Unusual Tourist Sites: $5 1/2 Million Ghosthouse San Jose, California Part 2

About the unusual tourist site of the five and a half million dollar ghosthouse in San Jose, California, history and information.

San Jose, California

Hundreds of rooms were built and torn down again because they didn't turn out according to the architectural plan. This was not surprising, inasmuch as Mrs. Winchester herself, with no architectural training, made up the plan as she went along, sometimes sketching plans on the spot on any material handy. She depended upon her foreman to interpret her crude sketches. She was inventive; some of the mansion's features were decades ahead of their time. There was an intercom system connecting all the rooms. Outside window shutters could be opened and closed from the inside, by operating cranks. The fireplaces--one room had 4!--had the 1st ashpits with hinged iron lids, and concealed wood boxes. The washtubs in the laundry had built-in washboards. Gas lights operated at the touch of a button. No expense was spared--the key to the front door, and even some of the screws, were of solid gold. The beautiful blended with the bizarre: Posts were installed upside down, chimneys stopped short of the roof, bathrooms had glass walls, some rooms had 13 windows, a greenhouse had 13 gables. Most of the stairways had 13 steps; one, though, had 44 steps and 7 turns, but rose only 9'. A huge bell tower was inaccessible except by climbing over the rooftops; it contained a smooth, unscalable well down which hung the bell rope, which could be pulled only from an underground labyrinth.

The Winchester House, officially designated a California State Historical Landmark in 1973, remains a fascinating enigma, typified by 2 cryptic messages inlaid in the stained glass windows of the mysterious Grand Ballroom, which was never completed (construction was interrupted by the earthquake of 1906, and never resumed). One inscription reads, "Wide unclasp the tables of their thoughts"; the other, "These same thoughts people this little world."

Location: 525 S. Winchester Blvd., San Jose, Calif. Admission: Adults: $2.50; children 6-12: $1.00; children under 6 admitted free; price includes a one-hour guided tour and admission to the Winchester Museum. Hours: Summer: 9 A.M. to 6 P.M. Winter: 9 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. Open every day except Christmas.

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