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Winchester Mystery House's
Fright Nights

525 South Winchester Blvd., San Jose

Reviewed 09/30/11 by Specter

Winchester Mystery House's Fright Nights (Photo courtesy of the Winchester Mystery House)

Winchester Mystery House's Fright Nights (Photo courtesy of the Winchester Mystery House)

Winchester Mystery House's Fright Nights (Photo courtesy of the Winchester Mystery House)

Winchester Mystery House's Fright Nights (Photo courtesy of the Winchester Mystery House)

Winchester Mystery House's Fright Nights (Photo courtesy of the Winchester Mystery House)

Over the years many have lamented to us that they wished the Winchester Mystery House would have a Halloween style haunted house. This year, the Winchester Mystery House is answering those wishes in a big way!

This is the first year for the Winchester Mystery House's Fright Nights, which includes the familiar Halloween Flashlight Tour and the new Curse of Sarah Winchester Maze. This is the dark attraction so many have been waiting so long for.

I have to admit I was both excited and a little hesitant when they invited us to visit. Freshman efforts are often mediocre. Putting on this type of event is as much skill as it is art and the learning curve can be steep. I was also unsure where such an event could take place given that the house is still open for the regular tours and I knew they wouldn't want to damage the historical integrity of the mansion.

We started our visit with the Halloween Flashlight Tour. This tour is the same as the Mansion Tour during the day but, as its name suggests, you wind your way through the mansion by flashlight while learning about the unusual history of the house and its occupant. Although you will be told of the house's haunted history and you will visit five rooms with reported hauntings (the Seance Room, Sara Winchester's bedroom, the Daisy bedroom, the Ballroom, and the Basement) this is not a "spooky" tour. There are no actors and no props. It is however, an interesting way to see the mansion, more so if you let your imagination run wild in the dark or you are a history buff like I am. It also offers some very tantalizing glimpses of, and is punctuated by, the sounds and screams of the Curse of Sarah Winchester Maze. I would definitely recommend touring the house before rather than after visiting the maze.

After the flashlight tour we made our way to the Sarah Winchester Maze. There was no line to speak of on opening night but this is sure to change as it gets closer to Halloween. The maze starts in the front of the mansion and flows through both the house and grounds. It answers the "what if" question alluded to on the tour. What if the legend is true? What if those people and beasts killed by Winchester's products really did come back from the dead to take over the mansion and wreak their revenge on the living?

Any reticence I may have had from before our visit was blown away almost instantly when we entered the maze. From start to finish you felt like this was a quality haunted attraction. Props were professional, decoration was well designed (loved the pumpkin headed scarecrows), sight lines and story were well thought out, and acting was of a high caliber (couldn't resist). Scares and startles were frequent enough to be fun without being so persistent as to be numbing. There was even one I would call refreshing in the greenhouse. While many themes are traditional (corn maze, slaughter room, meat lockers, mechanical rooms, etc.), the mansion setting and its historic storyline make the haunt on a whole seem very fresh.

I can honestly say that I was impressed with their results. This was a seriously fun haunt!


Be sure to take a look at our Events Calendar or our map of pumpkin patches and haunted houses to find all the other great events going on in the Bay Area.

Do you think we got this review totally wrong? Agree with us? Or just want everyone to know your thoughts? Then start a discussion in our forums!

QUICK FACTS
When Sept. 30, Oct. 1, 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 27-31, 2011, see hours on website below
Where 525 So. Winchester Blvd., San Jose
Admission $20
Contact www.winchestermysteryhouse.com
 
   

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