Winchester Mystery House – Ghosts Inside?

Eerie photo of Winchester Mystery HouseThe Winchester Mystery House is the focus of a stylish 2018 movie starring Helen Mirren.

Some of the house’s strange elements aren’t quite what they seem, and – in historical context – may have been more practical than spiritual.

Other, recent “discoveries” at the house – including Sarah Winchester’s attic – set off my skeptic alarms.

However, much of the Winchester house’s most compelling paranormal evidence isn’t obvious.  It’s layered in history, mystical beliefs, and secrets.

They’re why I believe the Winchester Mystery House is haunted.

Here are a few videos to introduce you to the strange (and sometimes chilling) Winchester story.

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The next video is a 7 1/2 minute visual tour of the Winchester Mystery House. The soundtrack is entirely music, no verbal descriptions.

If you’re looking for ghost stories or history, you may want to skip ahead to the “Winchester Mystery House – Secrets of the Mansion” series, further down this page. That series delivers a tour of the house plus details of Sarah Winchester’s life, and how the house was built.

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I recommend the following four short (4-5 minutes, each) videos in a series, “Winchester Mystery House – Secrets of the Mansion.”

The sound quality is okay, but not great. Despite that, if you want a good overview of the history – including some ghostly legends – this series is worth your time. You’ll gain a far better understanding of why the Winchester story is so compelling.

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My next link to a Winchester Mystery House video starts around the 3:20 mark, and includes an interesting paranormal story. It resonates with similar stories I’ve heard in other haunted locations. To me, it seems credible.

(After she finishes telling her story, fast-forward to the 7:46 point. There, another tour guide describes her own eerie experience. After the 8:19 mark, the video shows a little more of the house, but no additional stories.)

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YouTube videos I did not include:

    • Ghost Adventures S05E04 Winchester Mystery House – a YouTube video posted by Perdue Adrian. It’s probably the full episode (or more), but it’s in a skewed screen-in-screen image. If you want to see that episode, as of January 2018 it’s at Daily Motion.com.
    • Ghost Adventures S12E11 Return to Winchester Mystery House 1080p HDTV x264 tNe – another skewed screen image, with a link to another website “to see in full HD.” I don’t click on links like that. Instead, I recommend watching the full episode on Hulu. (That link was current in Jan 2018.)
    • If you’re looking for the Ghost Hunters episode (Season 2, Ep. 11) that includes the Winchester Mansion, it’s at Daily Motion, too.
    • Winchester Mansion: The House That Spirits Built – It Is Written. It explains why God warns us about seances and believing in ghosts, and uses the Winchester Mystery House as an example. (If you don’t believe in ghosts and you’re looking for a fairly high-quality Christian video, that’s probably the best relevant YouTube option.  The video references: Job 7:9-10, Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, Leviticus 19:31, 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, and so on.)

But, if you’re a fan of the Winchester story, be sure to see the stylish, old-school (1963) video about the mansion, narrated by Lillian Gish, Mrs. Winchester’s House. For me, it was 30 minutes well spent.

In general, I think the Winchester house is one of America’s more enigmatic haunts. Its eerie legends and quirky history raises many questions. Some may only be answered by the ghosts.

The Orbs Issue in One 1910 Photo

Orbs are a hotly contested topic. Are they ghost orbs… or something less interesting?

ghostly orbs at gilson road cemetery
One of my own orb photos

My message today is: In ghost hunting, the most reliable person is yourself.

When anyone (including me) assures you that something is true, verify it.

Most orb debates would resolve quickly if people routinely tested their own cameras to see what dust, pollen, rain, fog, reflections, breath, and insects look like in those photos.

Do this yourself. Test every camera you use for ghost hunting. Deliberately stage “false orb” conditions.

Then, analyze those photos. Could you confuse them with truly anomalous orbs?

When I stumbled onto this discovery, I was embarrassed by how simple it was. For nearly 10 years, I’d kept insisting that most orbs were caused by dust, pollen, insects, reflections, and so on.

Then, after a heated argument with a long-time friend who insisted that all orbs are ghosts, I was irked. I set out to prove my theory. I really wanted to show him that he was wrong.

