The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California is one of the most haunted places in the United States. Its story is the basis of the movie Winchester starring Helen Mirren and inspired the family name of Sam and Dean in the TV series Supernatural.
The mansion was built by Sara Winchester, to placate the spirits of those who were killed by her late husband’s invention – the Winchester Rifle. The mansion has several features right out of a gothic tale – false doors, confusing corridors, staircases leading to nowhere, and secret rooms through cabinet doors (a new hidden room was discovered as late as 2016).
However, what took my breath away was not the ghost stories, but rather the sheer abundance of beauty everywhere the eyes went – the lavish layers of texture, ornamentation and embellishment that made every room out of this world.
Queen Anne Style
The American Queen Anne revival style was a part of the Aesthetic movement – whose philosophy was about designing objects beyond their utility into pieces exuding beauty. This style of mansions have towers, turrets and gables, and are rich with paneling, texture and embossing and carving.
The wooden fretworks in this house are of ball-and-spindle pattern, and this is in several places both indoors and outdoors.
Lincrusta is a thick textured wallpaper with embossed designs. The other notable building which uses it is the White House.
During 1850s, Commodore Perry forced open Japan’s trade with America, resulting in various Anglo-Japanese styles being used here. Japonica patterns are often asymmetrical and have Japanese motifs like cherry blossoms.
The stained glass windows are the most eye-catching part of this mansion. They are encrusted with crystals of various colors and form rainbows from sunlight. The one in the center, custom-made from Tiffany’s, is the most expensive window in the world. The one on the right – an asymmetric spider-web design with 13 orbs is Sarah Winchesters’ own design for possibly occult reasons.
Woodwork & Metalwork
Arboreum & Gardens
The Winchester House is a must-see. Sarah Winchester, while tormented by spirits of the dead and guilt, laid bare an artistic and adventurous soul, and this house is a testament to the beauty we humans can create, even in our most difficult times.