Behind the Scenes of the Winchester Mystery House

At 134 years old, The Winchester Mystery House makes its starring film debut in “Winchester”, in theaters February 2nd. Photo Credit: Pixabay
A new thriller based on the maze-like mansion in San Jose debuts in theaters this week

Arturo Hilario

El Observador

A San Jose home built at the turn of the 19th century sits hundreds of feet from highway 280, and its allure continues to captivate curious spectators from around the world.

On February 2nd a movie, “Winchester”, will try to create a world that is made up of tall tale and the reality that inhabits the historical and characteristically creepy Victorian known to some as one of the most haunted houses in the world.

The Winchester Mystery House was a spectacular, decadent home built by guns, in more ways than one. Sarah Winchester was the widow of the heir and treasurer to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, William Wirt Winchester, who died at age 43 of tuberculosis.

Following the death of her husband, and the sudden 50 percent ownership of the arms company, Sarah was left with grief and with an approximate present-day value of 25 thousand dollars a day to spend.

Sarah Winchester’s creation has an array of theories surrounding its curious architecture and fascinating construction, but one thing is certain when touring its dark hallways and sometimes claustrophobic array of staircases, the story of Sarah and her build is a truly unique story of the Bay Area.

It’s been nearly 140 years from when the widow Sarah Winchester purchased an unfinished home in Santa Clara County and gave it a new existence, one that would capture Sarah’s fears, hopes, ideas, and most of all, the fascination she had with the spirit world.

Sarah had a mostly blank canvas to work with at the property and home she purchased. What accelerated her imaginative and perplexing build project was the haunting fears of the victims of Winchester rifles coming to get her

This house and its 162 rooms, some unavailable to the public for safety reasons or because they are used as office space, contain captivating stories. From a séance room, to a bright conservatory containing an array of plants, to a lone, state-of-the-art (in the 1800’s) shower in the 13-bathroom house.

The film “Winchester” will follow some of the beats of the true story of Sarah and her unending, 24-hour a day construction, but will also inject themes of a thriller and horror story to the very real house that now sits on Winchester Boulevard and across from Santana Row.

Among the actors in the film are Helen Mirren (Eye In The Sky, The Queen) in the title role of Sarah Winchester, her niece, played by Sarah Snook (Steve Jobs, Jessabelle), and a doctor, played by Jason Clarke (Mudbound, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. The plot of this “gothic thriller” involves Sarah Winchester’s unending, manic construction of the house which is meant to capture and contain the spirits that live in the home.

Much like the historical information of the Winchester house, it is all theory as to exactly why Mrs. Winchester was so involved, so particular, and so maverick about how she had the house built, and more importantly, for just a handful of living people to live in it.

The film version of this story will more so focus on the scary and thrilling aspects of the house and its many stories. Judging by the trailers and footage it will be a creepy, jump scare type of affair.

If there is a chance to visit the home before the film is watched, I would recommend it as it does offer a chance to take in the actual feel of the wood, and the different types of spaces offered in the home, or should I say mansion.

Although most of the furniture are replicas of what the house might have been furnished in, (after Sarah’s death in 1922 the house was purchased at auction, and most of the furniture was sold off by Sarah’s niece Marian Marriott), the original Tiffany stained glass is still on display today.

Five months after Sarah Winchester’s death the house was reopened and held its first tours.

Although the story may follow a fictional account of the events inside the house, there is no doubt there is a presence to the home. A characteristic to the grand and sometimes confusing structure that cost a lot of money, a lot of effort, and truly is unlike anything else in this world.

If you are reading this and are close enough, it is a worthy cause stepping into the hauntingly beautiful home, with a very much true and sad story behind its existence. But since the big question still remains, what was Sarah’s real answer for building the house, there is room for interpretation, whether supernatural or not.

‘Winchester’ is in theaters February 2nd, and the Winchester Mystery House is right where it’s always been.