But then…

I discovered that it’s more difficult to create convincing, fake orbs — with dust, pollen, smoke, insects, etc. — than I’d realized.

The key word is “convincing.” Until you know what you’re looking for, most orbs can look alike.

I’ll explain more about this in the future.

For now, I’ve stumbled onto a great, old photo that shows some easily identified issues, as well as orbs that might be ghostly.

The following is a photo of the Custer Battlefield National Cemetery. The picture was taken in 1910, when photography was very different from now. But, the issues remain the same.

Sunrise at Custer Battlefield Cemetery - orbs

I’ve enlarged some of the orbs to show what might be an anomaly — also called a “ghost orb” — and what’s probably a glitch in the photo.

Processing Mistakes

First, an obvious glitch. In the photo above, the following area is in the lower right part of the picture, to the left of the white writing.

chemical spatters

That photo was processed in a lab. Chemical splashes and spatters could happen. That’s the most likely explanation for those irregular, somewhat circular areas.

Even in the 1990s, when I was taking film photos at haunted sites, I still had to examine the negatives for splashes and lab errors.

False Orbs – Dust and Insects

The next enlargement shows what could be pollen and insects, as well as some possible anomalies. In the original photo, this area is in the lower half of the picture, and just left of the center.

Orb #1 includes a clear dot. In a color photo, it might be yellow or orange. When it is, the orb is almost always caused by pollen.

But, I see other similar, small dots nearby. So, the orb might be real and the dots might be a glitch from the developing or printing process, or damage to the print during storage.

Solution: When you’re taking photos, ask a friend to stand to one side and in front of you. He or she can tell you if anything in the air looked highlighted by your flash.

Orb #2 is an odd shape, and part of it is more solid looking. That’s often a flying insect.

Solution: When you’re ghost hunting outdoors, regularly look up at streetlights, or have a friend leave a flashlight on for several minutes. Many insects are attracted to light.

If you see bugs flying in front of a light, keep them in mind when you’re analyzing your photos, later.

Miscellaneous Items

The next enlargement is from the sky area in the Custer photo. It’s near the top and to the right of the middle.

Irregular shape #1 is probably damage to the print or something that spilled on the negative.

Shape #2 could be almost anything, including an insect or two, or a printing glitch.

Possible Ghost Orbs

After ruling out things that look like false anomalies, I still see several orbs I can’t explain. Not entirely, anyway. (I am mindful that sunlight may have been streaming directly towards the camera.)

I’ve indicated a few possible orbs from the sky area of the photo. But, a closer examination of the original photo may reveal more.

ghost orbs at custer battlefield cemetery

Of course, they could be processing errors from the darkroom. They could be insects or pollen, or something else that’s perfectly normal.

I have no idea and, frankly, no one can be sure whether anything I’ve said is accurate about this photo.

We’d need to test the camera the photographer used.

That’s my point.

For the past several years, I routinely test every new camera. I want to see how dust, pollen, moisture, breath, smoke, and other issues may affect my photos.

It’s a semi-scientific approach to ghost photography. More importantly, testing each camera is the only way we can tell whether our photos include possible anomalies… or probable dust, insects, and so on.

This is important, as well: Even after those tests, we’ll have unanswered questions.

Never to assume that the logical, normal explanation is the only explanation. Something that “looks like dust” could still be an anomaly.

And, even if it is dust, you may have another mystery: What causes dust in that area, but nowhere else at that location or nearby?

In other words, the orb may not be the anomaly. Maybe the weird dust is.

Winchester Mystery House – Another Room?

Winchester Mystery House - A Hidden Room?The headline says “New room found at San Jose’s Winchester Mystery House,” and the article explains, “The home’s preservation team recently opened the new room, which is an attic space that has been boarded up since Sarah Winchester died in 1922.”

But, as another article – Winchester Mystery House Pries Open Creepy Attic Room Boarded Up In 1922 – explains…

But notably, Sarah’s attic isn’t being presented in its original location — instead, its items have been spirited away to another location on the grounds. “We have relocated the ‘attic’ to the central courtyard,” a representative from the Mystery House wrote on Facebook. “

In a typical “haunted” house, if the furnishings aren’t in the original room, I’ve lost at least half my interest.

