Winchester Mystery House, San Jose, CA
Happy #WinchesterWednesday, folks! We continue our little NorCal tour with a return to our favorite zany ghost house and the first of a two-part look at Llanada Villa during the autumn season. You may recall that we visited the fabled house of Sarah Winchester a few months ago, right after they had launched their new Explore More Tour--the first two house tour in decades. Well the house takes on a different flair during fall, which, frankly, is rather fitting, given the estate's notorious association with ghostly phenomena over the year. Today looks at the Winchester Mystery House by day, with a very cute October overlay, and follows along the regular daytime Mansion Tour and Explore More Tour. All of this sets the stage for a very atmospheric nighttime Halloween event that you'll have to check back to see...
We were on hand last Friday to witness a rare event at Winchester: The Friday the 13th Bell Ringing. Sarah Winchester was obsessed with the number 13 and used it throughout her ever-growing house, from the number of ceiling panels in certain rooms to jewels in windows to hooks in closets and more. In honor of that tradition, the Winchester Mystery House marks every Friday the 13th by ringing its bell 13 times at 1:00pm--or 13:00 by military time.
Being that this Friday the 13th happened to fall on Halloween month, the mood was especially spooky, and house was lovingly decorated to reflect this!
The Mansion Tour
The Mansion Tour is the long-running regular tour the house has offered for many, many years. It takes guests through dozens of rooms and tells the story of Sarah Winchester and her fateful life. This is a fun and fanciful hour through the house, past its many, quirky features ranging from doors and stairs to nowhere to closets opening into walls and unfinished rooms mysteriously abandoned. The journey even ventures onto the roof outside, where guests can have an elevated view of the turrets and mansion grounds, before returning back inside.
The tour is great for a general overview of what Sarah Winchester and her infamous house are all about. The only criticism lies in the inconsistency of the tour guides, who might provide a perfectly ordinary relay of information and knowledge, or they might draw guests deeper into the myths and enhance their experience with their tone and and enthusiasm. It's a bit like the Jungle Cruise--totally fine with a regular guide, but remarkably better with a very good guide. But given the house's macabre background, we would have preferred that all guides bring a bit more gravitas to the tour, rather than only some of them.
The Explore More Tour
Guests who want a little more Winchester can opt to purchase the Explore More, which is really a combination of the regular Mansion Tour plus this new second tour that takes guests into additional rooms in the house and through spaces never previously open to the public. The Explore More Tour covers a large extent of the house, from the attic all the way down to the basement. It also sheds more stories and insight into Sarah's life, and it event allows guests to enter through the front door--something that visitors were never able to do in Sarah Winchester's lifetime!
Similar to the Mansion Tour, the guide can greatly enhance the tour or simply provide a normal experience. Given the added revelation of mystery implicated in the promotion of this tour, we would have liked to have seen more character thrown into the spiels and tidbits, and again, although our guide wasn't bad in any way, we did feel that there were some lost opportunities to enhance the tone and ambiance of the tour. Nevertheless, the Explore More is an exceptionally cool way to further explore the Winchester Mystery House and definitely well worth the expenditure. Those who are fascinated with this house definitely should not miss this tour!
That's our relatively quick autumn look at the Winchester Mystery House, but as you might have guessed, this update is only the appetizer to our upcoming main course: an in-depth look at Winchester's Hallowe'en Candlelight Tour for this year. We went through that fantastic production on Friday night as well, and all I can say for now is that it is a very, very well done experience that any Bay Area Halloween fan would be fortunate to experience. Judging from the crowds it's been attracting, I don't think our positive glow is unique either. If you're in San Jose or the surrounding area, go check out the Winchester Mystery House today! ...Or if that's utterly unrealistic, soon!
WINCHESTER MYSTERY HOUSE AT A GLANCE
Name: Winchester Mystery House
Address: 525 S Winchester Blvd, San Jose, CA 95128
Web Site: http://www.winchestermysteryhouse.com/
Admission: $20.00 - $47.00 depending on tour and day/time, seasonal events vary
Hours: Memorial Day to Labor Day - 9AM-7PM, Labor Day to Memorial Day - 9AM-5PM, Closed Christmas Day
Metro Stop(s): N/A
Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.