The Winchester Mystery House

Have you ever dreamed of a house filled with mysterious secret passages, doors to other worlds, ghosts, and a history that is almost beyond belief? Do you wish there was a place with sprawling gardens, gorgeous arches, and more rooms than you could shake a stick at? Wish no longer, this magical house on the edge of reality exists, and you can visit it any time you want!

The house, of course, is the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California.

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An aerial view – we didn’t take this picture

There is nothing like this incredible mansion anywhere else in the world, and has something for everyone. The Duo has dreamed of visiting the house for as long as we could remember, so when we were gifted a year long Skeleton Key Club membership, we jumped right out of our skins! Not literally, of course, skin sort of jumps with you, but you get the idea. We couldn’t wait to get to San Jose to see the house in person, and who better to go with us than AwesomeSauce members, The Doctors of Awesome! The Doctors Awesome are our Brother-From-Another-Mother The Quiz Doctor, and his amazing and brilliant wife, The Brain Doctor. We headed out from our HQ to the Mystery House.

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Not the graves of the family. These are graves of guard dogs that lived on the grounds

The Winchester Mystery House was built by Sarah Winchester, wife of the Winchester Rifle heir, “William Wirt Winchester, son of Oliver Fisher Winchester, Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut and manufacturer of the famous Winchester repeating rifle.” – http://winchestermysteryhouse.com/sarahwinchester.cfm. After the death of her husband, and their small baby, Sarah did what any rational woman would do, she consulted a medium in an attempt to contact the love of her life. She, however, received a very different message. The medium told her to head west, ALL THE WAY West, and start building a house, and never, ever stop. The house was to appease, and perhaps trap, the ghosts of those killed by the Winchester rifles, and construction was to continue 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, forever. If construction ever stopped, Sarah would suffer and die. Being a woman of INCREDIBLE means, 2,777 shares in the Winchester company, and a thriving fruit business, Sarah was bringing in $1,000 a day, with no taxes. $1,000 A DAY. That is a ton of money now, imagine what that was in the 1800’s! Or, plug it into an inflation calculator, like we did, and it comes to roughly $24,000. $24,000 a day.

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With her incredible daily income, Sarah moved from Boston to San Jose, bought a tiny unfinished farm house, and started building. Not only did she hire workers for her ethereal project, she housed them and fed them, and paid them twice what the going rate was. If they didn’t want to live on the property, she would buy them housing in the nearby town. So, free room and board, plus twice the daily rate of pay, it is no wonder she was well liked by her staff – so well liked it is said that some of them remain on the property to this day, working and tending the garden. Construction proceeded as instructed by the medium, and even the ghosts themselves told Sarah how to proceed, through seances and spirit boards. One of the rooms constructed was dedicated to communication with the ghosts, and is one of the most interesting rooms in the house – with an entrance, but no exit. That isn’t a riddle, the door you enter from you cannot leave through, as it only opens one way and locks behind you. You have to leave through one of a few secret passages in the walls, this was to keep Sarah from being followed by the spirits, confusing them so that they couldn’t track her down in the house. This is just one of many secrets in the house.

So far the current caretakers of the house have found 160 rooms. We say so far, because there are rumors that there are more, yet undiscovered rooms in the house. “At the time of her death, the unrelenting construction had rambled over six acres. The Sprawling mansion contained 160 rooms, 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, 47 stairways, 47 fireplaces, 13 bathrooms, and 6 kitchens. Carpenters even left nails half driven when they learned of Mrs. Winchester’s death.”-http://www.winchestermysteryhouse.com/sarahwinchester.cfm As far as they know so far, that is. Construction halted after Sarah passed away in her sleep on September 5, 1922, and it wasn’t until 1973 that construction started again. The house is now on the National Register of Historic Places, and every day there is construction and repair happening on the house. The house requires 20,000 gallons of paint to cover the exterior, and as soon as painters have finished, they have to start from the beginning again! 

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Even now the work never stops

The house is open daily for tours, and they often have special tours available, like haunted candlelit tours in the dark, or the Spirit of the Holidays during the winter. We couldn’t WAIT to get inside, and with our fancy Skeleton Key Club Membership, we get to tour the house for free! So of course we took the deluxe tour, featuring inside and outside tours. We brought The Doctors, getting them discounted tickets with our membership, which is awesome, and we headed into the sprawling Queen Ann Victorian mansion built for ghosts. 1853.jpg

We grabbed our tickets and met in the courtyard next to the little cafe. Yes, you can come, sit, and spend a day at the Mystery House without taking a tour, if you felt so inclined. If our HQ was closer, we would be there right now! We met our tour guide, and proceeded into the house. We would love to share with you pictures we took from inside the property, but there is currently a movie being made about the house, and photos of the interior are proprietary. We aren’t even sure we are allowed to tell you how incredible it was, but we will do our best. The House lives up to all the hype, being grand, gorgeous, and mysterious.