New room at Winchester Mystery HouseOh, I’m certain that objects can hold ghostly energy

But, my past investigations  suggested that an equal amount of energy (or more) is in the walls, floor, and ceiling of the room.

Maybe that energy was absorbed from the objects. I don’t know. But, I am sure that a sealed room with its objects is likely to be more haunted than just those objects, placed in a courtyard.

To be fair, the attic room may have been unsafe or impractical to open to the public. So, moving the objects might have been the best option.

And, it probably goes without saying: the Winchester house is far from a “typical” haunted house. Its history was bizarre from the beginning.

Looking at the photo, above… all I needed to see were the old portrait and the doll. Those are two typical signals that the room is likely to have anomalies.

(I’m assuming that doll is composition and was actually in the room when it was opened. Several “haunted” sites have added dolls as props, to seem creepier. Know your doll history, so you’ll spot dolls that don’t fit the time period.)

With or without the “new room,” the Winchester Mystery House is one of America’s most enduring – and important – haunts.

For years, psychics and mediums have been sure that some of the house’s most haunted rooms were still hidden, or at least sealed. That’s confirmed by a room like this.

The Winchester Mystery House also provided evidence supporting the idea that ghostly activity – particularly poltergeists – seem to correlate with the presence of water. I think Colin Wilson was one of the first to mention that.

For about 10 years, when I heard a poltergeist report, I asked about the proximity to water. In over 95% of credible reports, water was within three feet of the activity: bars, kitchens, or bathrooms. Usually, the distance was closer to one foot.

The alternative was unexplained water that appeared on surfaces, immediately following the activity. That’s been reported at the Winchester house, as well.

Here’s a 10-minute video about the Winchester Mystery House, filmed by the “Weird US” guys.

If you’re interested in the history of the Winchester house, I recommend the half-hour documentary narrated by actress Lilian Gish, Mrs. Winchester’s House. That 1963 film is very stylish and captures the eerie mood of the site.

I’m thousands of miles from the Winchester Mystery House, so – for now – I’m unlikely to investigate at the house. (I’m finding a lot of great, weird information in books, old newspapers, and others’ articles.)

If you visit the house and can report on the activity around the new attic-related display, let me know in comments, below.

Titanic Exhibits… Haunted or Not?

underwater diverSometimes, I’m more convinced by retracted “ghost stories” than those that get lots of publicity.

Here’s an example:

I was searching for fresh news reports about ghosts.  I use special software to filter out the stories that won’t interest me.  Then, I click on those that look interesting.

The following is a screenshot of one story that caught my interest.

HauntedTitanicExhibit

However, when I clicked to read the article… it had already been removed from the WOOD-TV website.

That’s not entirely weird.  After all, it looks like the story was from 2012.

On the other hand, I’m still not sure why it showed up on my feed of recent news stories. (Cue the Twilight Zone music…?)

Generally, when I see something that looks like a publicity stunt — a news reporter “locked in,” Ghost Adventures’ style — I sigh in exasperation.  Really, guys, that’s become a cliche.  Zak and his friends can do “locked in” investigations far better than amateurs.

What made this story different is that it’s the Titanic. 

Of course the artifacts from it could have eerie energy.  I’d be more surprised if this kind of exhibit wasn’t haunted.

Though this news story is old, my point is still current:

If you’re looking for creepy, haunted places to investigate, sometimes it’s better to look for reports that vanish almost as completely as the ghosts do.

Stories (and commercial sites) that shout “Look at me! Look at me!” are less likely to be the real deal.

It doesn’t take the Haunted Collector to spot a show or exhibit that could be truly haunted, and worth visiting.  In fact, if you can get to a display like this one, I recommend (discreetly) carrying an EVP recorder in your pocket, to pick up any odd messages you might hear while in the gallery or exhibit.

If you’re intrigued by the idea of a haunted Titanic exhibit, you’ll have lots of choices.  Check the Titanic Exhibitions list to find a site near you. (Personally, the Luxor would be my first choice.  That place is pretty creepy to begin with, with its massive Egyptian statues.)

