Having gone to the Winchester Mystery House for a dark-of-night flashlight tour in my early 20s, I thought I knew what to expect when walking onto the estate where the uber-haunted Winchester Mystery House calls home. To my genuine delight, they’ve made some changes to the nighttime tour since my last visit, and what I thought would be just a regular walk-through of the Mystery House by candlelight turned out to be a well-orchestrated haunted house.
My companion in tourdom and I arrived just before our group departure time, arming ourselves with a pre-tour $20 margarita (at least it came with a commemorative cup!), and milled around looking at the spooky set-up Winchester had for us:
As the tour began, it became clear to us that we weren’t going to be embarking on any ordinary walk-through. In a somber, flat tone, our assigned caretaker told us about the (apparently burdensome) $20 million dollar fortune Sarah Winchester inherited after her husband passed away. It was with these funds that she built the Mystery House, which as most people know includes several doors to nowhere, windows in the floor, and strange staircases that take you through the mansion. That’s where my familiarity with the subject matter abruptly ended, and our hollow-voiced caretaker informed us that the estate recently acquired thirteen doors called the Asher Collection. Named for a collector hired by Mrs. Winchester to procure for her said doors, they were said to allow you to perform some kind of occult ritual within the house if walked through in a particular order. Presumably, this was what we were about to do.
Thus, the stage was set, and we were on our way through the darkened hallways of the house. Unfortunately my phone was swatted away, but I did manage to grab a shot of an eerie hallway that really encapsulates the overall mood of the tour:
As we continued through the house to view all thirteen doors, it would appear that the “spirits” within the home were roused by our presence. Around many corners and in most rooms, we were greeted by the visages of presumably long-dead staff, phantom whispers and knocks, and drawers that seemingly pushed open on their own — among other spoops. Some of the scares were easier to anticipate, but there were a few moments where I was genuinely caught off guard.
Though the scripted part of the tour was very fun, I’d be remiss if I didn’t reveal that some very curious things really did happen to us while we were there. The first of which could have been my eyes playing tricks on me, or just a well-choreographed move by the cast: Upon entering a room where to the left of us there was a gaggle of ferns, I swear I saw an old-timey butler standing amongst the plants with his hands folded in front of him, staring forward at the tour. I remember looking ahead to see if anyone else had seen him, but when I looked back no one was there.
The second thing that happened I can’t quite chock up to the cast happened while our tour was departing from the kitchen on the ground floor of the house into the room that held Sarah Winchester’s coffin. At this point, I’d gotten used to actors trailing behind us spooking the latter half of the tour, and I had taken to peering back into the dark to see if I could spot anyone making their move. So when my friend bristled suddenly and turned to ask me if I’d run my fingers through his hair, the couple standing next to us jaws collectively dropped — I’d been turned around and looking into the dark kitchen area behind us up until he turned around. He asked me again if I’d touched his hair and I swore to him that I hadn’t, just as ahead of us on the tour the lid to Lady Winchester’s coffin dropped closed right on cue. For the rest of the tour, my friend would occasionally rub the back of his neck and look around at the air, curiously.
Real phenomena or simply imagined, I highly recommend attending the Candlelight tour at the Winchester Mystery House. The house’s staff ensured that the tour was incredibly fun by developing a coherent storyline built on the lore of the house and executing it semi-flawlessly. I’d say seasoned haunters looking for a serious scares should look elsewhere, but if you’re looking for something spooky to go to that’s still suitable for kids, look no further than the Winchester Mystery House Candlelight Tour! Tickets for this tour are still available for most nights between now and Halloween at: https://winchestermysteryhouse.com/buy-tickets/.