Though the Winchester Mystery House's full-blown Halloween extravaganza, Fright Nights, appears to be in permanent limbo since running for a couple years in 2011-2012, the venue does still offer spooky flashlight ghost tours. Dates for this Halloween are October 16-17, 22-25, 29-31. There will also be a flashlight tour on Friday, November 13.
The Winchester Mystery House has a haunted reputation, partly due to a seance conducted with Harry Houdini (who was actually dedicated to debunking haunts) but mostly due to its eccentric architecture, which features doors and staircases that lead to nowhere. The myth is that Sarah Winchester designed the house to confuse the restless spirits who had died at the hand of the Winchester rifle.
Hollywood Gothique took the flashlight tour while attending the 2012 Fright Nights. The Halloween haunted house portion of the entertainment took place on the grounds around the house, not in the actual building, which was reserved for the quiet tour experience. Our impression was that the house's spooky reputation seemed somewhat exaggerated - probably because the tour was so crowded that the multiple flashlight beams lit the place up as if it were daytime.
Nevertheless, the Winchester Mystery House is a fascinating historical tourist destination, and the night-time flashlight tour adds an extra layer of interest. The tour is worth taking if you happen to be in the San Joe area. Just don't expect to see any ghosts - though there may be some actors in period costume lurking in the shadows.
The Winchester Mystery House is located at 525 S Winchester Blvd San Jose, CA 95128. Call (408) 247-2101 for information, or visit their website.