Helen Mirren’s new horror movie, Winchester, tells the frightening story of what is widely regarded as the most haunted house in America, and what awaits inside may be more terrifying than the film.
Inside Edition went inside the 160-room Queen Anne-style Victorian mansion in San Jose, Calif., which is filled with elaborate hallways, staircases that lead to nowhere and more doors than one can imagine.
Sarah Winchester, who is portrayed by Mirren in the film, moved to California with her sister and niece after her husband, William Wirt Winchester, died in 1881.
The Winchesters had only one child who died during infancy, leaving the matriarch to inherit her husband’s fortune — valued at $20 million.
Construction began on the mansion in 1886, but according to historians, never ended until her death in 1922. She was 82.
What started off as a meek two-story farmhouse ended as a four-story 24,000 square-foot enigma of a residence, leaving Winchester to sink most of her inherited fortune into the construction of the house.
It’s not clear why the heiress was compelled to build such a labyrinth of a home, but legend says she believed a medium who warned her that the family was cursed by the victims of rifles made by Winchester Repeating Arms Co., and the ghosts of those victims would only be satisfied if Winchester built them a home, spawning the large-scale and constant construction.
The grand ballroom is one of the most ornate rooms in the behemoth home. One door in the sprawling room opens to a fire safe door that opens to a safe that opens to a smaller safe.
The mysterious mansion has no floor plan or blueprint. The peculiar residence has 40 staircases and 2,000 doors, including one that allows you to leave one room with no floor beneath it. There are countless windows on interior walls with no clear function, including a window in the floor in the middle of a room.
Sarah Winchester reportedly believed that if she ever stopped construction on the house, the ghosts would get her.
Marketing director Jacob Williams says the widow sought guidance in the séance room.
“Sarah would come in here during the evenings and consult the spirits to see which room she would build next,” Williams told Inside Edition.
Some say the heiress still haunts the rooms of her own home.
“Legend has it [that] when Sarah’s around, you catch the smell of roses and I was watching through this hallway in pitch black after doing a shoot and right as I hit a cross section of the hallway — boom — roses,” Williams said.
The Winchester house has been open to tours since 1923.
Winchester is in theaters now.