Winchester Mystery HouseCredit:

Winchester Mystery House 

525 South Winchester Boulevard 
San Jose, CA 95128-2588
(408) 247-2101


Open for tours daily, except Christmas day


Not required, except for special tours such as the Friday Night Flashlight Tours

How Long:

Allow a couple of hours, longer for multiple tours

Best Time to Visit:

Any time. Special flashlight tours are held on Friday the 13th and just before Halloween


The story of the Winchester Mystery House started on September 30, 1862, when William Wirt Winchester married Sarah Pardee.  William was the heir to the multi-million dollar corporation, the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, which manufactured the Winchester Repeating Rifle, "the gun that won the West".  Sarah was a petite woman, barely four feet, ten inches, but made up her shortness with a bright personality beauty, and sweetness.

Winchester Mystery House - Great History in San JoseCredit: years after the marriage, on June 15, 1866, Sarah gave birth to their old child, Annie Pardee Winchester. It wasn't long before Annie contracted a form of severe protein-energy malnutrition known as marasmus and died only a few weeks after her birth.  Sarah was devastated by this news and withdrew from her family and society. It would be almost a decade before she returned to her old self.

Sarah was just beginning to settle into her normal life when tragedy struck – her beloved husband of almost 20 years died of pulmonary tuberculosis on March 7, 1881.  With his death came a fortune – a 48.9 percent share of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company with an income of about $1000 per day and a lump sum of over $20 million dollars – but no amount of money could ease the pain of her husband's death.  

Legend has it that a short time after her husband's death, a friend suggested that Sarah talk to a Spiritualist medium as a way to relieve her grief.   The medium was able to immediately speak with Sarah's deceased husband and went on to relay a message – ".,..there is a curse on your family, which took the life of he and your child. It will soon take you too. It is a curse that has resulted from the terrible weapon created by the Winchester family. Thousands of persons have died because of it and their spirits are now seeking vengeance."[2005]   She went on to explain that she must sell the family home in New Haven and follow her husband's spirit west where she will find a new home.  "You must start a new life," said the medium, "and build a home for yourself and for the spirits who have fallen from this terrible weapon too. You can never stop building the house. If you continue building, you will live. Stop and you will die." [2005]

Sarah did as she was told, selling the property and Visit Winchester Mystery HouseCredit: west.  She didn't stop until she reached Santa Clara County, where she found a six room farmhouse being constructed on 162 acres.  She convinced the owner to sell the property and house to her, tossed out the current building plans, and began to build on to the existing structure.  Rumor has it that it wasn't Sarah that controlled the building but rather the spirit world that channeled through her.  She held night séances to contact the "other side" and find out what they wanted her to do the next day or week, sketch out their ideas, and then hand them over to the brigade of local craftsmen to execute with little question.

Over the next 38 years, local craftsmen built, rebuilt, altered, remodeled, demolished, and constructed on the old farmhouse until it was a rambling 7-story behemoth of a Victorian mansion.  When the 1906 San Francisco earthquake hit, the top three stories collapsed, along with many of the fireplaces, towers, and turrets.  Sarah spent even more money to repair the damage but decided against rebuilding the damaged top three floors.

Winchester Mystery House(80094)Credit: finally ended when Sarah Winchester passed away on September 5, 1922. By then, the house had stretched out over six acres and contained at least 160 rooms, 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, 47 stairways, 47 fireplaces, 13 bathrooms, and 6 kitchens.[2004] Upon her death, Sarah's personal belongings, furniture, and surplus construction supplies were removed and the house was put up for sale.  Though it was huge and millions of dollars had been invested in it over the last few decades, the structure did not sell for much mainly because of the extensive damage from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.  An investor's group bought the structure for $135,000 with plans to turn it into the tourist attraction that it is today.

Nowadays, the house is registered as a California Historic Landmark with a description that states that the building is a "large, odd dwelling with an unknown number of rooms".  The best guess is currently at 160 rooms, though there might be more.  Rumor has it that whenever someone tries to count, they get hopelessly lost.

What will you see on the tour? 

The basic Mansion Tour (1 hour and 5 minutes Tours at Winchester Mystery HouseCredit: is a guided romp through 110 of the supposed 160 rooms in the house.  On this tour, you'll see many strange sights including a "window built into the floor, staircases leading to nowhere, a chimney that rises four floors, doors that open onto blank walls, and upside down posts."[2004]   You'll also see see the room where Mrs. Winchester died, as well as the Daisy Room where Mrs. Winchester was trapped for several hours after the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. 

There is another tour, known as the Behind The Scenes Tour (55 minutes long) that you can have added on to your ticket for a nominal fee.  This guided tour includes the stables, Fruit Drying Shed, Plumber's workshop, Garage, Greenhouse, the unfinished Ballroom, and Basement. [2004]

There is also the self-guided Garden Tour that anyone can take for free.  This tour includes a guide map and narrative tapes at 10 major points of interest, including the green house, garage, car wash, pump and tank houses. The extensive gardens include many unique plants, flowers, and statues, along with evidence of Mrs. Winchester's fascination with the supernatural, like the 13 California Fan Palms lining the front driveway. [2004]

Special Notes:

  • There is plenty of parking in front of the mansion, with additional parking and RV parking available in the theatre parking lot across Olsen Street.
  • The Mansion and Behind the Scene Tours are not wheelchair or stroller-friendly.
  • Children age 5 and under are not permitted on the Behind-the-Scenes Tour.
  • Tour transcripts are available to buy in French, Chinese, Vietnamese, German, Japanese and Chinese at the Gift Shop. 
  • For Hearing Impaired Guests tour transcripts are available from your tour guide.

Nearby Sights:

  • Valley Fair Mall
  • Santana Row
  • Multiple eateries and stores along Steven's Creek