The Winchester Mystery House is one of the strangest houses in history and a prime tourist destination if you are ever in San Jose, California. It was built at the end of the 1800s to house the ghosts of those killed by Winchester rifles and, as you might expect, is rather bizarre.

It was built by Sarah Winchester, the widow of William Winchester and heir to the Winchester Rifle fortune. She believed that she was being haunted by the ghosts of all those killed by the rifles. These visions started after the death of her husband in 1884. Considering the popularity of the rifles, that is a hell of a lot of ghosts, particularly Native Americans. To rid herself of these ghosts, she decied to consult a medium. The medium told her that she could either build a house to contain the ghosts, or she could stop making the rifles and give up all her lovely cash. Which do you think she chose? She believed that work needed to continue on the building as long as she lived, as the rifles kept producing ghosts. She bought a small farmhouse in San Jose and work began soon thereafter.

As the house was only ever intended to be lived in by ghosts, it was extremely unsafe. The rooms were designed to attract the more high-class ghosts and drive off the peasant ghosts! Stairs climb into ceilings or simply into nothingness. Doors open onto airshafts, sheer brick walls, or even out of the side of the house above the ground floor. Some windows show great vistas of walls, and the house seems terminally unsafe, perpetually on the brink of collapse. Mrs. Winchester had also been told that ghosts loved cupboards. She stuffed the house full of cupboards, some less than an inch deep, and in bizarre shapes to fit as many on to the walls as possible.

By the time of her death in 1922, the house stretched over six acres, with 750 rooms, eight floors, 2000 doors, 10,000 windows, 40 staircases, 47 fireplaces, 52 skylights, 6 kitchens, 3 elevators and six safes full of rifle blood money. Construction finally ceased after her death from heart failure.

Tours are now available if you are ever in San Jose. Tours cost $17.95 for an adult. Take the Winchester Blvd. exit on I-280 from San Francisco, California and follow the signs. Visit to on the web for more information.