The Mysterious Inspiration Behind The Design Of The Winchester Mansion

While there are likely plenty of California homes with odd features, the tale of the Winchester House has long intrigued those who know about it's twisting, eerie, seemingly never ending layout. Speculation about ghostly haunts or a quirky mistress for an affinity for architecture surround the Victorian building, and whether you know about this mystifying abode or not, the story is fraught with supernatural elements, a somewhat morbid history, and as many twists as can be found inside the sprawling mansion that sits in San Jose, California. It has become a landmark for those who want to know the secrets encased within. 

Whispers abound that a psychic told Sarah Winchester, widow of the infamous second owner of Winchester Rifles Co. and grieving mother, that the ghosts of those who were killed by Winchester guns were haunting her and wanted her to build them a never-ending house as penance. Winchester had always been considered independent and ahead of the times, which may have inspired her to find a project that could distract her from grief.

To understand the real inspiration behind the Winchester House, it helps to know that Winchester, widow of William Wirt Winchester, suffered great loss between her infant daughter and then her husband passing, which eventually led her to move to San Jose. Here, she purchased what started as a large farmhouse, and began renovating it incessantly. Whatever her reasons, the rumors and legend behind the house are what make it such a popular attraction to this day. 

A twisting maze of curiosities and odd architecture

The house could almost be considered a living entity at one point, with construction continuously causing noise and movement for over three decades. Thousands of doors and windows dot the hallways, while numerous bedrooms and bathrooms seem to await guests that will never stay. Stairs lead to mysterious ends, one of which is a 15-foot drop. Those who believe in the supernatural elements of the house say that Winchester believed herself cursed, thinking that spirits of those who had been shot down by Winchester guns were plaguing her. Myth behind the house suggests that the 160 rooms, the 2,000 doors, the 10,000 windows, and the numerous stairways were added to appease these ghosts mentioned by a psychic Winchester saw, although these stories are largely based on speculation.

Secret passageways lead to different wings within the house, and some of the staircases simply disappear into the ceiling. Whatever Winchester's inspiration, there is no doubt she held an eccentricity bordering on something darker, but there is little known of her personal life after she began building. Between 1886 and 1922, the 24,000 square foot mansion took shape, and speculations that Winchester was involved in Spiritulism or the occult can be found in historical documentation about her life. She did not speak about such matters, and seemed to retreat from society. If you thought you had odd nooks in your home, they are mild compared to some of the architecture Winchester incorporated.

Sarah Winchester supposedly built the house to appease angry spirits

Because of her husband's position before he passed away, Winchester inherited a great deal of money with which to build her sprawling home. During her time, the mansion amounted to about $5 million, but now that price would fall into the $70 million range. The Winchester House is a testament to Winchester's eccentricity, with rooms and passageways and curious additions that could have been incorporated by someone who just wanted to know what would happen or what it would look like once it was finished. As she got older, it seems Winchester spent more time with family away from the house, but construction never ceased until she finally passed away in 1922.

An enigmatic, intelligent, and wealthy woman, she created a home that lives steeped in legend and lore, carrying on the Winchester name in something other than rifles. The house became a museum, a testament to the connection people have between their dwellings and their thoughts. While the inspiration is still unclear since Winchester herself never told people "the why," it's clear there was a passion or desire, dark or loving, to create something truly unique which might live on — and it has. While you might ignore some strange details on HGTV, you can't compare them with this wild, strange, and mysterious house.