Visit the Winchester Mystery House to decide for yourself if the new horror movie holds true to one of the most haunted locations in America.

Between its labyrinthine hallways, staircases that lead to nowhere, and doors that open to two-story drops, the Winchester Mystery House is considered one of America’s “most haunted locations.” This eerie mansion, just a third of a mile from Hotel Valencia Santana Row, is the inspiration and setting for Lionsgate’s new supernatural thriller, Winchester, hitting theaters on February 2nd. Helen Mirren plays the character, Sarah Winchester, a widow driven mad by grief and ghosts. With Valencia’s Winchester Mystery House package guests can tour the house and decide if it’s truly the handiwork of a haunting or, as biographer Mary Jo Ignoffo suggests, something far more mysterious than a ghost tale.


Stay and Scare Winchester House

Popular Fiction

The urban legend of the Winchester House suggests that Sarah Winchester began to feel haunted after inheriting her husband’s money (equal to roughly $471,000,000 today) and half of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. She supposedly turned to a prominent Boston psychic who confirmed that she was indeed being haunted by souls of those killed by her husband’s famous guns. The psychic told her to move west and begin building a house that would confuse and trap the ghosts. As long as she kept building she would be safe. The legend also posits that Winchester was an occultist who convened with the spirits each night to receive the building plans for the next day.


Stay and Scare Winchester House


One of the reasons the house is considered one of the most mysterious locations in the US is due to the Victorian opulence that went into the endless design and their bizarre placements. The famous, exquisite Tiffany window, designed by Tiffany himself, was created to throw rainbows across a room when the sun hit it, yet, Sarah chose to put it a place where the sun cannot reach. In the Crystal Bedroom, crushed mica was worked into the wallpaper so it would glitter in the light, costing Sarah $9,000, nine times what is would cost to build the average home at the time. Despite the time, money, and energy she put into her home – even adding an extravagant ballroom – Winchester seldom had guests and the ballroom was never used. Her discombobulated yet lavish home is what led many to question her sanity.


Who Was Sarah Winchester really?

Sarah Winchester was raised in an affluent family in New Haven, Connecticut where she was considered a child prodigy. She attended Yale University where, according to her personal friend and historian Ralph Rambo, she became entrenched in the Baconian and Masonic-Rosicrucian thought that was popular at the time. She would remain interested in the Freemasons for the rest of her life. After the death of her husband, William Winchester in 1881, Winchester left the country touring destinations like the Chartres Cathedral and the Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland, which both shared some of the bizarre design features of the Mystery House. After traveling abroad for three years Sarah moved to California where much of her family had resettled during the gold rush. She bought an eight-room farmhouse on 161 acres and hired a crew of 20 contractors to begin the construction that wouldn’t end until her death 38 years later.


Stay and Scare Winchester House

A Mason’s Wooden House

Mary Jo Ignoffo and other historians, like the Smithsonian’s Pamela Haag, believe that the house was the hobby of a very rich and intelligent woman attempting to stave off depression after her husband’s death. The house incorporates features, like the staircase to nowhere, from masonic sites around the world. Her inclusion of the number 13 in most features in the house from chandeliers to window pains comes from Baconian and Rosicrucian numerology. The famous “switchback staircase” features prominently masonic symbols of “the guiding path of self-initiation.”


Decide for Yourself

Whether Sarah Winchester was an occultist conducting séances every night, or a freemason experimenting with secret theories, the house remains one of the most interesting and misunderstood pieces of architecture in the States. Tour the site yourself with the Valencia Winchester Mystery House package, which combines accommodations for two with discounted tickets for the Mansion Tour and Explore More Tours conducted daily at the house.


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