Sunday, April 9, 2017

Winchester Mystery House - a strange obsession

Located in the beautiful Santa Clara Valley in San Jose on Winchester Blvd. and I-280 near the intersection of I-880, this beautiful but bizarre 160-room Victorian mansion was built by Sarah L. Winchester, widow of the famed Winchester rifle manufacturer’s son. Crushed by the untimely deaths of her husband and infant daughter, Mrs. Winchester designed and supervised the construction of this strange $5,500,000 mansion by keeping carpenters busy 24 hours a day for 38 continuous years until her death in 1922, all in the hope of perpetuating her life and consoling (or confusing) the spirits of those killed by the Winchester rifle. Rambling over 4.5 acres with 40 bedrooms, 40 staircases, 13 bathrooms, 47 fireplaces, 2,000 doors, & 10,000 windows, the house is so complex that even Mrs. Winchester and her servants required maps to find their way around.

Brent Miller, caretaker of the Winchester Mystery House from 1973 to 1981, entered one particular room, and “in the unearthly silence of such a vast, empty place, heard someone breathing. There was no one there.”

On another occasion, Brent heard footsteps and followed the sounds to the room in which Mrs. Winchester died. Again, no one was there.

One night shortly after being hired as caretaker, Brent was awakened by the sounds of someone unscrewing a screw and it hitting the floor and bouncing up onto the carpet runner. When he went to check, he found nothing there.

A friend of Brent’s, Gary Parks, was invited over one New Year’s Eve and was taking pictures with a new camera he had received for Christmas. After developing the film, he found one picture with strange moving lights “and a ghostly figure of what appears to be a man in coveralls in the middle of the room.” The strange images occur only in one negative while the rest of the roll is normal.

Victorian Gardens

A visit to the Winchester Mystery House™ is not complete until you have strolled through the beautiful Victorian gardens that surround it. Great care has been taken to restore the grounds to that time when Sarah Winchester had a full-time staff of eight gardeners, and imported trees, shrubs, and flowers from all parts of the world. Nearly 14,000 miniature boxwood hedges, large flowering Carolina cherry laurels, plants, and flowers have been replanted to provide beautiful color year-round. Numerous handcrafted lead statues and elaborate fountains have been restored.

You will see the original mythological statues including Mother Nature, Cupid, a cherub, hippocampus, American Indian, deer, egret, frogs, and swans. You can help make a wish come true for those in need by tossing a coin in one of the five fountains on the estate; 100% of the proceeds are donated to a local charity each year.

Wheelchaired guests are invited to tour the Gardens and Historic Firearms Museum as our guests at no charge (unfortunately the Mansion and the Behind- the- Scenes Tours are NOT accessible to wheel chairs or infant strollers).

The Winchester Firearms Museum

The “Gun that Won the West” is the main attraction in the Firearms Museum, one of the largest Winchester Rifle collections on the West Coast. See the collection of guns that preceded the famous Winchester Rifle, including B. Tyler Henry’s 1860 repeating rifle that Oliver Winchester adapted and improved upon to produce his first repeating rifle, the Winchester Model 1866. Learn about the Model 1873 which came to be called the “Gun that Won the West.” See a collection of the Limited Edition Winchester Commemorative Rifles including the Centennial ’66, the Theodore Roosevelt, and the renowned John Wayne.

The home became Registered California Historical Landmark #868 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Tours of the mansion interior are given daily from 9am (closed only Christmas Day). Last tour departure varies with the seasons. Included in the admission are the self-guided Garden Tour, Historic Firearms Museum, and the Specialty Gifts and Products Museum.

Winchester Mystery House, LLC
25 S. Winchester Blvd. San Jose CA 95128
T-(408) 247-2000/F-(408) 247-2090

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