With its nearly endless rooms, spooky staircases and reportedly haunted history, San Jose's famed Winchester Mystery House is a place fairly crying out to star in a scary movie.

And if all goes well, next year it will do just that.

On Friday, executives with the Los Angeles-based entertainment firm Exclusive Media, along with the Winchester Mystery House, will announce an agreement to film a movie based on the unusual life of Sarah Winchester. The eccentric millionaire widow -- heir to the fortunes of the rifle-making Winchester Repeating Arms Co. -- started building her mansion in the late 1800s and kept going until her death in 1922, by which time the house had 160 rooms.

Some visitors to the West San Jose attraction, which is open to the public, have reported seeing unexplained sights, including the ghosts of people and animals, and hearing unexplained sounds.

Tobin Armbrust, president of worldwide production and acquisitions for Exclusive Media, said Thursday that he thinks he saw the ghost of a woman at the mansion during a trip there as a child, though that's not what's behind his desire to make this film.

"This is one of those great, untold stories. The history alone makes for great drama," he said, referring to the mystery of why Winchester was compelled to keep building her house ever larger. (Historical speculation says she feared she would die if she stopped.) "Her past is pretty amazing, and the more we dug into it, the more layers there were."

British film studio Hammer, an Exclusive Media subsidiary known for producing horror movies, has optioned the rights to produce the feature film about Winchester with two production companies, Imagination Design Works and Nine/8 Entertainment, Armbrust said. IDW's president, Brett Tomberlin, is also producer of the popular "Fright Nights" events at the Winchester Mystery House.

Hammer's most recent theatrical release was "The Woman In Black," released earlier this year and starring Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame. But its last-century products were best known for being slightly campy horror flicks.

Armbrust says the Winchester movie -- which as yet lacks a writer, script, director or actors -- will likely be suspenseful, not horrifying.

"If everything works out well, we'll be filming this movie at the beginning of next year," Armbrust said.

Stephanie Wiegold, senior vice president of operations for Winchester Mystery House, said the filming is among a host of new things happening at the rambling architectural curiosity in coming months, including a new wine-tasting bar and more special events.

The exposure from the film will be good for business, she said. "We're a worldwide attraction as it is but just that many more people are going to know about our estate."

Contact Sue McAllister at 408-920-5833. Follow her at www.twitter.com/suemcal.