We visited the Winchester Mystery House during a bright summer day, but we can’t imagine being in that house in the pitch black with nothing but a flashlight… If that sounds fun to you, October is your chance to make it happen!
Last July, Two Lane America finally toured a house we’ve been wanting to visit for years, the Winchester Mystery House. It was just as weird and eccentric and somewhat spooky as we’d hoped, but if you’re a little braver than us and really want a tour to remember, visit the spooky mansion in October for one of their special flashlight tours. (Cover photo via Facebook/Winchester Mystery House)
From the Winchester Mystery House:
Since her death, millions of people have visited her home and many report the sightings of ghosts. Was the house built solely as a monument to the dead or do the phantoms Sarah communed with in life, or perhaps Sarah herself, still lurk nightly in the maze-like corridors of the Winchester Mystery House?
Special 55 minute Flashlight Tours of the Winchester Mansion are given every Friday the 13th and on select evenings in October. You’ll tour the rambling, mysterious mansion at night with only the moonlight, a souvenir flashlight, and your imagination to provide illumination through the bewildering maze of rooms and stairways. But watch your back, Sarah could be waiting around any turn. This is one open house you’ll never forget.
With admission, also enjoy extra entertainment on the estate from awe-inspiring magicians, to balloon artists, to caricature illustrators! Entertainment varies per evening, all entertainment is included in the cost of your ticket – limited availability, first come, first served on items such as caricature art.
As you can imagine, the flashlight tours sell out quickly, so if you want an unforgettable night at one of the most bizarre homes in the United States, you better go ahead and book online.
If you’re a little too scared for the flashlight tours or aren’t able to visit during October, the daytime tours like we took are still plenty fascinating.
For those of you unfamiliar with the story of the Winchester Mystery House, oh man… You’re in for a treat, some fact, some conjecture, and a lot of mystery.
It all started when Sarah Lockwood Pardee, a well-to-do New England woman married William Wirt Winchester of the famed Winchester repeating rifle company. The marriage meant Sarah would become part of one of the wealthiest families in America thanks the success of the repeating rifle, the gun that “won the west.”
Sarah would soon come to believe, however, that “taming the west” had actually brought unthinkable sorrow to her family. Just 4 years after her marriage into the Winchester family, her infant daughter died of marasmus, sending Mrs. Winchester into a depression only compounded by her husband’s early death from tuberculosis 15 years later.
After the loss of her husband, legend says Sarah Winchester met with a medium in Boston who told her the Winchesters were being haunted by the spirits of those killed by Winchester rifles and the loss of her baby and spouse were caused by these spirits.
The solution for Mrs. Winchester? The medium stated if she moved out west and built a great big mansion for these spirits with construction never ceasing, they would let her live.
Having almost unlimited resources and an eccentric tenacity, Mrs. Winchester commenced to building what is now known as the Winchester Mystery House, just outside San Jose.
We’d heard about some of the home’s features like it’s stairs to the ceiling and doors to nowhere, but nothing quite prepares you for how remarkable this place really is.
Our tour guide told us all about the decades and decades of never-ceasing construction and how at the time of Mrs. Winchester’s death, the house had grown to over 6 acres with 13 bathrooms, 6 kitchens, and over 160 rooms with entire wings left unused or unfinished.
A focal point of the tour, we walked through her seance room where she was said to communicate with spirits each night. From the Winchester Mystery House:
At the very center of the house is the Blue Room, where Mrs. Winchester supposedly would go every night to commune with the spirits. This room consisted of a cabinet, a table with pen and papers, a closet, and a planchette board – used for transmitting messages from the beyond. Legend has it that she would wear one of 13 special colored robes and receive guidance from various spirits for her construction plans.
While in the room, our guide also told us of other “happenings” reported on the property like bell ringings to summon spirits at midnight and 2 am to other rumors of Mrs. Winchester’s odd behaviors like never sleeping in the same bedroom two nights in a row as to confuse the spirits and using multiple entrances and exits and even building a trap door in the “Blue Room.”
Then there were occurrences that defied explanation. Neighbors would hear a bell ring at midnight and 2 a.m., which according to ghost lore are the times for the arrival and departure of spirits. Some said that Mrs. Winchester never slept in the same bedroom two nights in a row, in order to confuse any evil spirits that might be waiting for her.
As our guide pointed out, it’s hard to separate fact from fiction with the mysteries surrounding Mrs. Winchester, but the house itself has made her a legend in American folklore.
The Winchester Mystery House remains a must-see for anyone interested in architecture, American legend and myth, ghosts, and even antique firearms.