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The Red Umbrella for House Tours

We were treated to sights of staircases the ended in the ceiling, a staircase leading down that ended in a staircase leading up again, doors to windows, windows to doors, and doors leading to oblivion. One door on the second (or was it the third? Fourth?) floor leads you to outside, with no landing, just a nasty drop to your demise, or a bad owwie at the very least. Don’t worry, you can’t accidentally step out the door, it is clearly marked now. The house was ahead of it’s time in many ways, with indoor plumbing, hot water, and electricity. One of the first rooms on our tour was a huge bathroom and shower, luxurious by today’s standards and mind boggling for the 1800’s. The bathroom, one of 13, has 13 sinkholes in the sink…just one of the many times the number 13 sneaks it’s way into the house. 1857.jpg1858

Remember when we mentioned that Sarah continued to commune with the dead, getting advice on how to proceed with the construction? One of the rooms on our tour was this small room, with the story that “When Mrs. Winchester set out for her Séance Room, it might well have discouraged the ghost of the Indian or even of a bloodhound, to follow her. After traversing an interminable labyrinth of rooms and hallways, suddenly she would push a button, a panel would fly back and she would step quickly from one apartment into another, and unless the pursuing ghost was watchful and quick, he would lose her. Then she opened a window in that apartment and climbed out, not into the open air, but onto the top of a flight of steps that took her down one story only to meet another flight that brought her right back up to the same level again, all inside the house. This was supposed to be very discomforting to evil spirits who are said to be naturally suspicious of traps.” We entered the room through the entrance with no exit, and left through one of the secret passages, whether or not we were followed is still a mystery. 1860

On the second part of our tour we were shown the grounds, and learned more about the practical side of the house. During her time there, Sarah had sprawling orchards of plums, walnuts, and apricots. She ran a successful fruit business, only adding to her bajillion dollars from the Winchester shares. The gardens are incredible, with four fountains, and some of the most beautiful roses in the world. Trees from all over the globe, and Mrs. Winchester’s favorite, daisies. The grounds boast 13 palm trees lining the old driveway to the carriage house and car garage. Sarah Winchester was one of the first people in San Jose to have a car, and a photo of her in the car is one of only two pictures with the heiress.

Our tour guides through the house and the grounds were remarkable! They could answer any questions, had a vast knowledge of the house and history, and were truly in love with their jobs. It was wonderful to see the caring that the guides showed, still in awe of this remarkable house and gardens. It’s hard not to be in awe of such a grand haunted estate with such a rich history.

Adventure Pro Tips:

  1. Be sure to check ahead of time to verify hours and tour times. As of this writing, tickets could be purchased online 24 hours in advance, and at the box office day of.
  2. We STRONGLY recommend the Grand Estate tour, touring the mansion and the gardens. This tour, however, is roughly 2 hours long. While well worth it, it is best to plan ahead. Wear comfortable shoes, and be ready for some walking! If you don’t want to do the walking tour, there is an audio tour. Children 5 and Under are not allowed behind the scenes for safety reasons.
  3. There is, of course, a gift shop! In the gift shop there is not one, not two, but three penny squish machines! If you want a great souvenir that only costs .51 cents, be sure to bring some change and squish a penny! Squished pennies are a fun keepsake, and most places have at least one squisher.
  4. Have fun! This is the only house like this in the world!

AwesomeSauce Rating:

SOLID 4 of a Kind (Quads). This is an exceptional tour, and well worth the drive, and the dollars. It can be a little steep if you are not a member, and not everyone enjoys walking through history for two hours. We loved it, and we are sure you will, too.

 

Want to learn more? Check out:

WinchesterMysteryHouse.com

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winchester_Mystery_House

 

MidSummer Scream!

Groupon may be one of the best tools in any travelers arsenal. Not only can you find amazing deals on just about everything, you can also find tickets to events and attractions you might not have otherwise known about!

