Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House, south end of east front

The Winchester Mystery House is a mansion in San Jose, California, built by a wealthy but reclusive widow named Sarah Winchester (1839–1922). 

Background

Sarah had inherited a fortune upon the death of her husband, a member of the Winchester rifle family. According to newspaper accounts, a medium told Sarah that she must build a home for the spirits of people killed by Winchester guns. If she ever stopped construction, Sarah would die.

Whether this story was true or not, Sarah did move from Connecticut to construct her so-called “Mystery House” in California.

Construction

The sprawling mansion, famous even during Sarah’s lifetime, would reach 7 stories high, with 160 rooms. Built without a master plan, the house had strange staircases, secret passageways, doors that opened to nowhere, and other unusual features—which some people said were meant to confuse the ghosts. 

Construction began in 1884 and continued virtually non-stop for 38 years, until her death in 1922. After Sarah’s passing, the mansion was purchased and opened to the public.

Learn more about the Winchester Mystery House through historical newspapers from our archives. Explore newspaper articles, headlines, images, and other primary sources below.


Articles and Clippings about the Winchester Mystery House

William Wirt Winchester (Sarah Winchester's husband) dies, leaving behind large sum of moneyWilliam Wirt Winchester (Sarah Winchester's husband) dies, leaving behind large sum of money 12 Mar 1881, Sat Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut) Newspapers.com"Woman Defies Ghosts in Selling Her House"; "Death Is Penalty for Leaving Home" 14 Apr 1908, Tue The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) Newspapers.com"Recluse Heiress Will Enter Court"; "Mrs. Sarah L. Winchester, Millionairess, Sues Contractor" 10 Jan 1909, Sun The San Francisco Call (San Francisco, California) Newspapers.com"Death May Invade Palace of Spirits"; "Mrs. Winchester, It Is Feared, Is on Her Last Sickbed" 10 Jun 1911, Sat The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) Newspapers.com"Hammers Pound Endless Noises"; "Mrs. Winchester Hopes Thus to Prolong Life" 11 Jun 1911, Sun The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) Newspapers.com"Inventor's Widow Near Death in Her House of Mystery"; "Strange, Secluded Life of Winchester's Wife" 11 Jun 1911, Sun The Oregon Daily Journal (Portland, Oregon) Newspapers.com"Thinks Noise Foils Death"; "Inventor's Widow Enlarges House Because Spirit Recommended" 13 Jun 1911, Tue The Washington Post (Washington, District of Columbia) Newspapers.comObituary: Obituary: "Sarah Winchester, Philanthropist, Dies" 07 Sep 1922, Thu Bakersfield Morning Echo (Bakersfield, California) Newspapers.com"Spirit Message Obeyed by Widow Who Leaves $5,000,000 to Charity" 21 Oct 1922, Sat Daily News (New York, New York) Newspapers.com"The 'Spirit House' of San Jose"; "How Mansion Was Built and Torn Down for 30 Years" 29 Oct 1922, Sun Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) Newspapers.com"The Unfinished House Where Hammers Rang Thirty Years Because of Spirit Warning" (1st page) 19 Nov 1922, Sun St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) Newspapers.com"The Unfinished House Where Hammers Rang Thirty Years Because of Spirit Warning" (2nd page) 19 Nov 1922, Sun St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) Newspapers.com"Fantastic 'Spirit Mansion' on Which Mrs. Winchester Wasted Millions" 04 Feb 1923, Sun Detroit Free Press (Detroit, Michigan) Newspapers.com"'Manse of the Spooks' Is Opened to Public"; "Death of Recluse Widow Unlocks Doors" (with photos) 18 Nov 1923, Sun The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) Newspapers.com"Famous $5,000,000 Spirit House of 10,000 Windows Is Finally Thrown Open to Anxious Public" 21 Jan 1924, Mon Pittsburgh Daily Post (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) Newspapers.comPhoto: Photo: "Weird Estate Which Cost $5,000,000 and Took 40 Years to Build" 05 Mar 1924, Wed St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) Newspapers.com"Spirits Build $3,000,000 Mansion" 04 Aug 1924, Mon Public Opinion (Chambersburg, Pennsylvania) Newspapers.com"Mystic Manse Built by Rifle King's Heiress, Ghosts' Retreat"; "Is Monument to Uneasy Souls" 17 Aug 1924, Sun The Fresno Morning Republican (Fresno, California) Newspapers.com"How Would You Like to Live in This House for Homeless Ghosts?" 09 Nov 1924, Sun Austin American-Statesman (Austin, Texas) Newspapers.com"The Woman Who Tried to Live Forever" 27 Sep 1925, Sun The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) Newspapers.com"Mrs. Winchester's Extraordinary 'Spook Palace'"; "Astonishing Things in the Endless House" 01 Apr 1928, Sun The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California) Newspapers.com"'Ghost House' Stirs with Goings-on as Strange as Its 160 Rooms and Stairs That Lead Nowhere" 16 Jan 1937, Sat The Chattanooga News (Chattanooga, Tennessee) Newspapers.com"Secrets of the Mystery Mansion" 08 Sep 1940, Sun The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) Newspapers.comImage of Sarah WinchesterImage of Sarah Winchester 08 Sep 1940, Sun The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) Newspapers.com
"Winchester Mystery House," Newspapers.com Topics (https://www.newspapers.com/topics/quirky-curious/winchester-mystery-house/ : accessed December 2, 2022)