The Scariest House in America

Historic travel girl has been in some pretty scary houses in her time. The house she grew up in, where the cabinet doors were always open in the morning and sometimes the piano played at night (Seriously. It’s Halloween, folks, not April Fool’s). Then there was the second place my husband and I renovated, where a young guest said he didn’t want to visit us any more because there was a mad little boy in the back bedroom and he didn’t want to see him again. (It was just as well, as I thought that said young guest was a brat, and I was already trying to figure out how to never invite his parents again. Thanks, mad little ghost boy).

The third place we renovated, and then rented out, wasn’t scary to me, but I did receive a call from my cleaner in 2008 to tell me that our departing guests felt a departed guest and her “female presence” in the yellow bedroom. The cleaner then asked me what I wanted her to do (???!!!). I told her to run the vaccuum cleaner extra long in that room–if something/someone was in there, and she/it wasn’t paying rent, it/she needed to go. I’m not sure if our cleaner did this or not…but I have looked diligently for a presence, and the only presence I felt in the room was after my husband had a seriously gassy night.

But despite a long history of houses that make your arm hairs stand up, I must admit that the scariest house I ever visited was….*frightening pause here in the background music*….the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose ( *clap of thunder* *photo turns to black and white then back to color then back to black and white again*.

Enough with the fancy visual effects. Here’s the story on the house.

In 1884, Sarah L. Winchester began building a home. She had plenty of money to do it, as she was a widow and the sole heir to the Winchester gun fortune. Somehow, maybe it was all the sawdust from the building project (lord knows that can make me batty after a week or two), or the opium that they used to prescribe back then, but the widow Winchester got the idea that the ghosts of all of the Indians that had been killed by her family’s guns were conspiring to haunt her.

If that’s not nutty enough, she then got the idea that she could build a house that was so confusing, so messed up, and so utterly ridiculous that even the most persistent ghost would hang it up and go float around in an uncomplicated two-bedroom flat in town…just because it was easier to get around.

AND…get this woman a case of multi-vitamin valium, stat…some fortune teller told her that she would die as soon as she finished building the house. And Miss Sarah believed her.

So, wacky widow Winchester set the boys to building. They kept going for another 38 years.

What would a contractor do for 38 years? Well, if it’s one of the contractors that I’ve worked with, they might spend half of that time smoking on the porch and waiting for the kitchen cabinets to be delivered from Home Depot. But her contractors were more savvy. They built staircases that went nowhere (they literally disappear into the ceiling). They put in doors that opened directly to the outside, where you would plunge to your death if you snuck off the tour and decided to explore things on your own. They made teeny-tiny rooms that no one could even stand in.

They weren’t lazy. During that 38 years, they built or installed: 1,257 windows, 950 doors, 47 fireplaces, 40 staircases, 52 skylights, 6 kitchens, and 2 ballrooms. I guess the lady wasn’t much for dancing.

The tour of the house is as fascinating as it is frightening: there are 160 rooms, and it doesn’t take long before you’re completely turned around and you have no idea where you came from. It is very easy to lose your bearings and get completely lost.

But be careful and stay with the group …because if you’re lost, imagine how lost and angry the ghosts must be. *lightning crackle* Bwaaa haaa haaaa…….