American Idol House – Haunted or Not?

American Idol house… haunted? Probably not.

Season 10 of American Idol was hosted in a house that some contestants felt was haunted.

They complained of the following phenomena:

  • Flickering lights in the house. (Could be a wiring issue.)
  • An infestation of spiders. (I’ve lived in Hollywood. It’d be an anomaly if a Southern California home didn’t have spiders now & then.)
  • A door that blew open, even when blocked with a chair, and leaves flew into the house. (I’d start by checking weather reports for that evening. If they didn’t reveal an explanation, I’d suspect a prank.)
  • A sheet that moved on its own, and possibly flew down a corridor by itself. (This definitely sounds like a prank.)

There was only one event that sounds like something potentially paranormal. According to a report in OK! magazine (USA), some of the American Idol contestants were watching a horror movie. Contestant James Durbin decided to follow-up with a prank.

According to his report, “”I opened the door to the garage – I was trying to freak out Pia [Toscano] – and it freaked me out because something white that looked like an arm that kind of came down.”

Later, another contestant described it as a hand that fell from the ceiling.

That could be something normal, but it’s far more consistent with paranormal activity than anything else mentioned.

Supposedly, the contestants immediately moved out of the house and were given alternate housing.

Since only one incident sounded even remotely paranormal, I’m not sure why this was news. Personally, I wouldn’t investigate a house just because someone thought they saw an arm or a hand appear when a garage door was open.

It seems like at least some of the cast quickly came to their senses, too.

Zak Bagans of Ghost Adventures suggested a crossover show, where his team would investigate the house and use the American Idol finalists as triggers for activity. He was turned down.

Since that could have been a ratings bonanza for Ghost Adventures while attracting more attention to American Idol, being turned down increases the likelihood that the whole thing was a prank.

Floating sheets, spiders, and flickering lights sound like something out of a very bad “scare” show on MTV.

AmericanIdolHouseGhostsThe real test will be whether the house’s new owner, Munchkin, Inc. millionaire Steven B. Dunn, encounters anything odd in the house.

Personally, I don’t think he has anything to worry about. He’s a clever entrepreneur with an MBA from Harvard and a noted art collection, so I expect the spectacular views (seen at right) were more important to Dunn that the American Idol connection or the house’s possible ghosts.

The selling price of the house also suggests that it’s not haunted. According to reports, Dunn paid over $11 million for the American Idol house.

For a 15k square foot house on two acres in Bel Air, where houses sell for about $480/square foot, $11 million is a good price in today’s market.

So, I’m not seeing any of the usual indications of a distressed, haunted property.

I’m not sure if the floating sheets and flickering lights (etc.) were a very amateurish effort at faking a haunted house. Surely, the producers could have found some bargain-basement SFX guys from actual ghost “reality” shows…?

If someone is looking for a spectacular haunted house in or near Hollywood, these are better choices:

  • Harry Houdini widow’s former residence at 2435 Laurel Canyon Boulevard. (Not #2398, as some erroneously report.) [More info.]
  • 1005 Rexford Drive, former home of several personalities including opera star Grace Moore and actor Clifton Webb, both of whom are supposed to haunt the house.
  • 1822 Camino Palermo, where Ozzie & Harriet and their family lived. Apparently, Ozzie is still haunting the house. [More info.]
  • 1579 Benedict Canyon Drive was the home of TV’s Superman, George Reeves. His death was declared a suicide, but most people close to Reeves are sure it was murder. [More info.]

For more Hollywood haunts like these, you’ll find plenty of lists online. One of the most complete is at Haunted-Places.com, but since they have the wrong Houdini address, it’s smart to fact-check any address (and story) on their long, detailed list.

I don’t think we’ll hear anything more about ghosts at that American Idol house. Except for Durbin’s report – the only one with credibility – I don’t see any reason to suspect paranormal energy at the Season 10 house.

However, the ghost reports at the Season 8 house could be more serious. Apparitions and unexplained growls are far more credible, at least among “reality” shows like this.