The Haunted Winchester Mystery House Gardens: The Cryptic Legacy of Sarah Pardee Winchester

by DerdriuMarriner

Daytime hauntings outside afford clear views of ghosts. They help identify Winchester Mystery House’s garden phantoms. They offer no insights as to why the spirits are there.

Local tradition has it that the Winchester Mystery House in San José, California is haunted. Not everybody knows that the gardens also are haunted. Ghost-busters link all niches inside the four-story, 160-room mansion with:
• Chills;
• Draughts;
• Fireballs;
• Footsteps;
• Music;
• Phantoms;
• Rattlings;
• Whisperings.

They may not realize that in broad daylight the surrounding gardens accommodate:
• Chills;
• Exhalations;
• Footsteps;
• Music;
• Silence;
• Spirits.

Some garden strollers even observe lights going on and off throughout the house in ways reminiscent of someone desperately seeking somebody or something indoors. But witnessing materializations and voices of Sarah Pardee Winchester -- the property’s most famous owner and a Queen Victoria (May 24, 1819 – January 22, 1901) look-alike -- with her gardener presents no cause for alarm.

*****

Winchester Mystery House
525 S Winchester Blvd
San José, CA 95128

Email: info@winchestermysteryhouse.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/winchestermysteryhouse
Telephone: 408 247-2000 (operating hours only), 408 247-2101
Website: http://winchestermysteryhouse.com/index.cfm

*****

San José landmark ~ Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph: exterior at dusk

80 South Market Street, San Jose, California
80 South Market Street, San Jose, California

 

Valley of the Heart’s Delight emerges as the historical nickname for the Californian lands which claim the Winchester Mystery House. The diminutive expresses the English translation of Valle de las Delicias del Corazón from the Spanish Mission period of 1769 – 1833 in California’s history. It honors the fertility of the land and the importance of agricultural economies in the centuries before Silicon Valley’s high-tech and tech-startup entrepreneurialism in Santa Clara County. The county seat at San José memorializes:

  • The first capital, 1850;
  • The first and second legislative sessions, 1850 – 1851.

It shelters:

  • Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph;
  • Circle of Palms Plaza;
  • Hayes Mansion;
  • Kelley Park;
  • La Galería Museum;
  • Lick Observatory;
  • Raging Waters;
  • Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum;
  • Spartan Stadium.

 

San José landmark ~ Winchester House: view looking northwest

Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey
Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey

 

San José also harbors the Winchester Mystery House. The four-story, 160-room mansion has as its physical location its original 525 South Winchester Boulevard address. But it is situated on a super-reduced portion -- at 4.5 acres (1.82 hectares) -- of its original 162 acres (65.56 hectares). It occupies revenue-generating niches as:

  • California historical landmark;
  • International tourist attraction;
  • National Register of Historic Places listee;
  • Queen Anne Style Victorian mansion with Tiffany stained glass windows.

It also preserves features which leapfrog the building’s nineteenth- and twentieth-century expansions:

  • Earthquake-mitigating floating foundation incompletely attached to the brick base;
  • Forced-air and steam heating;
  • Hot shower;
  • Indoor plumbing and toilets;
  • Push-button gas lights;
  • 3 elevators, with 1 vertical and 2 horizontal piston-powered hydraulics.

 

Winchester Mansion: detail of stained glass

Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey
Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey

 

Winchester appears as the mansion’s address and name. It connects with:

  • Oliver Fisher Winchester’s (November 30, 1810 – December 11, 1880) arms company of New Haven, Connecticut, 1857-;
  • Winchester center-fire rifles, 1873-;
  • Winchester consumer goods manufactory, 1918-;
  • Winchester household, mail-order, and sporting-good company, 1922-.

Marriage and widowhood explain an Easterner’s westward relocation. They both relate to Sarah Lockwood Pardee’s (September 1, 1839? - September 5, 1922):

  • Marrying on September 30, 1862 Oliver’s only son, William Wirt Winchester (June 22, 1837 - March 7, 1881);
  • Mourning her and William’s only child, Annie (June 15, 1866 – July 25, 1866), dying from marasmus (inability to digest);
  • Receiving 50% company ownership, $1,000 ($23,000.00+ in 2014) daily income, and $20,000,000 ($465,000,000.00+ in 2014) inheritance after William’s death from tuberculosis.

