The Bay Area’s most famous haunted home, the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, was once the largest private residence in the United States. The bizarro began when the lady of the house, Sarah Winchester, inherited a vast fortune from her father-in-law, Oliver Winchester, manufacturer of the famous rifle, and she moved from New Haven, Connecticut to San Jose. Winchester came to believe her family and fortune were haunted and started to build a house as a way to elude the ghosts of all the people who had fallen victim to the Winchester rifle. From 1886 until her death in 1922, construction never ceased on the strange new mansion, which at its peak included 200 rooms, 10,000 windows, 47 fireplaces and 2,000 doors, trap doors and spy holes. The house is designed to confuse—staircases lead nowhere and end at ceilings; cabinets and doors open on to walls; small rooms are built within big rooms; balconies and windows are inside rather than out; chimneys stop floors short of the ceiling; and floors have skylights. The best way to experience the haunted house? With a candlelight tour. There’s safety in numbers.
With its legacy of earthquakes, island prisons and fantastic fortunes won and lost (not to mention all the ancient Indian burial sites), it’s small wonder the San Francisco Bay Area is one of the country’s most haunted places. For those in search of chills and thrills (beyond corn mazes and pumpkin patches), here are seven haunted places in the Bay Area for fright night fun. If you need a little more structure, check out the best Halloween events in San Francisco.
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