For someone who liked comfort enough to invent the remote control, John Hays Hammond, Jr. decided to live extravagantly in a medieval-style castle built in 1929. The home became an elaborate enough setting to house his rare collection of Roman, medieval and Renaissance artifacts.
Now available for group tours, the Hammond Castle Museum focuses on both the eccentric life of inventor Hammond who produced over 400 patents and ideas for over 800 inventions. Only Thomas Edison claimed more patents than Hammond in America, making Hammond one of the country’s most prestigious inventors of our history.
Known as the “Father of the Remote Control” for the development of the remote control using radio waves, Hammond housed the Hammond Research Corporation inside the castles. Tours of the castle spotlight the inventions room where the corporation worked, the library, the War room, the Renaissance dining room, the decadent Great Hall and many other rooms.
Groups can also view the castles’ well-kept grounds along the rocky Atlantic shore and a secret passageway used by Hammond in the castle. Priceless artifacts from around the world also make the tour a museum-level educational experience.
Both self-guided and guided tours start with a recent video about Hammond’s life, inventions and amazing home.
Winchester Mystery House
San Jose, Calif.
Unlimited superstition plus unlimited funds created the sprawling Winchester Mystery House built by the heir of the Winchester rifle, Sarah Winchester. Turrets, towers and balconies throughout the exterior of the Queen Anne Victorian mansion casts a very castle-like appearance to the building.
The inside of the 24,000-square-foot house is much more peculiar with miles of twisting hallways, secrets passageways and traps like stairs leading nowhere and doors opening to walls, which were meant to confuse any unwanted spirits from finding Mrs. Winchester. Intriguing stories from the former mistress and her commonplace séances paint a very strange picture of the reclusive figure.
Because of her fear of being chased by unwanted ghosts, she kept the house under constant construction for 38 years until her death in 1922. Guides giving tours of the house warn visitors not to stray from the group as they could be lost in the maze-like mansion for hours.
Part of the difficulty navigating the house comes from the fact that there were no master plans, since Mrs. Winchester would present new additions to the mansion periodically. Many believe that she was convinced the spirits of those shot by Winchester rifles would come after her as they had her relatives if she stopped building the mansion.
Tours of the home point out the architectural and design oddities caused by Mrs. Winchester’s belief in the paranormal, as well as some of the more luxurious items, such as precious woods, gold plated chandeliers and imported Tiffany art glass windows.
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