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. 🚪
👻 “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. 🔔
👻 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.