Uncountable rooms? Doors to nowhere? Welcome to America's oddest mansion
San Jose, California
What kind of house do you get when you combine a limitless budget and a ghostly curse? A Victorian mansion so bizarre, it could only be called a "mystery house."
The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose , Calif. , to be precise, built continuously over a 40-year period by Sarah L. Winchester, the eccentric heiress to the Winchester Rifle fortune. Legend has it that after her husband's death in 1881, Winchester was told in a seance to move west and, with her $20-million inheritance, build a home-and never stop building it-to appease the scores who'd been killed with a Winchester Rifle, the "gun that opened the West." She found the property and began renovations three years later.
The sprawling 160-room (or so) colossus has been the subject of books, documentaries and much speculation over the years. It seems the ideal abode for spirits to collide with the living: staircases that lead nowhere, a chimney that rises four floors, doors that open onto blank walls, a window built into the floor, and a floor plan so dizzying that a proper room count is impossible.
The 40 years of ongoing construction (until Winchester 's death in 1922) spared neither expense nor imagination, from rambling roofs and exquisite parquet floors inlaid by hand to gold and silver chandeliers and stained glass windows. Unlike most homes of its era, it had modern heating and indoor plumbing, as well as gaslights that operated at the press of a button, three working elevators and 47 fireplaces. Of course, rumors of haunting only bolstered its status among peculiar American dwellings.
Today, the house is open to visitors as a California Historical Landmark. It may be the most explored "haunted house" in America , yet its notoriety seems wholly image-based: to date there have been no inexplicable occult happenings reported. It is registered with the National Park Service simply as "a large, odd dwelling with an unknown number of rooms."