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California’s Most Famous Haunted House…

By Linsibrownson @CleverSpark

It’s almost here… If there’s any holiday that allows one’s creativity to run amok, it’s Halloween- be it costumes, haunted houses or whatever your ‘poison’ of choice may be.

Admittedly, I’m not one to go out of my way to have the daylights scared out of me, but as an architect, I’m intrigued by the lore of haunted houses, and buildings and places considered to have paranormal activity.

California’s Most Famous Haunted House…

It’s curious that many haunted buildings are Victorian, in terms of architectural style. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that many of the well-known haunted houses here and abroad have a history dating back to the 1800′s, and that history usually involves the living memory of an unhappy spirit and a tragic event that led it to seek revenge, atonement or to simply torment inhabitants in an attempt to force them out… All in theory, of course.

This is exactly the case with the Winchester Mystery House- a Queen Anne style home on the National Register of Historic Places and popular Bay area attraction located in San Jose. Owned by Sarah Winchester from 1884 to 1922, this landmark mansion was an enormous building project, consisting of over 160 rooms and constructed at an estimated $5 million- approximately $70 million by today’s standards! Why so costly?

California’s Most Famous Haunted House…

Well, Mrs. Winchester was no typical homeowner- she was an unconventional millionaire who was consumed with what she believed was a curse on her family resulting from her husband’s invention- the Winchester repeating rifle that killed thousands in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. According to legend, Sarah believed ongoing construction was the only means to escape the curse of these spirits that led to the untimely deaths of her daughter and husband. Thus, she had workers on the job 24 hours a day- building staircases leading to nowhere, upper level doors that opened to nothing, hidden rooms, and a labyrinth of stairs and hallways designed to confuse and elude spirits.

California’s Most Famous Haunted House…

From an architectural standpoint, it’s almost incomprehensible that an individual would opt for unceasing construction on a 24-hour basis… which leads to the question: was this exercise in architectural insanity the extravagant hobby of an eccentric millionaire or, in fact, a spiritual mandate?

I visited the Winchester Mystery House ten years ago, and I definitely have my own opinions, but I’ll let you think it over and decide for yourself… (insert spooky music here)

In the meanwhile, have a delightful Halloween!

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