As an author of mystery and suspense novels, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tour a real mystery house. The Winchester Mystery House is a Queen Anne-style Victorian mansion located in San Jose, California. It’s a California historical landmark and is famous because of its huge size and the fact that it was built without a master plan, and under the direction of Sarah Winchester, the widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester, maker of the Winchester Rifles.
In 1884 she purchased an unfinished farmhouse and began construction of her seven story mansion. She hired construction workers who worked around the clock and lived on the property. She became a recluse and kept adding onto the mansion for the rest of her life. In 1906 an earthquake destroyed part of the house, reducing it to four stories instead of seven. Some remnants of the lost portion are kept on the premises to show to visitors.
The house is said to be haunted, but the real mystery revolves around why Mrs. Winchester made so many odd decisions with the construction–doors and staircases that lead to nowhere, etc., and why she wanted 160 rooms, when she was a recluse who didn’t entertain.
As my husband, daughter, and I sat in the gardens after the house tour, we discussed it and came up with our own ideas about why she did what she did. Of course most people who know about the house probably have their own theories. The tour guide said that no one has the answers.