If you find yourself in Silicon Valley, ignore the tech bros and tour the Winchester Mystery House

Originally published at: If you find yourself in Silicon Valley, ignore the tech bros and tour the Winchester Mystery House | Boing Boing


“Haunted”? C’mon. That said, the place is definitely worth a visit if you’re ever in the area.


ignore the tech bros

At your peril…


…as I was, in around 2003. It was a weird place to wander round but frustrating that it seemed to me at the time that not enough of it was open/accessible. Would like to go on the new tour but the chances of me coming back to the USA are close to zero.


This strange architecture of this house puts it at the top of my list of haunted places I want to explore.

It sounds like you’re recommending it without ever having been there.

I’ve only been to the Winchester Mydtery house a few times. I think it’s probably best to go without being set up to have high expectations of it. It’s interesting local history.


From what I’ve read the “haunted/seances/supernatural” stuff was largely made up after Mrs. Winchester’s passing by the guy who bought the property with the idea of turning it into a tourist attraction. It worked, and the tour guides repeat those dubious claims as fact to this day.

The real life explanation for the quirks of that house is more grounded, but also quite interesting. Mrs. Winchester had a long time interest in architecture but lived in an era when most women weren’t able to pursue the profession. Mrs. Winchester was able to use her considerable means to pursue that interest using her own home as an architectural playground of sorts.

It’s definitely a fun tour whether you buy the story or not though.


I grew up about a mile from the Winchester Mystery House, so I’ve seen the outside of it many times, and toured it a few times. It is pretty neat and I would also recommend going to see it if you’re ever in San Jose. I don’t buy into the “haunted” aspects, but it is a very unique and beautiful place to visit.

I’m sure that it hasn’t been going on since COVID restrictions hit, but they used to do a nighttime flashlight tour of the house. I haven’t gone on that tour, but it’s definitely on my bucket list.

There was a low budget movie on Netflix that I can’t remember the name of that was supposedly set at the Winchester house. I think that the only thing that was shot there was one still photo of the exterior of the house. What I found hilarious was that the house was in the middle of the woods, far away from civilization. When you have seen the actual location of the house, that couldn’t really be further from the truth.


Been there two or three times from the opposite coast. Weird, neat, historical, and a perennial BoingBoing fave.


I grew up about 7 miles south of there (according to google maps) and I remember going for a school outing (some time in the early 70’s).
Right next door were the Century theaters - I have a lot of great memories of seeing movies there.


Winchester Mystery House is a wonderful attraction. When I lived in the area I had a season pass and would go several times a year. No, it’s not haunted - it’s just a weird ass and super cool house. Sarah Winchester was also a pretty brilliant architect and engineer.


If you like exploring weird old houses it’s a great time! I would recommend the night time tours that they due around Halloween.


The biopic stars Helen Mirren.


I got the same impression, when I visited as a child. The house is built up as this labyrinthian architectural impossibility and you go in expecting to see an M.C. Escher-like, vast mansion. Either it’s a whole lot smaller than claimed, or only about 10% of the house is accessible during the tour. It’s still worth seeing, but a lot less than you might be hoping for.


It’s hardly a biopic. More like a cheesy horror film that happens to depict a real place and person. It’s … not very good at all.

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Are they still building it?

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Also the inspiration for Supernatural’s Winchester brothers.

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Citation for that: Colin Dickey’s Ghostland. Many libraries have copies; failing that, Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places: Dickey, Colin: 9781101980194: Amazon.com: Books

Indeed, towards the end, she didn’t even live in the house. Her primary residence was in Atherton. Dickey does say she learned to use the big house’s noncompletion to hold potential guests at bay:

There’s a passive-aggressive quality to Winchester’s building: she was nominally getting her house ready to entertain guests, particularly family from New Haven, who were accustomed to houses of a certain size, but then continually begged off guests under the pretense that the house was never quite done.

She was building to keep from being haunted by people who had YET to give up the ghost!


No need to ignore the “tech bros,” ghosts are more substantial to them than hoi polloi on holiday.



been a few times over the decades… my favorite visit was in 1999 when a “ghost phone” kept ringing. like an old landline phone with actual bell… long before cell phones could mimic said sound.

anyway, while planning your trip, perhaps contacting the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum nearby for a visit might double your other-worldly fun


Yeah, and some of the weirdness of the house was a result of the 1906 earthquake. Large parts of the house were damaged or torn down in the aftermath, so what was left sometimes had no purpose - e.g. a staircase that now went nowhere, as the floor it went to no long existed (and they just didn’t bother to tear out the staircase). What you’re left with is a house that someone obsessively built onto, which is interesting enough.

The tour is hilarious, with attempts to create ghost stories, and pointing out every time, coincidentally, the number 13 comes up - oh, the banister has 13 posts? Maybe that’s because, I dunno, that’s how many fit in the given space?