My $40 Experience at The Winchester Mansion," Luis Briceno (2012)
The Bay Area is filled with many famous tourist places like the Haight, Angel Island, Monterey Bay, Alcatraz, Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, and Winchester Mystery House. When it comes to choosing one as a destination, one faces a difficult decision. It is ironic, but I live in the Bay Area, and I have never been to any of those destinations. Which destination was I going to choose? Should I do some research about these places? These were some of the thoughts that were going through my head while I was driving on freeway 880. All of a sudden, a miracle occurred. I saw a sign by the freeway.
That was a signal and the answer to my question. I was destined to visit the Winchester Mystery House and find out why this house is so famous.
The Winchester Mystery House is located in San Jose, California. But why is it called the Winchester Mystery House? Clearly, there is a reason behind it. So before my visit, I did a little research. I discovered that In the 1800s, there was a very wealthy family in New Heaven, Connecticut, that carried the Winchester last name. This family was very wealthy because they owed a company named Winchester Repeating Arms that produced the famous Winchester riffle among other weapons and firearms. This family had a son; he inherited the fortune when his parents passed away. This man married a woman named Sarah, and they formed a family when they had a baby, Annie, though sadly Annie died at a young age, and shortly after this event Sarah’s husband also passed away due to tuberculosis.
After these fatal events, Sarah started believing that she was cursed. As a result, she decided to go consult a medium. The medium told Sarah that she could communicate with her husband. She told Sara, "He says for me to tell you that there is a curse on your family, which took the life of d and your child. It will soon take you too. It is a curse that has resulted from the terrible weapon created by the Winchester family. Thousands of persons have died because of it and their spirits are now seeking vengeance" (Taylor). In addition, the medium told Sarah that the only way she could be saved was if she sold her property. Then her husband’s spirit would guide her to what could be her salvation. She would have to move to the west and start building a new house, which would become a never-ending project because if she stopped the construction of the house, she would die. She decided to find this new place, and she found it in San Jose, California. She bought a house with more than 160 acres of space. She started the construction and hired twenty-two carpenters that worked twenty-four hours a day for thirty-six years until she died.
When Sarah died, the mansion was inherited by her nephew and niece who sold the mansion. According to an article in The Damn Interesting E-book, the furnishings, personal belongings, and surplus construction and decorative materials were removed from the house and the structure itself was sold to a group of investors who planned to use it as a tourist attraction (Brook). The man who bought this mansion started advertising the mansion by saying that it had forty-eight rooms, but as they were taking the furniture out, they noticed that there were more rooms and they estimated that there were a hundred and sixty rooms.
The day of my visit to the Winchester Mystery House finally arrived. I was early, but there was already a line to get in, and the service was based on a first come first serve basis. The price to see the Winchester mystery house was forty dollars just for a guided tour in the house (65 minutes for a guided tour in the mansion and 25 minutes for a guided tour in the basement). In addition visitors received a map that labeled the parts of the house.
When the guided tour began, I felt a little weird. First, the guide mentioned that everything in the mansion was original. (Ha, ha, ha) Liar! According to my research, the original furniture was removed. In addition, I had discovered that there was an earthquake that affected the mansion and some of the parts had to be restored. Okay, I guess that was part of the show. However, the guide continued with the tour, and I started to feel goose bumps because I felt like someone was watching me. I felt cold and strange, and when the guide mentioned that some people say that there are ghosts in the Mansion, I got a little scared.
While I was looking at the house, I started noticing odd patterns with the construction of the mansion. Almost all the windows in the mansion have thirteen panes of glass and several wooden floors contain thirteen sections. Most importantly, some of the rooms contain thirteen windows and all the staircases contain thirteen steps. For me this seems symbolic because in my culture the number thirteen is bad luck, and usually people try to stay away from it. Maybe Sarah included those little details in the mansion because she wanted the ghosts to stay away from the mansion. Then, the guide mentioned that there are forty-seven fireplaces. This seems very odd, but there are many other strange things: doors and entrances that lead to a wall, doors that open to a steep drop, doors opening directly to the lawn below, and some things were upside down. All these oddities made me realize that there might be something supernatural in this place and that there is a reason why I felt weird in the mansion.The Winchester Mystery House website mentions that “One of the mansion’s caretakers related several experiences of hearing footsteps and breathing in the empty house late into the night, long after the mansion emptied" (Harred). When the tour was over, I heard a visitor talking about experiencing some paranormal activity. The visitors name was John Serwy, and I told him about my project, and he decided to contribute by giving me some feedback on the tour. He said,“ I was in the plant room and the tour guide was talking about the mansion, and I saw a short shadow walk across the room quickly.” As I suspected, there were other people that felt weird in the house and believed that there are some spirits in the house.
Sarah Winchester's fear of a curse and paranormal activity led her to build one of the strangest places in the world. And though thereis no proof that paranormal activity is occurring in this mansion, many believe that there is no question that we can regard the place as one of the world’s "largest haunted houses," based on nothing more than the legend of the place alone.
The visit to the Winchester Mystery house was a great experience. I had fun, and I am planning on going back again to see the Straw Labyrinth (another part of the mansion that costs an additional $10 to visit), and then maybe I will explore the Bay Area's other interesting and unusual landscapes.
Forniss, Julian. "Mansion's Labyrinth." Http://winchestermysteryhouse.com/. Winchester Mystery House, LLC, Dec. 2012. Web. 2 Dec. 2012.
Harred, Stephen. "Alleged Hauntings of the Winchester Mystery House."www.winchestermysteryhouse.com. Winchester Mystery House, LLC, n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2012.
Serwy, John. Personal interview. 1 Dec. 2012.
Taylor, Troy. "THE WINCHESTER HOUSE!" Troy Taylor & Dark Heaven Entertaintment, 2001. Web. 01 Dec. 2012.
Teamcommunications. “Secrets of the Mansion- Winchester Mystery House.” Team Communications. Dec. 2012. Web. 2 Dec. 2012.