Last year the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA premiered a new candlelight tour for Halloween (link), and MiceChat returned to take a look at this year’s version of the tour. But our visit wasn’t just on any night, it was on Friday the 13th. Let’s take a look at this spooky spectacular . . .
Sarah Winchester believed 13 was a Lucky number. No Hidden Mickeys? No problem; there are hidden 13s. In fact, there is a special nighttime flashlight tour anytime Friday the 13th occurs, unless it is in October, then it is still the candlelight tour except after C, and this is getting confusing, so why don’t we let General Manager Walter Magnuson sort this out a bit before we go any further.
(I can offer no explanation for the weird audio sync; blaming the house, moving along.)
I arrived at the house midday because of a tradition involving Friday the 13th; it is the only day that the bell in the tower topping it all is rung.
The duties would be handled by San Francisco 49ers mascot Sourdough Sam (I guess local heartthrob SJ Sharky was busy helping the team work on their penalty kill). Now don’t let Sam’s permanent creepy smile put you off, it’s actually an appropriate complement to the permanent creepy house.
At 1PM, the 13th hour if the day, Sam rang the bell 13 times, more or less. There’s only one place to view the tower, Sam was out of sight, but here’s a clip for those that have never heard a bell.
Got some time to kill, gonna head out for lunch, but let’s take a quick walk around the grounds to check out the decor first.
Finally, the sun, orange from the fires, dropped towards the horizon. The first candlelight tour begins at 6:30, and once again the bell was rung. There was actually a bigger crowd on hand due to the long sold-out tours for this evening. We spoke to Walter in the recently rehabbed private dining room of Sarah Winchester, which will soon be available to be used for private functions.
The appointed time arrived and our group assembled to meet our guide (er caretaker) for the journey ahead.
The resemblance of last year’s tour was almost nonexistent. We noticed the changes right from the start. Sarah Winchester had an affinity for stained glass, and several examples are on display in the first room of the tour. Last year it was that, and nothing more. I didn’t even use any of my photos from that room.
But, this year. . .
Yeah, I know, right? In a prime example of what goes around coming around, the house has gone from a spot visited by Imagineer Ken Anderson in the 50s while the Disneyland Haunted Mansion was in an embryonic stage (How much inspiration? Look at the ballroom.
Now the Mystery House is borrowing a bit from the Haunted Mansion perhaps. The first year’s random assortment of ghost stories is now a narrative across the entire experience, centering around that shady character in the photo above, Adam Coombs. Coombs is, depending upon who you ask, a psychic, medium, shyster, con artist; lots of labels, few of them good. It would be simply dreadful if his spirit were to be released into the mansion. Now that would be a problem to solve. Along the way there would probably be many characters encountered. I’d bet one might pass tableaus, hear sounds from unseen sources, notice people that exist without comment from the caretaker, experience effects both subtle and obvious, all with more of a, dare I say it, air of foreboding as opposed to a sense of unbridled terror. Your humble narrator may even go so far as to speculate that there may be excellent effects that aren’t even noticed by half of the guests passing through. In the interest of keeping the mood consistent, many of the photos that follow were exposed with a shutter speed of 1/13 second.
Before exiting the house we passed a small installation of costumes from the upcoming film Winchester: The House That Ghosts Built starring Helen Mirren as Sarah – scheduled for release February 2, 2018.
Candlelight Tours of the Winchester Mystery House continue through Halloween Night. More information about the tour and tickets can be found HERE – Winchester Halloween Candlelight Tours.
There are two months in 2018 with a Friday the 13th, April and July. Information about the nighttime flashlight tour can be found HERE – Winchester Flashlight Tour
The leaves are dropping, the air is cooling. Soon the scent of peppermint and pine will fill the air, water will be frozen, colorful lights will twinkle, and I’m sure it will be all festive fun, but that will have to wait for our next Day by The Bay.