Prior to the release of WINCHESTER, starring Helen Mirren; The Winchester Mystery House held a 60-minute presentation at MidSummer Scream in July 2017. This is where I had the distinct pleasure of being the only journalist to have a one-on-one behind the scenes interview with Winchester House General Manager Walter Magnuson and Scott Schumer of CBS.
“I must have taken the tour myself a hundred times,” said Magnuson, “I saw doors that were closed off and not accessible and I wondered what the spaces were.” It was explained to him that after the earthquake in 1906, Sarah Winchester decided to board up those areas of the house that had been damaged, “There were entire rooms that had never been seen before,” continued Magnuson, “The truth is we will just never know for certain if these areas were boarded up because of the earthquake or to confuse spirits. I guess that depends on what you want to believe.”
The first séance in over forty years, in the house, was conducted by James Van Praagh, May 2017. Candelabras filled the Grand Ballroom with an eerie glow and only ambient lighting was allowed as Van Praagh attempted to connect with the numerous spirits that roam the historical mansion. As Magnuson stated, “James said that Sara was happy people are still pleased with her home so many years later,” Van Praagh confirmed the presence of numerous spirits.
Van Praagh has been to the Winchester house twice, giving historians much information of his impressions regarding certain areas of the house that no one previously knew about. One of the newly opened areas on the tour is the Witches Cap. This is the upper most turret of the mansion, and as Magnuson stated,
“It is the most incredible space. James was doing a walk-about with us and he immediately picked up strong psychic energy, confirming that séances actually happened in that room.”
Magnuson went on to say that they had never been told the room had been used to hold séances.
“There are different schools of thought on Sara approving so many guests traipsing through her home. Over 12 million people have walked these halls since she passed. But thankfully James verified Sara was pleased and that is good enough for me.” The Winchester Mystery House opened for public tours on June 30, 1923, Magnuson noted “James always said there is no death, and those that have crossed over are always wondering why we are so upset, when the dead still feel as if they are here with us.”
Magnuson said he has had a few personal encounters with Sara, “I have been in my office, speaking about something specific that we would like to do to the house to improve it, when a window will be slammed shut. Then there was another time when we were walking through the house, deciding on where things should go for an event and a door suddenly swung open while a window crash closed.” The interesting thing is that even before Sarah passed away, strange things happened in the house. All the information presented on the tours comes from real experiences guests have had in the mansion.
Recently the Mansion has been receiving bits and pieces of wallpaper that guests have taken from the Crystal Room “Over the years there have many instances where guests have removed an item from the mansion, to quickly return it with stories of strange happenings,” added Magnuson.
WINCHESTER tells the strange and dramatic tale of Sarah Winchester, who was heir to the Winchester firearms fortune. Her husband and child died suddenly, and Sarah came to believe she had been cursed by the lethal legacy of the “gun that won the west” and all of those who ended up on the wrong end of the gun barrel. She consulted a medium, which sent her to San Jose in 1884 to begin a massive construction process that took 38 years and resulted in a 24,000-square-foot, 160-room Gothic mansion.