San Jose's Winchester Mystery House celebrates 100th anniversary

A South Bay landmark that has withstood earthquakes, economic upheaval, and global pandemics will celebrate its 100th anniversary this week.

"All of this is in sharp contrast with this old building here and all this new construction at Santana Row over here. It’s quite a contrast," said Santa Rosa tourist Paul Brandson.

Over the course of a century, development has flourished around Sarah Winchester’s San Jose staple. Nevertheless, the 19th century home itself continues to attract visitors from around the world.

"I just wanted to see the crazy maze-like house. To see how lost you could get. And it was a crazy, crazy house," said Jacky Barclay, a newlywed who spent part of her mini-honeymoon in San Jose.

The Winchester Mystery House was conceived by arms manufacturing heiress Sarah Winchester in 1886 after her move from Connecticut to San Jose. Over the following decades, there were renovations, additions, and even damage from the Great Earthquake of 1906.

Winchester passed away in 1922, and her house was finally completed a year later, opening as a popular tourist attraction.

"We are a historic landmark that millions of people have visited and been inspired by over the last 100 years. And I think it's so special, like a time capsule, that you can enter Sarah Winchester's home and feel like she just stepped away," said Walter Magnuson, executive director of the Winchester Mystery House.

In 2018, Hollywood filmmakers drew inspiration from the Winchester spirit, releasing a movie centered around the house and its famous architect. Actress Dame Helen Mirren portrayed the lead role.

"As a character, she’s surrounded in mystery," Mirren said in previous interviews while promoting the film.

The house itself remains shrouded in mystery, with no shortage of ghost stories circulating within its 160 rooms. It serves as a paranormal delight for visitors who travel from all corners of the globe, eager to explore stairways that lead to nowhere in their quest to unravel the century-long enigma.

"It seems like a staple of San Jose. That’s the only reason I wanted to visit it," said Barclay.

Festivities to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the home will commence on Friday with Mayor Matt Mahan reading a proclamation officially designating June 30, 2023, as "Winchester Mystery House Day."

The events will conclude on Sunday morning with a 1923-themed brunch.

Officials have announced plans to bury a time capsule that will remain underground until 2123, when the home turns 200.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter, @JesseKTVU and on Instagram, @jessegontv.