The Mystery House

California Mar 6, 2023

At my day job, I do a lot of work keeping my team's build servers up and running. We primarily use a combo of Jenkins and Fastlane to manage things, and it's worked well. However, I recently received an invite to attend a mini developer event out at Apple HQ in Cupertino, to learn more about Xcode Cloud.

I've played with Xcode Cloud in the past, so this was a great opportunity to go get some in-person instruction, and spend time with some engineers to answer questions. It turned out to be a great event, and very helpful to the work I've been doing. Got lots of questions answered, and learned a lot. I didn't get to visit the "spaceship" campus, and instead spent the day at the new Developer Center across the street. Also got a chance to check out the Apple Park Visitor Center, which was neat, but unless you're a die-hard Apple fan, I'm not sure it's worth a special trip just for that one.

While the event was good, and it was the primary reason for the trip, there was a huge bonus in store when I arrived. My flight was arriving a bit early, and I had almost a half-day of nothing on the schedule. Looking for something to do, I was browsing the map and found that my hotel was pretty close to something I've wanted to visit for a long time.

The Winchester Mystery House.

This house is something I first learned about a long time ago, likely on one of those History Channel shows about ghosts and other such things. The story has always been fascinating, and being able to see it in person was too good to pass up. So, as soon as I picked up my rental car, the house was plugged into the GPS, and I was on my way.

The house began as an eight-room farmhouse, but from 1886-1922, it continually grew into the 24,000 sq. foot mansion it is today. There are several stories and legends surrounding the reasons for the odd nature of the house. These usually beginning with a story that Sarah Winchester visited a medium who had told her that she was being haunted by the ghosts of those who had been killed by Winchester rifles. As the story goes, the house was built in such a maze-like way so that it would confuse the ghosts who were haunting her.

The house is full of staircases to nowhere, doors opening to nothing, and what seem like secret passages to a "séance" room. Over time, it seems that a lot of things about the house have been embellished to a great degree, likely by the tour guides of the house itself. Many of these stories are likely not true, but they are pretty fun. I always like a good ghost story. One of the sillier parts of the tour was getting to use one of the staircases full of miniature steps. Due to a combo of Sarah's height of 4 feet, 10 inches, and some health problems, there is a staircase that winds back and forth, using 44 steps to only rise 10 feet. A great solution for someone in need of it, but for someone that doesn't, it's a bit funny to take so many steps to not really go very far.

I half-expected to see a ghost appear and start playing something, Haunted Mansion style.

Regardless of the stories, the house is impressive. Often times, it feels more like a movie set than a home. Having had the chance to take a tour of the house was a fun time, and one of those experiences I'm glad I didn't pass up.