Winchester Mystery House

My husband and I purchased expensive tickets for the Winchester Mystery House for July 10th. Do you live somewhere famous with famous attractions other people talk about but you have never seen? The Winchester Mystery House is like that for us. My sister first told me about it. She is a master at learning an area and actually seeing the sights of interest, rather than just living the mundane. Learning a movie would come out soon about this house, I thought it was about time we saw it.

The cost is terrific, in the terrifying sense: $37 a ticket for the basic tour, which boasts of viewing 110 rooms out of 160. I do not recall the other ticket options.

July 9th arrived, and so we did we…at UCSF for my son’s hospitalization. The good people running the Winchester Mystery House were exceedingly kind and rescheduled our tour even though we were not within the stated 48-hour cancellation guidelines.

So we went today. We took the scenic route, sentimental to us both because my husband lived in that direction while we dated and because that was the way we traveled for our Monterrey and Santa Cruz adventures (adventures my sister took first, I admit!).

Smell the garlic of Gilroy! This will improve our immune system, my husband said to me. He turned off the button that recycles the air you have already breathed into your air conditioner so we could experience a purer, more pungent smell of garlic. I thought of the Garlic Festival, another event we always talked about but never attended. Is this a bucket list post?

The Winchester Mystery House is not only surrounded by city but by beautiful shopping, the likes of which we see in San Francisco, DC and the Stoneridge Mall in Pleasanton. Parking is tight but easy. The air feels good, only 80 degrees here, not the 99 at home.

In the courtyard, spooky music plays while we lament the laser mechanism of the shooting gallery.

Our tour begins. We enter the through the carriage entrance and begin to see the sights of many small stairs (“easy risers”), one staircase that leads nowhere, one upstairs door that leads to quite a drop, two cabinets that lead nowhere. I wonder throughout, is this really the layout of the house? These were the stairs they used. In part they were, yet I cannot get a sense of it.

Poor Sarah Winchester, mourning the loss of her infant daughter and young husband, she is overcome by guilt at the deaths caused by the invention carrying her married name: the Winchester rifle. A medium tells her spirits of the dead haunt her. She must move west, built and never stop. The rooms will house the good spirits; the construction will scare off that bad. This makes me deeply sad for this woman I never knew. Spiritualism was a thing in those days. Had she been a practicing Catholic she might have offered up oodles of money in masses for their souls, instead, she kept construction going.

I liked the kitchens best. I noticed their sinks. It shows my age and state of life. The bathrooms were interesting. The linen room impressed me. The lighting was beautiful. I would like to have a conservatory.

In the end, the visit made me appreciate our local McHenry Mansion all the more. There I can see the same finery and craftsmanship, without the quirks, for free. It is our own treasure of history. My husband and I do not believe in spirits locked on earth to haunt the living, so we were moved most by the age of the house, and the curiosity.

It is a curiosity. That is what I walk away with. It was interesting. I do not know if I can say I recommend it. I am glad I saw it because I would have wondered, especially with the movie. I like to see famous, iconic things. But I cannot say it has improved my life. I could say that about the wallpaper at the McHenry Mansion in Modesto, but then, I do love Art Nouveau.

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