Disney’s Haunted Mansion and More: Winchester Mystery House’s Influence on Pop Culture

Disney's Haunted Mansion and More: Winchester Mystery House's Influence on Pop Culture

The movie world is buzzing about the just released “Haunted Mansion” movie. With an ensemble cast including silver screen all-stars LaKeith Stanfield, Tiffany Haddish, and Owen Wilson, “Haunted Mansion” is poised to be Disney’s latest summer blockbuster. 

While even casual Disney fans know the movie is based on the storied attraction, most people don’t know that the Haunted Mansion ride was inspired in part by the Winchester Mystery House. But the most anticipated movie of the summer isn’t the first film influenced by the Winchester. Far from it. 

Grab your popcorn and silence your cell phones –  let’s take a look at the Winchester Mystery House’s connection to the movies.

image from the haunted mansion movie
Photo Credit: Disney's Haunted Mansion 2023
Photo Credit: Disney's Haunted Mansion 2023

The Haunted Mansion

Though it didn’t open until long after the park opened its doors, plans for the Haunted Mansion actually pre-date the construction of the original Disneyland. Opened in 1969, the original idea for the attraction was typical of your standard haunted house: The exterior was to be spooky and unwelcoming – designed to send chills down one’s spine. But Walt Disney himself nixed the notion of building a shabby scarefest in his park. After a visit to the Winchester Mystery House, Disney had a new direction for his Imagineers: Like the Winchester, the Haunted Mansion would be fancy on the outside and frightening on the inside. 

Several features of the Winchester have starrings in the Haunted Mansion ride, including the Seance Room, stairs that make a circular path, and the repeated numerology of the number thirteen. So when you see these architectural oddities on the big screen or the next time you hop in a “doom buggy” and tour the Haunted Mansion at a Disney park, know that the thrills you feel were first inspired by the Winchester.

If you’re looking for a more bone-chilling haunt, visit the Winchester Mystery House for our Unhinged Experience.

Photo Credit: NY Post "Winchester" Movie 2018


The legends surrounding Sarah Winchester and the Winchester Mystery House have garnered the attention of Hollywood in their own right. The allure of Sarah’s life story is evident. It has everything: wealth, loss, the specter of spirits. Talk about drama. 

It’s little wonder, then, that in 2018 directors Michael and Peter Spierig brought Sarah’s story to theaters with “Winchester.” Starring Helen Mirren in the title role, Jason Clarke, and Sarah Snook, the film tells the disturbing story of a woman haunted by a malevolent spirit. Mirren even toured the Winchester Mystery House while conducting immersive research for the role.

We’ll never know how much of “Winchester” is based in fact and how much of it is movie magic. And that’s what makes the story so compelling. 

Watch the Winchester trailer here.

Photo Credit: Stephen King's Rose Red 2002

Rose Red

Technically, “Rose Red” isn’t a movie, but a Stephen King TV miniseries is definitely worthy of inclusion on this list. Airing on ABC in 2002, the three-part scream centers on a haunted mansion with a history of violent, often inexplicable, tragedies. Part of the fictional mansion’s history is ownership by a wealthy heiress who obsessively adds to her home following her husband’s death, a clear parallel to the story of Sarah Winchester. 

But you don’t have to take our word for it. King, America’s long-standing master of horror, has been open about drawing inspiration for the story from the Winchester Mystery House. 

See Stephen King talk about the inspiration taking from Winchester Mystery House for Rose Red here.

Winchester Mystery House’s Continued Influence on the Movies

It’s impossible to say how much influence the Winchester Mystery House has had on movies. American cinema is filled with stories of haunted mansions inhabited by reclusive women in black dresses terrorized by things that go bump in the night. In almost all of them, you can see a glimpse of Sarah Winchester and the Winchester Mystery House.