 

Sarah Winchester: 1865 Hand-tinted ambrotype by Taber Photographic Company, 121 Post Street, San Francisco

History San José
History San José

 

San José’s most famous mansion answers to Winchester Mystery House in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. That name does not perpetuate original designations as:

  • John Hamm farmhouse, before Sarah’s ownership;
  • Llanada Villa (Flatland House), with Sarah’s purchase in 1886.  

It nevertheless recognizes cryptic interiors, with:

  • Ceilinged-in stairways;
  • Doll-high steps;
  • Floor-located skylight;
  • Oversized entrances to small spaces;
  • Roofed-in chimneys;
  • Undersized entrances to big spaces;
  • Upper-floor exits;
  • Upside-down posts.

But indoor mysteries support prevailing hypotheses regarding Sarah’s unique designs:

  • Commitments to the ideas of Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, Sir Francis Bacon (January 22, 1561 – April 9, 1626), Theosophism;
  • Influences from Boston-based occultists (Adam Coombs [aka Coons], Leonora Piper [June 27, 1857 – June 3, 1950]);
  • Lack of blueprints;
  • Money to spend whimsically.

 

Winchester Mystery House's Greenhouse

San Jose, California
San Jose, California

 

Comprehending La Llanada’s outdoors aids in understanding La Villa’s indoors. The gardens are less extensive now. Their six story-high cypress hedges exist no more. But exterior and interior restorations of 1973 onward evoke Sarah’s daily consulting:

  • Andrew Downing’s (October 30, 1815 – July 28, 1852) 1841-published A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, Adapted to North America;
  • Foreman John Hanson;
  • Garageman Fred Larson;
  • Head gardener Tommy Nishiwara;
  • Theosophist Rudolf Steiner (February 25, 1861 – March 30, 1925).

The grounds express Victorian-influenced geometries of:

  • Cherub, Cupid, Eagle, Serpent fountains;
  • Crescent-shaped, yellow-blooming chrysanthemum hedge;
  • Daisy, pink Indian hawthorne, star jasmine beds;
  • Deer-stalking Chief Little Fawn, Greek agriculture goddess Demeter statuary;
  • Gazebos;
  • Greenhouse with 13 cupolas;
  • 13 fan palms.

 

statue of Chief Little Fawn in Winchester Mystery House's gardens

San Jose, California
San Jose, California

 

The lawns and 1,500+ ornamentals and woodies are replacements. But originals endure:

  • Foreman’s house, for the Hanson quartet;
  • Garage, though neither sheltering nor washing -- with ceiling-installed, hot water-dispensing 360°-rotated pipes -- Sarah’s battery-operated 1909 Renault, black-and-grey lavender-striped 1917 Pierce Arrow, and Buick truck;
  • 100-year-old elm, English yew, fan and feather palms, ferns, rosebushes.
  • Pump house;
  • Wrought iron gates.

They hallow:

  • Almond, apricot, grapefruit, orange, plum, walnut farming;
  • Black locust, catalpa, monkey puzzle, Norfolk pine, peppercorn, pink-flowering crepe myrtle imports;
  • One-half ton-capacity, 30-minute process-time dehydrators;
  • 1,000-gallon (3,785.42-liter) reservoir- and 35-foot (10.67-meter) tower-generated irrigation and plumbing systems;
  • Peony, persimmon, sourberry physic gardens.

They sometimes host garden-strolling ghosts: not of field-, garden-, harvest-specialized dectets, but of:

  • John;
  • Sarah;
  • Tommy.

 

Winchester Mystery House's original water tower

San Jose, California
San Jose, California

Conclusion

 

Interpretations of Sarah’s personality access real-time evidence:

  • Extant buildings;
  • Surviving plantings.

But physical traces do not communicate Sarah’s actions and agendas alone. They indeed give greater voice to the interactions of built and natural environments with subsequent property owners. Winchester involvement lasts until:

  • Sarah’s bequeathing money to employees and the Winchester Clinic of the General Hospital Society of Connecticut, money and trust funds to her sister’s children, possessions and property to Menlo Park-residing niece Marian Merriman Marriott (1869 – 1949);
  • Trustees (Union Trust Company of San Francisco) selling farm and mansion.

Architectural enigmas lend themselves to:

  • Baconian, masonic, Rosicrucian codes;
  • Fibonacci sequences;
  • Occult cyphers.

Horticultural configurations contrastingly testify to landscapes:

  • Arranged aesthetically;
  • Designed practically;
  • Haunted sporadically;
  • Ideated bio-dynamically.

 

Winchester Mystery House's original Foreman's House: angled landscapes of John Hansen's quarters, 8 rooms with pamperings such as electricity and indoor plumbing.

