Across the Great Divide


“The only thing worse than amateur scientists are drunken amateur scientists”

Just when I thought that the bar of integrity in ghost hunting couldn’t get any lower someone went and removed it entirely.

I only allow members to bring a small water bottle on investigations, but the owners of one of the most infamously haunted locations in the country will now allow you to drink alcohol anywhere and everywhere while you play scientist and fall victim to their new amusement park.

Built in the 1880s, the Winchester House has never been registered for lodging let alone licensed for alcohol, but the current owners of the 160-room California mansion, Winchester Investments LLC,  will allow guests to stay the night and drink anywhere on the 6-acre maze of false doors and stairs that lead nowhere. Sarah Winchester reportedly built the famed additions in order to confuse the evil spirits she believed were the tormented souls of those killed by the family’s firearms business haunting the home.

A special use permit, which was approved by the San José planning department on March 5, 2014, will allow overnight guests to stay at the landmark site. It was made clear that their target market won’t be road-weary families on family vacations or traditional hotel renters, but those who want the ‘ultimate Winchester House experience’. In other words- a niche of clients predisposed to fall for their smoke and mirror act.

A reporter for the Silicon Valley Business Journalattempted to contact the owners to ask for plans that are more detailed but, conveniently, his request was ignored.

A visit to the Winchester House website reveals that no room rates have been added yet, but they have plenty of theme tours playing up the haunted history that seem better fit for Cedar Point’s Halloweekends- like their “Friday the 13th Flashlight Tour”. Tour rates range from $26-$65; and you can’t visit any page on their website without a highly-intrusive popup ad for the books and movie that have been made about the House making it perfectly clear that they don’t care whether or not the claims are real and substantiated- they’re going to use it to make a lot of money. The ads hover annoyingly center screen in front of whatever you are trying to read.

The city also approved the remodeling of the existing café into a full service restaurant open to the public.

Basically, this is nothing less than a clever marketing and moneymaking scheme by Winchester Investments to cash in on the legendary status of the residence by exaggerating and accentuating activity while bilking money from those foolish and gullible enough to fall for it. Well, we all know what they say about a fool and his money.

So an iconic and historical landmark will degrade into a booze-filled joyride of misfits and fools looking to play ghost hunter. I wonder how long it will be before the grounds are littered with beer bottles and a once-majestic residence falls prey to countless grubby feet and hands eroding every inch. The addition of alcohol to the equation is just asking for a lot of trouble in terms of increased police patrols, vandalism, and disruptive behavior.

I have nothing wrong with an historical site using public funds via tours to help offset the costs of maintaining beloved locations, but this goes far and beyond. It enables amateur and unprofessional individuals and groups to come in and make a sham of legitimate science. Any activity witnessed or recorded at the site from hereafter will be completely unsuitable for detailed analysis due to an exponential cascade of contaminations proving once again that the modern day business of ghost hunting is less about the science and more about the fame.

I look forward to laughing at the first bit of “evidence” put forth by those whom stay at the Winchester House.


Sources: io9.com, Silicon Valley Business Journal Photo: San José Library Digital Collections

© 2014 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions