Winchester Mystery House celebrates 100 years as tourist attraction

The Winchester Mystery House is getting a jump on its centennial as a tourist attraction with multiple events planned to celebrate the occasion. The San Jose estate officially opened its doors for public tours on June 30, 1923.

Before then, the mansion and gardens were owned and occupied by Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester Repeating Arms fortune. Winchester died on Sept. 5, 1922, and a celebration of her life is planned for that same date 100 years later, when guests are encouraged to leave flowers, cards, photos and mementos in the front gardens.

While Winchester’s affinity for seances may have been exaggerated over the years, visitors to her home will have the chance Sept. 5 to connect with her spirit and those of others at “Beyond the Veil,” hosted by psychic medium James Van Praagh. On tours 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 show returns this fall with “Unhinged: Nightshade’s Curse,” billed as a real-life paranormal thriller. Visitors can take multiple 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 haunt, guests 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 set up her show for 13 select evenings from Friday, Sept, 30, through Monday, Oct. 31. General admission tickets start at $64.99 at winchesterunhinged.com.

As “Nightmare Before Christmas” proved, adding a little Halloween can make the holly-jolly holiday more interesting. The folks at the Winchester Mystery House seem to agree, as they’re hosting the fourth annual Menagerie Holiday Oddities Market Dec. 3-4, featuring 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 starting—appropriately enough–on Oct. 31 at winchestermysteryhouse.com.

Walk with Spirits

In conjunction with the Centennial celebration, Winchester Mystery House is already letting visitors “Walk with Spirits” on a new interactive tour experience focused on spiritualism and paranormal.

The tour starts with a Victorian wake in the front parlor, where a guide will explain the more macabre traditions of death and mourning in the 19th century.

Guests will then proceed to the upper floors of the mansion, where they hear about actively practicing spiritualists in the Santa Clara Valley during the late 1880s and experience a Victorian séance. They’ll also be privy to tales of supernatural and spiritual phenomenon that Winchester Mystery House guests and employees have recorded over the years. The tour ends in the basement, where guests may have their own supernatural experiences.

For tickets to “Walk with Spirits,” visit winchestermysteryhouse.com.

For the actual centennial next June, Winchester Mystery House will unveil an exhibit that explores the attraction’s effect on pop culture, featuring original marketing materials, photos and never-before-seen artifacts curated by the estate’s historian. Run dates and tickets will be announced at a later date.

Contributed by local news sources

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