San Jose, California
San Jose, California

Acknowledgment

 

My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.

 

Winchester House: east front

Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey
Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey

Sources Consulted

 

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Bartlett, Sarah. 2014. Guide to the World's Supernatural Places. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society.

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Cinetel Productions. 2006. "The Winchester Mystery House and Scotty’s Castle." A&E Home Video: America’s Castles, 1996.

Ferut, Michael. 2014. Winchester Mystery House. Alcatraz: Torque Books Scariest Places on Earth Series.

"The Gardens and Grounds of Victorian Elegance." Winchester Mystery House.com. Retrieved October 31, 2014.

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Ignoffo, Mary Jo. 2012. Captive of the Labyrinth: Sarah L. Winchester, Heiress to the Rifle Fortune. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press.

Judnick, Maria. 20 October 2014. "Where the Spooky Things Are: A Tour of Mysterious Places in he Bay Area." KQED Pop Daily Blog: Bay Area. San Francisco and San José, CA: KQED Inc. Retrieved October 31, 2014.

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Keyishian, Amy. "Winchester Mystery House: The Home That Superstition Built." HGTV FrontDoor: Houses. Scripps Networks, LLC. Retrieved October 31, 2014.

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Kryis and Bryan. Retrieved October 31, 2014. "Winchester Mystery House." Haunted Honeymoon.com: Haunted Places. Retrieved October 31, 2014.

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"Marian Marriott (born Merriman)." My Heritage.com. Bnei Atarot, Israel: My Heritage Ltd. Retrieved October 31, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.myheritage.com/search-records?action=person&siteId=61268121&indId=2000018&origin=profile

Meade, Emma. 21 June 2013. "Sarah Winchester Mystery House -- On My List of Places to Visit." Emma's Ramblings on Supernatural Fiction. Retrieved October 31, 2014.

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obiwan. 19 April 2013. "Winchester Mystery House (San José, CA)." Ghosts.org: Obiwan's UFO-Free Paranormal Page (by Tony Harrington)." Retrieved October 31, 2014.

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Pizarro, Sal. 20 March 2014. "Pizarro: It'd Be a Dream to Spend the Night at the Winchester Mystery House." MercuryNews.com: Bay Area News. San José, CA: San José Mercury News. Retrieved October 31, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.mercurynews.com/sal-pizarro/ci_25385427/pizarro-itd-be-dream-spend-night-at-winchester

Rudnansky, Ryan. 21 March 2014. "Winchester Mystery House to Allow Overnight Guests." Travel Pulse.com: Hotel & Resort. Westampton, NJ: Alliancemedia. Retrieved October 31, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.travelpulse.com/news/hotels-and-resorts/winchester-mystery-house-to-allow-overnight-guests.html

Rutherford, Kristen. 17 March 2014. "Winchester Mystery House -- Soon with Overnight Stays and Booze!" Nerdist.com. Nerdist Industries Started by Chris Hardwick. Retrieved October 31, 2014.

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Selby, Lisa L. 2006. The Inscrutable Mrs. Winchester and Her Mysterious Mansion. Baltimore, MD: PublishAmerica.

talc. 29 September 2006. "Winchester Mystery House." talcexplorations. Blogspot.com. Retrieved October 31, 2016.

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Troy Taylor & Apartment #42 Productions. "The Winchester Mystery House." America's Most Haunted Places: A Road Trip into the Supernatural > Haunted Places. Retrieved October 31, 2014.

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Underwood, Peter. 2009. Haunted Gardens: An International Journey. Stroud, Gloucestershire, England: Amberley Publishing Plc.

Wagner, Richard Allan. 28 October 2014. The Truth about the Winchester House. Retrieved October 31, 2014.

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"Winchester Mystery House: San José, California." My Haunted Places.com. Retrieved October 31, 2014.

  • Available at: http://www.myhauntedplaces.com/WinchesterMysteryHouse.html

 

 

Winchester Mystery House, as seen from a nearby high rise, the Belmost Living of San Jose Senior Housing

San Jose, California
San Jose, California
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

Captive of the Labyrinth: Sarah L. Winchester, Heiress to the Rifle Fortune by Mary Jo Ignoffo

Sarah Winchester biographies

The Inscrutable Mrs. Winchester and Her Mysterious Mansion by Lisa L. Selby

Sarah Winchester biographies

Winchester Mystery House - San Jose, CA

Winchester Mystery House - San Jose, CA - Technical

Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 05/08/2015, DerdriuMarriner
 
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