Ornate and Ominous, the Winchester Mystery House has stood as an edifice to one woman’s eccentricities and superstitions for over 100 years. Every 13th day of the month brings with it the reverence and solemnity, referencing Sarah Winchester’s particular fondness for this oft-misunderstood number. Of course, when Halloween rolls around, things really kick into high gear. The relatively new management at this historical site has done well to mark Hallowe’en with entertainment offerings that have gotten better each year. This year is no exception as Creative Director Pete Overstreet has developed something totally new for fans of the macabre.
The 13th Door
This all-new theme to the already creepy Nighttime Candlelight Tours invites Hallowe’en visitors to explore a “newly discovered” legend. The 13th Door tells the tale of 13 doors that have been returned to the mansion after years of being lost to collectors around the world. As the story goes, Sarah held a deep, dark secret. When each of these very different doors was opened in a particular order, it was said that one could finally cross over into the spirit realm. Of course, being a Hallowe’en event, we as the intrepid visitors, are guided along the dark corridors led by one of the service staff in order to explore this tale. The results are a macabre, spooky time for the whole family.
The experience begins as many often do at Winchester; In the courtyard. Guided into the foyer just off of the reception area. A matronly maid holding a singular candle cheerily tells us to silence all cell phones and to keep our mouths closed and our eyes and ears open. “You never know what you might see when the spirits are restless.” She quips. Wait, did she also just mention casually that she herself was a ghost? Hmmm, Must have imagined that part.
The tour winds along the familiar path taken by regular candlelight tours, yet things are spookier. Along the route, we encounter increasingly strange events at doors that have been returned to the mansion. This being a Hallowe’en event, caution is thrown to the wind and we decide to provoke each door that we come to. Yay us! The experience lasts a solid 50 minutes and gives us, not just an intimate glimpse inside one of the worlds most haunted locations, but we get a fun ghost story along the way with a few fun surprises.
I have to hand it to Mr Overstreet and his team of creatives behind this new incarnation of the Hallowe’en Candlelight tour. They aim for the classy, spooky scare with a few tricks up their sleeves and it works. The mix of tongue-in-cheek humor and legend plays nicely, blurring the line between what we should believe and what we just want to go along with.
Of course, if you are focused simply on the tour in front of you, you would miss all of the other little touches that have been peppered throughout the route of the tour. Linger long enough and you may catch a glimpse of a ghost floating in a window, or you may hear footsteps from the attic. The illusion of activity and, for lack of a better word, life within this seemingly morbid house is palpable. It adds a creepy yet hospitable feel to this seemingly indecipherable tangle of passageways.
It’s not a spoiler to disclose that yes, we all get out alive, but not until we encounter a few beings from the other side. One thing that I must bring up is a remarkable collection of talent that the Winchester has been able to amass. Each of the actors was wonderful, hitting the perfect mix of humor and chills. Everyone seemed not only comfortable but relaxed and engaged with the sometimes unwieldy groups funneling through. This takes talent and they have it.
That is of course not to exclude the wonderful new addition to the overall event, Mystic Midway. Scott Levkoff and his band of gypsies, psychics, and magicians, have collected in the Winchester Courtyard and the paths nearby to create this new zone of spooky fun. My only complaint? It’s small. We need more. Winchester? Please?
The Verdict; The Winchester continues to maintain its niche as the classy, family-oriented place that Nor Cal peeps can go and get a good scare. I would really like to see them attempt a few more walkthroughs outside of the mansion, telling various stories on the grounds. They should keep it all period specific of course, but expand the brand.
Keep going Winchester, you are doing great stuff!
Brave souls can experience Halloween by candlelight at Winchester Mystery House
during 26 dark nights only in September and October 2018:
September: 14, 15, 21, 22, 28, 29 (Prices range from $16.00 to $42.95)
October: 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31
(Prices range from $20.00 to $49.00)