms Museum and the Antiques Products Museum. Special night tours are available every Friday the 13th and Halloween, in which guests wander through the darkened mansion with only a flashlight.

The house can get fairly busy during the summer. Wednesdays and early morning or late afternoon tend to be slower times to visit. Shozo Kagoshima, the Winchester Mystery House general manager, recommends "[bringing] a camera so that you can take home pictures of your visit, because you will never see another home like this one." For further information, visit the Winchester Mystery House's website.

Visit Roadside America for other great stops and attractions along the road.

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