Sarah Winchester was the wife of William Wirt Winchester (3rd president of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. They married in 1862 and a few years later had a baby daughter that they named Anne Pardee. Unfortunately their daughter died only a few days later. They never had another child. Sarah's tragedy did not end there. Her husband died young in 1881 and inherited a vast fortune and shares of the Winchester company. She sought the advice of a medium who told her that the ghost of her late husband wanted her to know that there was a curse on their family that was responsible for his death and the death of their daughter. The medium told her that in order to appease the spirits of those killed by the winchester rifle, she sell her home in New Haven, Connecticut, move west, and buy a house that Sarah would have to continually build. Sarah moved to Santa Clara Valley in California (in present day San Jose) and bought an unfinished six room farmhouse and the 162 acre property on which it rested. For the next 38 years she had workers constructing and reconstructing 24 hours a day 365 days a year. When she died and the construction ceased, the house had a grand total of 160 rooms. The house is constucted oddly, with rooms that have no entrances or exits, stairs that lead to the ceiling, windows in the floor, and doors that lead to a one floor drop. The house was state of the art for the time, with many water saving innovations.
it is said that Mrs. Winchester held seances in the special "seance room" in her home to consult with the spirits over the design of the home. She either built the odd home as a way to appease the spirits or to confuse them. She was obviously worried about the spirits, she never slept in the same room for two nights in a row. The home was built as a way for Mrs. Winchester to appease the ghosts of people who were killed by Winchester Rifles.
If you are ever in San Jose and can only do one thing:
On a more objective note: The story of the house is wonderfully entertaining. Finding out the -reasons- behind why certain things are made the way they were and what her motivations were. At one point in the tour, you see a picture of the home as it stood before 1906 earthquake. It is a reminder of the true age and mutability of the place. It is truly spectacular.