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By the flickering light
Winchester Mystery House offers candlelight tours in OctoberBy Sabra Stafford

Those individuals looking to add a little fright into their October have an opportunity to explore one of America’s most famed haunted houses by the flicker of candlelight.

This season marks the debut of Hallowe’en Candlelight Tours: The 13 Doors at the Winchester Mystery House. The spectacle will feature 13 mystical doors that Sarah Winchester purchased to be placed throughout her home, all with varying degrees of magic, mysticism and perhaps some mayhem. With 13 doors comes 13 keys, all of which unlock something powerful all their own.

Guests on this tour are immersed into an experience that will have them roaming the 160-room mansion with nothing but their imagination and flickering candle to guide them through the storied haunted locale.

The Winchester Mystery House is both a spooky destination and an architectural marvel. It was the all-consuming project of Sarah Lockwood Pardee Winchester, who oversaw the construction of the mansion from 1886 to her death in 1922. What exactly drove her compulsion to build and re-build is the backbone of many a mysterious tale.

Winchester was the heiress to a sizeable stake of the fortune amassed from the Winchester Repeating Arms, the “gun that won the West” but her wealth did not spare her from living a life marked by tragedy. Her daughter died in infancy from an illness and that was followed soon after by the death of her husband from tuberculosis.

Bereft of her family, she purchased an eight-room farmhouse in San Jose and moved away from her New Haven, Conn. Home. From the time she arrived she embarked on a renovation of the home that reached epic proportions.

One tale suggests Winchester was told by a spiritualist that she was cursed and would meet an unfortunate end if she did not continue building. Another tale claims Winchester was haunted by those who had fallen from a Winchester rifle and continued to build on to the house as a means of escaping the restless souls.

Whatever her reasons were, they went with her to the grave when she died in her sleep on Sept. 5, 1922. Less than a year after her death the house opened to the public and became a popular tourist destination. That popularity has not waned over the years, as more than 12 million guests have visited the fabled home.

The candlelight tours are scheduled for 20 nights in October. General admission is $49 with some discount nights available. To schedule a tour or for more information visit