Early saturday morning, I headed out for Mount Diablo, a mountain supposedly sacred to the Miwok and Ohlone Native American peoples of California. I’m all about vortexes and sacred places and I’d wanted to check it out while I was here, so I headed on down to Mount Diablo State Park. I will say that almost the entire way up the mountain itself is lousy with bicyclists with very nasty attitudes. The bicyclists in this area in general are fairly aggressive, and as with other bicyclists in other states, they don’t bother following traffic signs/lights or posted speed signs.
While threading my way up the two lane road, every time I passed a cyclist another one would appear as if out of nowhere, hurtling towards me – either cursing or giving me the finger. It really soured the experience. I did try my best to give the bikes room, but they were all over the place, and all over the lane. Some of the ones coming towards me were even over the yellow line. It was pretty awful. The view from a few hundred feet from the ranger station is gorgeous, however. It’s worth a trip, if you don’t have a vehicle that overheats easily from going two miles an hour behind bicycles that are doing their best to head up the switchbacks.
Tired already from all the attitude I was getting from the cyclists, I just headed back down and out to San Jose – to the Winchester Mystery House.
The sprawling residence is a well known landmark in Northern California. Once the home of Sarah Winchester, the widow of William Wirt Winchester (the treasurer of the of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company), it’s an enormous estate with doors that open to the outside and staircases to nowhere.
As the story goes, Mrs. Winchester was apparently worried that the spirits killed by “The Gun that Won the West” would exact their vengeance upon her, and so on the advice of a psychic from Boston she traveled to California and began continuous construction on an unfinished Farm House that lasted 38 years – until the day of her death. There are parts of the house where you can see that the laborers simply dropped their tools and walked off the job when they realized that they would be receiving no further paychecks to continue construction on the mansion. There are still nails sticking out of these parts – the workers hadn’t bothered tapping them in, and the place has been preserved as best as possible in the original condition.
The number 13 is featured predominantly throughout the structure – multiple rooms have 13 windows, some stain glass windows have 13 elements in them that stand out to the viewer, drains have 13 holes in the, etc.. There are a great many gorgeous stained glass windows that were placed poorly; they’re either just in front of another wall that was erected by workers, or were simply placed on the wrong part of the house to get the kind of exposure that would make them shine. It’s interesting to note that every Friday the 13th and Halloween, the staff turns all the lights out and conducts flashlight tours through the mansion. Unfortunately, I’m not going to be in town for July Friday the 13, so I won’t be able to do this, but would really love to sometime in the future.
One of the reasons that the structure has remained as intact as it has throughout the years is that it’s predominantly constructed out of redwood. Elaborate painted wall textures cover the wood (it’s said that Sarah didn’t like the look of it), and I was surprised to see an actual biohazard symbol repeated in the pattern of the wallcovering in the bedroom that Sarah died in. Apparently no tour guide had noticed it before I pointed it out to them, which is a little bizarre. Sadly, I have no pictures of the inside of the mansion – they don’t allow photos once you’re inside.
The tour of the main house takes you through all of the finished rooms, some not so finished, but there is no original furniture throughout the building. Sarah apparently bequeathed it all to her niece.
As to spiritual presence within the house itself, from what I felt/’saw’ (I say ‘saw’ because my experience of the other side comes in either flashes or images in my mind’s eye – things that are clearly distinguishable from people standing right in front of me) throughout the tour, there are still spirits kickin’ around inside.
– In one of the parlors, I saw a couple of people sitting and listening to a woman playing the piano.
– In one of the elevators, the brief image of woman pounded on the plexiglass separating the elevator from the house. I asked the guide if anybody had ever died in any of the elevators, but he didn’t know.
– In the South Conservatory there was this oppressive feeling that initially tried to drive me to my knees, but it eased up. There wasn’t really a feeling of malice to it – just STRENGTH. It was almost like a spiritual arm wrestling contest. Once I stumbled, it let up. Funky.
– In the seance room, there were multiple feelings of excitement and interest, but I couldn’t really get a bead on anything specific. It was almost like being at a party where everybody was talking, but I couldn’t focus on a single conversation.
The tour through the house takes about an hour or so, and there’s a break between that and the Garden/Behind the Scenes tour, for which I was very grateful. It was supposed to get up to 100 that day, so I went out to the van and got my water and my floppy beige ‘explorer hat’. The sun was brutal as we walked around the grounds, and there were several points throughout the tour where we needed to wear these little generic plastic ‘construction helmets’. They didn’t really fit very well and most of them were broken, but they were somewhat functional. They were mostly for avoiding getting cracked on the head and knocked out by the pipes in the basement. We got to see the boiler, the coal chute and the steam tunnels, as well as the stables (I get the feeling that something violent had happened there, though – I kept seeing quick flashes of two people struggling, but couldn’t clearly make out what was going on).
If you do decide to go, I HIGHLY recommend that you take BOTH the mansion tour and the Behind the Scenes tour. Well worth it, in my opinion. The tour guides were very friendly and were fantastic with the presentation of historical information.