NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — It has been a century since Sarah Winchester, a New Haven native who oversaw the constant construction of the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, died.
Winchester, a philanthropist, the “Belle of New Haven,” a women’s rights activist and heir to the Winchester Repeating Arms fortune, is now buried in New Haven’s Evergreen Cemetery.
But her greatest public legacy is perhaps her California home, which continues to boggle new generations.
“It has a loot of odd attributes that people have wondered about as to why they were built,” said Walter Magnuson, the general manager of the Winchester Mystery House. “There are stairs that lead into the ceiling. There are doors that lead to 15-feet drops outside. There are entire sections of the home that were abandoned, sending her workers to other areas of the house to build. It’s a fascinating architectural marvel, and we have all sorts of folks come visit from all over the world. But there is the undying question that fascinates people, is as to why?”
That “why” has its roots in tragedy. After Winchester’s baby died from a rare disease at just a few days old, she thought she was cursed and went to see a medium.
“The medium told her to head west and build a house, and as long as you keep building, you’ll live forever, and I’m sitting in it right now,” Magnuson said.
The home has been open to tours since 1923. Built in 1886, it went from a eight-bedroom farmhouse to 24,000 square feet throughout about 40 years of construction.
Watch the full interview to learn more!