As a native to San Jose, Ca, and the Silicon Valley, there are few landmarks that I would say are of architectural, artistic , and historical interest. Of course, that’s just how I feel. You may feel differently. You may feel that the Apple Campus is the best thing that the Bay Area has to offer. Who would want anything more? That’s fine, that’s your opinion.
when I was a kid I grew up thinking that I would end up in one of the many small cubicles to a tech company. Those tech companies and their perfectly identical sea of cubicles were my playground when my dad would take me to work. Bemoaning the future fate of working in such a drab and boring environment, I started designing my ultimate cubical with water fountains and landscape paintings of Hawaii.
Fortunately, there are those few interesting places to visit in San Jose that take you far away from those cubicales. The Winchester Mystery House is one of them. Because it is one of the few places you can go in San Jose, I’ve taken about 8 tours there throughout my lifetime. In the early 90s I had my birthday party there. It was my first time and I got myself all worked up over the ghosts that might still be hunting the house. I held my friend’s hand during the entire tour because I was so scared.
Latter, as a teenager, I would take the bus there just to get some inspiration for my artwork. Each time I would go I would see something different in the details of the house. Sometimes I would remember the dialogue that the tour guides are suppose to memories and I could tell when they left something out.
Since this last December I’ve been to the Winchester Mystery House Twice. Both times were to show the house to family from Australia, including my husband, who have never seen the place before. December was when I took my niece and nephew there. (Note: for visual reference, my niece and nephew are the same age as me and they get a kick out of calling my Aunty.) As a tip to any tour guide, make sure you know your stuff. We were really enjoying our tour. Then we came up to a tiny little room. I’ve seen this room before, but I noticed for the first time that it had a Russian theme with a samovar placed on the table. On the wall there was a photograph. As a Russian culture and history buff, I knew the photograph well. I asked the tour guide: This room looks very Russia, was the servant who worked in this room Russian? The tour guide responded: Oh, yes. He was Russian and I believe that photography is of his family. I looked back at the photograph. Trying really hard to be polite and not laugh I said: Are you sure? because I believe that photograph is of the last Czar, Nicholas II, and his family.
And it was. It was the photograph below.
As they say in theatre, “the show still goes on,” and so did our tour. If the Winchester Mystery house were to be a genre in theatre, it most certainly would be Theatre of the absurd.
Speaking of shows, there is a movie in the works about the story of Sarah Winchester and her fantastic house. When I was 12 and 13 I had dreams myself of making my own film on the Winchester Mystery House. However, that’s fine. I don’t mind that it’s not me. I have my own stories to tell. There is, however; a tiny bit of influence from the Winchester Mystery House that is in the creative work that I do. Maybe it is not as crazy as building a staircase that leads to the ceiling, but there is still that element of being “different” and curiously bizarre that I so love to subtly place in my artwork.
Sometimes I like to think that Sarah’s crazy designs were not just to ward of angry spirits, but because she had a sense of humor. At least, that would be my reason for ever constructing such an outrageous design. Maybe one day I’ll get the chance to do it.
Here are a few more photographs that I took from the Winchester Mystery House.
Peace & Love,