Celebrate Halloween At The Winchester Mystery House

By Chris Narloch

You have until Nov. 2 to enjoy Halloween at the spookiest house in Northern California, San Jose’s Winchester Mystery House, a sprawling four-story Queen Anne Style Victorian mansion that its original owner, Sarah Winchester, reportedly built to appease the ghosts of people killed by Winchester rifles.

The 161-room structure is creepy even in the daylight, but this time of year, the tourist destination by day is turned into a real haunted house, with an after-dark attraction appropriately named “Unhinged” that gives visitors a fully-immersive, multi-sensory Halloween experience like no other.

Guests step into a real life psychological and paranormal thriller, while exploring the dark hallways of the cursed Winchester Estate. During this suspenseful walkthrough experience, visitors are allowed to trespass into forbidden rooms of the house never before seen by the public.

I recently took the “Unhinged” tour with a couple friends, and I was impressed (and surprised) that the house really did creep me out. It’s actually worth the two-hour-plus drive from Sacramento to San Jose and the hefty ticket price of $44 to $54.

“Unhinged” spares no expense in giving visitors the creeps, setting a macabre mood with spooky sound effects, eerie lighting, and gruesomely made up actors who stay in ghostly character while daring you to jump out of your skin.

I almost lost it more than once, particularly when the ghost of a dead girl popped out in the darkened room with the rusty tricycle. (Most of the performers in “Unhinged” give it their all, but the actress playing that little girl really freaked me out.)

The Winchester House is next to a large lot where three now-closed (and dark!) Century Theater domes still sit, giving the area a unique combination of creepiness and commerce, the latter courtesy of the beautiful and bustling Santana Row shopping center -- a vast, modern, multi-story outdoor mall across the street.

That spectacular shopping center is a great place to get dinner before or after you visit “Unhinged,” which includes access to a stunning, state-of-the-art light show that is projected on to the Winchester House for viewing from the gardens in front of the mansion.

That light show, which occurs every half hour between 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. and simulates the house catching fire and then crumbling to the ground, is not to be missed.

The gift shop at Winchester Mystery House is large and impressive, and there are other fun activities available after your tour that come with an extra charge, such as tarot readings, a bar, a café, and the option to try your hand at axe-throwing. (Just for the record, I stuck the blade several times, although I never did hit the wooden bulls-eye.)

A visit to the Winchester Mystery House during Halloween season is spooky good fun (and not overly gruesome). For more information about “Unhinged,” visit www.winchestermysteryhouse.com.




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