The Winchester Mystery House is jumping on its centenary as a tourist attraction with multiple events planned to celebrate the occasion. The San Jose estate officially opened for public tours on June 30, 1923.
Prior to this, the mansion and gardens were owned and occupied by Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester Repeating Arms fortune. Winchester died on September 5, 1922, and a celebration of her life is scheduled for the same date 100 years later, when guests are encouraged to leave flowers, cards, photos and keepsakes in the front gardens.
While Winchester’s affinity for seances may have been exaggerated over the years, visitors to his home will have the chance on September 5 to connect with his spirit and those of others at animated “Beyond the Veil”. by medium James Van Praagh. During visits at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., Van Praagh will walk through the house with 25 guests and attempt to make contact with the other side. Tickets are $250 at winchestermysteryhouse.com.
Visitors to the Winchester Mystery House last had the opportunity to become “Unhinged” in 2019. The popular immersive Halloween spectacle returns this fall with “Unhinged: Nightshade’s Curse,” billed as a real-life paranormal thriller. Visitors can take several routes through the mansion as guests of Madame Nightshade, owner of a small traveling carnival and self-proclaimed investigator of supernatural phenomena.
Before entering the lair, you can enjoy a variety of activities, including Madame Nightshade’s Spirit Carnival and the Spookeasy Bar.
Rumor has it that Madame Nightshade has convinced the owners of the Winchester Estate to hold her show for 13 select nights from Friday 30 September to Monday 31 October. General admission tickets start at $64.99 at winchesterunhinged.com.
As “Nightmare Before Christmas” proved, adding a little Halloween can make the holidays more interesting. The folks at the Winchester Mystery House seem to agree, as they’re hosting the Menagerie’s fourth annual Holiday Oddities Market on December 3-4, with vendors selling everything from taxidermy to dark art. Shoppers can take self-guided tours of the mansion before or after the market. Tickets will be available from October 31 on winchestermysteryhouse.com.
walk with the spirits
Alongside the centenary celebration, the Winchester Mystery House is already allowing visitors to “walk with the spirits” in a new interactive tour experience focusing on spiritualism and the paranormal.
The tour begins with a Victorian vigil in the front drawing room, where a guide will explain the most gruesome traditions of death and mourning in the 19th century.
Guests will then proceed to the upper floors of the mansion, where they will hear about spiritualists actively practicing in the Santa Clara Valley in the late 1880s and experience a Victorian seance. They will also be privy to the stories of supernatural and spiritual phenomena that guests and employees of Winchester Mystery House have recorded over the years. The tour ends in the basement, where guests can have their own supernatural experiences.
For tickets to “Walk with Spirits,” visit winchestermysteryhouse.com.
For the centenary next June, Winchester Mystery House will unveil an exhibit that explores the attraction’s effect on pop culture, with original marketing materials, photos and never-before-seen artifacts curated by the estate historian. Race dates and tickets will be announced later.