THE SPIRIT OF THE SEA­SON

Winchester Mys­tery House can­dle­light tours

The Oakdale Leader - - LIVING - By DEN­NIS WY­ATT

What’s the hottest ticket in Oc­to­ber in San Jose?

It’s the Fri­day the 13th Hal­loween Can­dle­light Tour of the Winchester Mys­tery House. They were sold out vir­tu­ally the day they went on sale. The only way you can get one is if some die-hard fa­natic de­cides they’d rather take more money than ex­pe­ri­ence the ul­ti­mate house tour and put them on e-Bay but don’t hold your breath. This is the mil­len­nial high­tech Sil­i­con Val­ley crowd’s an­swer to “The Rocky Hor­ror Pic­ture Show.”

If you’ve passed on tour­ing the ram­bling house that at 261,369 square feet could squeeze in two typ­i­cal Tar­get stores, an av­er­age Trader Joe’s store, and three or so Star­bucks be­cause you think tour­ing a part of the 160 rooms in a home built by an ec­cen­tric woman in­tent on ward­ing off evil spir­its is ho-hum stuff, the tour by flick­er­ing can­dle­light will get your heart go­ing.

The wildly pop­u­lar tours take an hour and 5 min­utes to cover. The tour of the man­sion whose rooms were ei­ther left in ar­rested de­cay or still flow with Vic­to­rian grandeur is con­ducted only by flick­er­ing can­dle­light.

Tours have al­ready started with the re­main­ing early bird dates of Oct. 6-8 car­ry­ing ticket prices of $12 to $41. The re­main­ing dates cost be­tween $20 and $48 and are Oct. 13-15, Oct. 18-22, and Oct. 25-31.

Cos­tumes are en­cour­aged although there are strict rules with what you can wear avail­able on the web­site.

For those who like their mys­tery with a lot more light, there are two daily day tour op­tions.

The Man­sion Tour is 1 hour and 5 min­utes and in­cludes 110 of the 160 rooms with tick­ets go­ing for $20 to $37.

The Ex­plore More Tour is 2 hours and 15 min­utes with a dose of para­nor­mal ex­plo­rations tossed in goes for $30 to $47 a ticket. Due to some of the rooms and ar­eas on the tour chil­dren 10 and un­der are not al­lowed on the tour.

So what’s the story be­hind the Winchester Mys­tery House?

You could say Sarah Winchester was a real pis­tol. Not only did she in­herit $20.5 mil­lion from her hus­band Wil­liam Wirt Winchester who founded the gun firm of the same name when he died in 1881 from tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, but also a nearly 50 per­cent stake in the com­pany that have her $1,000 a day of in­come or the equiv­a­lent of $25,000 daily in 2017.

Add that kind of money and an ob­ses­sion to spend it — think Paris Hil­ton in a Neiman Mar­cus store — in a bid to ward off evil spir­its and you end up with what is a can­di­date for the quirki­est home on the planet in ex­cess of 250,000 square feet.

Not only are there doors and stairs lead­ing to nowhere and win­dows over­look­ing rooms — a re­sult of no ar­chi­tect be­ing hired and the home be­ing added onto by the widow’s whim— but at one pointed she had 12 of her 13 bath­rooms “dis­con­nected” leav­ing only one func­tion­ing bath­room for the en­tire 160-room house.

It in­cludes 40 bed­rooms — she re­port­edly slept in a dif­fer­ent one each night to con­fuse spir­its — 47 fire­places, 17 chim­neys, two base­ments, two ball­rooms, three el­e­va­tors, and ar­chi­tec­tural splen­dor in­clud­ing many stained glass win­dows de­signed by Tif­fany Com­pany. To il­lus­trate her odd­ness, Tif­fany him­self cre­ated a spe­cial win­dow for Winchester that cast a rain­bow across a room when sun­light strikes pris­matic crys­tals. Winchester had it in­stalled in an in­te­rior room with no light ex­po­sure ren­der­ing the unique de­sign moot. The win­dow was ap­praised at $25,000 when it was de­signed more than a cen­tury ago or the equiv­a­lent of $357,704 in 2016.

Winchester was ob­sessed with the num­ber 13. Drain cov­ers on sinks have 13 holes. Chan­de­liers ac­com­mo­date 13 can­dles. Clothes hooks are in mul­ti­ples of 13. As a tribute to Winchester, a large bell on the grounds is rung 13 times at 1300 hours (1 p.m.) on Fri­day the 13th.

Be­sides the quirks, the house is a pain to main­tain. It takes 20,500 gal­lons of paint to paint it.

And as ev­i­dence there are still things to find out about the home whose con­struc­tion started in 1884 and ended in 1922 with Winchester’s death, an­other room was dis­cov­ered in 2016. It is an at­tic space that has a pump or­gan, Vic­to­rian couch, dress form, sewing ma­chines, and paint­ings.

The Queen Anne-style home also boasts on its grounds one of the largest his­toric firearms mu­se­ums on the West Coast, as well as a “shoot­ing gallery” that takes aims at spir­its, a gift shop, mu­seum, and café.

ABOVE PHOTO: One of the many doors and stairs that lead to dead ends. RIGHT PHOTO: Spi­der webs ap­pear in de­signs of stained glass win­dows. BOT­TOM PHOTO: The door to nowhere.

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