How To Visit The Winchester Mystery House

10/01/2009 - San Jose, Ca

CHRISTIE LEMAN ( - The Winchester Mystery House, the sprawling Victorian mansion in San Jose, California, built by the heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune, is a popular attraction for curious tourists and paranormal enthusiasts alike. Sarah Winchester, grieved by the deaths caused by the Winchester rifle, consulted a medium in the late 1800s who reportedly told her that she should build the mansion for herself and the souls of those killed by the Winchester. Legend also claims that the medium told Sarah Winchester that construction on the mansion must continue around the clock to keep the spirits happy, and that if construction ceased, Sarah would die.

Construction on the Winchester Mystery House began in 1884 and ended upon the death of Sarah Winchester in 1922. Today its unique design, architectural oddities, and evidence of Sarah's belief in the supernatural make the Winchester Mystery House a much-visited California attraction.

Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Step 1

Select the date you would like to visit the Winchester Mystery House in order to plan a tour time and determine ticket prices. The Winchester Mystery House is open daily except for Christmas Day, but tour times vary according to season.

Step 2

Consult the Winchester Mystery House website,, or call (408) 247-2101 for exact tour times according to season. The Winchester Mystery House opens at 9 a.m. every day, but the last estate and mansion tours change depending on day of the week and time of year.

Step 3

Come prepared to pay the entrance fee for the Winchester Mystery House. Adult ticket prices are $31 for the Grand Estate Tour (which includes both the Mansion Tour and the Behind-the-Scenes Tour), $26 for just the Mansion Tour, and $23 for the Behind-the-Scenes Tour. The Grand Estate Tour is definitely the better deal and offers greater access to the mansion and rooms that cannot be seen on the regular Mansion Tour.

Step 4

Select the Mansion Tour for a guided tour through 110 of the total 160 rooms of the Winchester Mystery House. Guides will provide background information on why the house was built and the reasoning behind Sarah Winchester's rather haphazard architectural planning. Odd features highlighted on this tour include staircases that lead to nowhere, doors opening into walls and a window built into a floor.

Step 5

Choose the Behind-the-Scenes Tour to gain access to areas only recently opened to the public. On this tour, guests gain access to an unfinished ballroom, basements, the stables, plumber's workshop and dehydrator. Highlights of the Victorian architecture of the Winchester Mystery House will be featured on this tour. Children under 10 are not allowed.

Step 6

Visit the Winchester Mystery House gardens (included with any purchased ticket) and take a self-guided tour through the fully restored, elaborate gardens envisioned by Sarah Winchester herself. Trees, flowers and shrubs from around the world are featured in the garden, along with countless garden statues of mythological creatures and characters.

Step 7

Stroll through the two museums on the grounds (also included with any ticket), the Winchester Firearms Museum and the Winchester Antiques Products Museum. Highlights of these museums include one of the largest Winchester rifle collections in the West and 1920s antiques like roller skates, wagons and household goods.

Continue: Learn
Wander through 110 of the 160 rooms of this Victorian mansion, designed and built by the Winchester Rifle heiress. Tour the estate daily. Keep up to date on all the happenings, worldly and otherwise, only with the exclusive "13th Hour" newsletter.

Sarah often used the most current innovations in her home. For example, the Servant Call System, or "annunciator," allowed Mrs. Winchester to summon a servant from anywhere in the house. A card would drop showing the servant which room she was in so she could easily be found.