The Winchester Mystery House just south of San Jose, California, has been a popular and spooky tourist attraction since it opened to the public in 1923. By now the story is familiar to the thousands of visitors who experience the otherworldly thrill of exploring its labyrinthine halls, staircases that bizarrely lead to nowhere, hidden compartments, and, of course, a closed chamber in the middle of the sprawling mansion that is billed as the “Séance Room.”

Some guides report that after dark, long after closing time, they have heard eerie footsteps approaching down the Victorian mansion’s countless hallways and disembodied voices whispering unrecognizable names.

But the spirits, the curse, and never-ending hauntings of the famous mansion are all part of a carefully constructed, money-making tall-tale. But that is not to say that the Winchester Mystery House has no historical value. Its existence as a tourist attraction was a brilliant stroke of imagination and public promotion. In fact, this is the story of how the Winchester Mystery House became the model for haunted houses at amusement parks and Halloween fright houses all over the United States.

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