A Haunted History

Mystery is a well-earned middle name for this San Jose Victorian mansion built by owner Sarah Pardee Winchester to, allegedly, appease spirits— specifically those who had fallen to the famous Winchester rifle. 

Ghostly tales are one matter. But real-life encounters are entirely different; and at the Winchester Mystery House, both visitors and employees claim spectral sightings. 

A number of employees—and a few visitors—claim to have crossed paths with “Clyde,” a mustached man sometimes seen pushing a wheelbarrow in the basement, or trying to repair the fireplace in the Ballroom. He’s been described to management roughly like this: “We really like the actor who was “repairing” the ballroom fireplace, wearing white overalls and a Victorian boater hat.” Huh? We didn’t hire an actor. 

The worker on the far right, known as “Clyde”, is a popular resident at the Winchester Estate.

Then, there are the gentle tugs of shirts or skirts during tours, and the report from long-time maintenance worker Denny. One crisp morning, after entering the water tower, he heard the patter of footsteps above. He ascended to let the trespasser know the three-story structure was off-limits. But the footsteps always seemed to be one step ahead of him, and, one floor above. His search culminated on the roof, with no one in sight. 

Ever since Houdini came to the house in 1924 during his nationwide tour to debunk Spiritualism, other experts have followed. Winchester Mystery House has thrown out the welcome mat for paranormal investigator Zak Bagans of Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures,” noted psychic Sylvia Browne, TK, and famed medium James van Praagh who channeled Sarah at a séance dinner. He claimed that she expressed happiness that the house had so many visitors.  

Zak Bagans & the Ghost Hunter’s Team at the Winchester Mystery House (2014)

As recently as this April (2019), an architectural historian met with our house historian, Janan Boehme, to present his findings on who had most likely created the amazingly beautiful stained-glass windows in the mansion. Boehme was convinced that at least one of the mysteries of the house had finally been solved. But there was no hard evidence. 

“Then, the strangest thing happened,” recounts Boehme. The very next day, a restorer uncovered a perfectly preserved envelope that had been hidden inside wall for 125 years. Addressed to Mrs. S. L. Winchester, it bore the elaborate logo of the Pacific American Decorative Company—the very company the researcher had concluded was the maker of Sarah’s windows! (If you are one of those people who believe there are no coincidences … dig into that. Janan, Sarah’s got you covered. 

Should you want to get a taste of the paranormal in the house frequently dubbed in top 10 “Most Haunted” lists, come to an after-dark experience that unlocks rooms and explores the fictional side of the paranormal on “Unhinged.” Until November 2. Click below for tickets!

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