One night we were chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool, when we started cruising Groupon for something to do…

That’s when we saw it. A MidSummer Scream! A convention for horror, Halloween, and everything in between. Ghosts! Horror movies! Haunted Houses! REAL Haunted Houses! ALL HALLOWEEN ALL THE TIME! So, of course we had to go to that! 20160731_124420

We opted to go on the final day (remember, the final day of a convention or show is the best day, you get the best deals!), for the deals, and for the panel discussions. We were able to find a schedule online, and saw that one of discussions was going to be about the Winchester Mystery House! Saucy G has ALWAYS wanted to go there, hearing legends of it from her parents, and Awesome K had always wanted to go. He spent a lot of time in that area growing up, but never made it to the house. winchestermysteryhouse1

HOLY CRAZY PANEL, BATMAN! That discussion was AMAZING! We got to see pictures that no one else has seen, we learned the history of the house, and Sarah Winchester, AND we got some super sweet insider info! We learned about a few psychics who have come through the house, a couple of ghost hunters and their adventures, and we got to hear about a particularly interesting seance that happened in the house recently, performed by James Van Praagh! The best part was at the end, everyone who attended the panel was gifted a YEAR LONG MEMBERSHIP to the new Skeleton Key Club!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Yes, ALL the exclamation points are needed). Now the Duo can go to the Winchester Mystery House ALL THE  TIME! FOR FREE! Plus discounts on the gift shop (which is, of course, filled with all sorts of fun stuff), as well as discounts on tickets for friends! So, if you want to go to the coolest house ever built AND have an adventure with the DUO, now you can! 20160731_182351

After the panel, at the Winchester Mystery House booth, they were selling shadow boxes that contained actual relics from the house! The only had a few, and they were WAY out of our budget, but they were incredible! One in particular had blue tile, some crown molding, and a piece of wallpaper, all original from the House, for around $400. Saucy G may kick herself for the rest of forever for not getting that. Such a gorgeous box, an amazing bit of history, and it might even be haunted! If you happen across a this shadow box, let Saucy G know, she might be able to scrape up some cash. Or trade you. Or beg and cry at you. That sounds fun, right?

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You can almost see a corner of one of the Shadow Boxes. *sigh*

After enjoying our incredible panel, we hit the floor at the Midsummer Scream!

The entire show floor was covered in a fog. Screams echoed through the halls. A zombie shuffled by, a bag brimming with delights from the underworld. Slender Man stood tall and opposing, while a couple of rotting nurses took a selfie with him. It was perfect! The only way this event/day could get better would be haunted kittens.

This was the first annual event, so the show floor was not as jam packed as it could have been, but what was there was quality stuff. In addition to the Winchester Mystery House, there were several exhibitors and panels about haunted houses, make up artistry, and how to get into the horror business professionally. One entire section was made into a haunted house, but we might have been too scared to go in. From all the screaming, it seemed pretty awesome, though. There was an area where you could have Halloween effects and makeup done, which also looked AMAZING! A lot of booths were mini room escapes, promoting their larger attractions (like the game on your phone, but in real life. We NEED to do that one time).  There were also a lot of booths dedicated to paranormal investigations, a horror museum, a vlog about scary baking (which  we are following, because she is a delight), all sorts of cool and kooky things to purchase, and…..HAUNTED KITTENS! KITTENS!!!

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We didn’t take this picture – but these are the kittens!

Ok, so the kittens PROBABLY aren’t haunted, but as we all know, kittens and cats DO keep bad demons away from your house, so everyone should have at least two (for demon hunting, and to keep each other company). The actual booth was dedicated to cat and kitten adoption, and awareness of the perils of being a black cat*. Saucy G MIGHT have lost her mind a little bit, kittens and horror all mixed together like this. IT WAS EPIC! And this was just on SUNDAY! (This is also the reason there aren’t a lot of pictures taken by the duo. Too much awesome makes for a forgetful photographer).

We didn’t go Saturday, but we wish we could have (Long Beach was a little far from Altadena, AND we didn’t really know about it until it was too late to plan ahead)! On Saturday night there was a Halloween Ball, with only the greatest band of all time….OINGO BOINGO! OINGO….BOINGO!

All in all it was probably one of the coolest events we have ever been to, other than Nerd Mecca of course. Although it is definitely on par with Nerd Mecca…this had all horror all the time, goth makeup, and haunted kittens. It is really hard to top kittens. If you are in the Long Beach area, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for this screaming good time next summer! Don’t forget to check for discount tickets on Groupon! (This blog was not sponsored by Groupon, but if they do sponsorships, let us know).

AwesomeSauce Rating: Royal Flush. There were kittens! Horror icons! We won year long admission to the Winchester Mystery House! It does not get better than this, unless we went to the Fest for free. Or got paid. Seriously, this event was one of the best ever in the forever ever, and you NEED to check it out next time! We will be there!

Don’t live near Long Beach, but are dying for some devilish delights of your own? Fear not! Click HERE for a list of some horrifying haunts coming to your area!

 

*Black cats are the hardest to get adopted, due in part to the stigma and superstitions behind them.  During the month of October, it is especially dangerous to be a black cat, as they are often targeted for some nasty tricks. There doesn’t seem to be a concrete answer as to why they are less likely to be adopted.  In fact, in some cultures, black cats bring about the best of luck! groucho-cat