After nine decades as a San Jose tourist attraction, it turns out the Winchester Mystery House still has a few secrets left to discover.
Visitors to Sarah Winchester’s sprawling, 160-room mansion got their first look Thursday at 40 rooms, hallways and other strange spaces — most of which have never been seen before by the public — with the launch of the Explore More tour.
Some of the areas now open had been unsafe for the public to access, so they’ve added railings and lighting. Other spaces previously closed were considered simply too odd.
But that changed when Walter Magnuson — general manager of the Winchester Mystery House — arrived two years ago. After he went on the guest tour of his new domain, he noticed doors that were boarded with locks that just had skeleton keys.
“I just asked ‘What are these places?’ So gradually I was snooping around and started looking at all these incredible rooms that we’ve never been able to put on the regular tour. ” Magnuson said. “Some of them have incredible history, some of them have amazing stories associated with them, and some of them are just really freaking cool.”
And while the regular mansion tour takes you through decorated bedrooms, ballrooms and kitchens, part of the charm of the new tour is that many of the rooms are in an unfinished state or show evidence of damage from the 1906 earthquake that toppled the top three stories of the house, which is said to have been under continuous construction until Winchester’s death in 1922.
For the first time ever, a tour now includes the mansion’s front door, which was rarely used even in Sarah’s time. As with everything about the house, there’s a great story to go with the door, which may be true or just another legend. Supposedly, Theodore Roosevelt, on a tour of the West during his presidency, traveled to visit the mansion, situated among orchards west of San Jose. He came to the front door, which no one ever did, but was denied…