After a brief hiatus, the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose will be opening a brand new haunted attraction this season: the Halloween Candlelight Tour. Using the 130-year-old Victorian mansion like never before, it promises to deliver some major thrills and spellbinding chills.
General Manager Walter Magnuson and Director of Marketing Tim O’Day started the presentation off with a brief history of the Winchester house. The story of William and Sarah Winchester is a tragic gothic love story: carrying the burden of 9-day-old daughter Annie dying suddenly, as well as William’s death from tuberculosis at the age of 44, Sarah retreated into the safety of her home, continuing to build and add on to the original farmhouse every single day for the rest of her life. As there are no blueprints for the house, creating the Halloween event had unique challenges.
In 1906, the infamous San Francisco earthquake reached all the way down the coast and collapsed part of the house. The front of the house was once seven stories tall, but was rebuilt as only four stories, and then closed off. Sarah saw this as a bad omen and began adding to the rear of the house; the front area was left alone until the day she died. As per Sarah’s wishes, the new rooms on the back were built, but never completely finished.
Harry Houdini himself visited the house in 1922 and was the person to give it the moniker “The Mystery House.” Even though he was on a “spiritualism debunking tour” at the time, he stated that the house and the people that he met there showed “no deception” in their stories and experiences. Psychic James Van Praagh offered a special videotaped greeting to the audience, as did ghost adventurer Zak Bagans.
Tim and Walter then introduced Creative Director Peter Overstreet, who began by relating a recent story about working at the Winchester House and accidentally cutting into his thumb, splattering blood all over a Ouija board. Great way to set the mood (full disclosure: Peter Overstreet has been one of my closest friends for years).
Peter also told us a creepy story that served as a nice introduction to the type of event this will be. He told of visiting the house and seeing a hand up against the glass. Others who were with him also saw the hand, and when he walked around to the other side of the window, he could still see it.
According to these three, the Halloween Candlelight Tours will not be your average familiar haunt with zombies and clowns and chainsaw-wielding maniacs. Those types of scares definitely have their place in other haunts, but at Winchester they want you to feel like you are walking through an actual haunted house: spirit voices that whisper to you, cold wind grazing your neck, figures you glimpse out of the corner of your eye that disappear quickly, all by the light of a single flickering candle.
If you have taken the daytime tour, you’re in for a twist: these Halloween tours will take a different route than the day, and it will include rare rooms not usually seen during the day. One of the new characters created for this event is Adam Coons, a suspicious spiritualist who wished to take advantage of Sarah Winchester, but instead turned himself into a “black hole of spirits” and is trapped at the house forever.
One final little tidbit of terror that was up their collective sleeves: the Skeleton Key Club, which will allow you to take an unlimited number of tours for 12 months, explore more of the house and be able to access places others can’t see, like the witches cap, the attic, the elevator shaft, and the sewing room.
The Halloween Candlelight Tours will take place for just 10 days in October, and tickets go on sale October 2. Get yours as soon as possible!