Friday the 13th at the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA

WinchesterMyseryHouse_Exterior 4 - Feature

The Winchester Mystery House is a local + state historic landmark that attracts tourists from around the world. | Photo by SJtoday staff

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While Friday the 13th gets a reputation as an ominous day full of bad luck, it has a special meaning at San Jose’s Winchester Mystery House. Today we’re exploring the history + significance of the number 13 at the infamous landmark. 🚪

A black and white photo of an elderly women in heavy black clothes seated in a carriage.

This is the only known photo of the enigmatic Sarah Winchester — it was taken outside her San Jose estate, known then as Llanada Villa.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

👻 “The house the spirits built”

The Winchester House was built by Sarah Winchester — the heiress to the Winchester Repeating Arms Co. fortune.

Mired by tragedy + loss, legend says that Sarah believed she was haunted by the spirits of those killed by the Winchester rifle, and to appease them, she would have to start building a house — and never stop.

Sarah moved to San Jose in 1884, where she purchased an eight-room farmhouse + began construction, which continued for 38 years until her death in 1922. By then, the farmhouse had become a 160-room, 24,000-sqft mansion. 🪚

The number 13 appears in window designs, chandeliers, and more throughout the house. | Photos by SJtoday staff

👻 The number 13

On top of bizarre design features, like doors that open to nowhere + stairs going up to ceilings, the house has gained a reputation for the prevalence of 13s in its design, including:

  • 13 candles in the ballroom chandelier
  • 13 coat hooks in the seance room
  • 13 words in the cryptic Shakespeare windows
  • 13 orbs in a custom window
  • 13 windows in the 13th (and final) bathroom

In honor of Sarah’s love of the number 13, the Winchester Mystery House celebrates each Friday the 13th by ringing the mansion’s bell 13 times at 1:13 p.m. — or 13:13 in military time. 🔔

WinchesterMysteryHouse_Bell Tower

Once used to mark staff meal times, the bell tower is now only rung on Friday the 13th.

Photo by SJtoday staff

👻 The legend continues

While tonight’s Friday the 13th flashlight tours are sold out, the Winchester Mystery House hosts other special events throughout the year where you can explore this “beautiful, but bizarre” house. 👀

In the meantime, let us know if you’ve visited this mysterious mansion, and if so, whether you believe the legends about the house.

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