For my birthday, back in April, my husband gifted me a two year skeleton key membership to the Winchester Mystery House. They’ve been closed to the public since California went on lockdown orders back in mid-March, but on September 12th, they were able to open up their doors (all 2,000 of them, or so they claim. XD) to the public once more.
With claims of a completely contactless, self-guided tour, I was intrigued and decided to go ahead and make the attempt to explore the mansion with my family. I joked about bringing Lil’ Boo’s Halloween costume with us for some pictures and my husband said, we should do it and make a shroud for Little Monster to wear as well.
Once we wrapped up our tour, we took to exploring the gardens and broke out the shrouds for our littles.
In regards to the tour, although I cannot argue that it was indeed minimal contact with the staff working, my definition of self-guided varies just a smidge from Winchester’s. There most certainly wasn’t a crowd, which gave plenty of room to avoid interactions with other guests, but the way in which the tour was arranged was a little frustrating for myself.
Through each room you walked into, there was either an audio segment that played for you or a staff member who would instruct you on when you could move on into the other room. Two separate groups weren’t permitted to be within the same room at the same time, but if the group in front of you took longer, you had to wait until they moved on. Logistically, this makes a lot of sense, but we ran into a small issue.
We got stuck between a larger group of six in front of us and a group of one behind us. This was the large group’s first visit through the mansion (like us) versus the group of one behind us who appeared to be a frequenter of the house. And so, I felt like there was this unspoken pressure to proceed as quickly as possible to the next room because it felt like the person behind us was always waiting on us in the threshold of the previous room.
I like to take my time in historical places like this to really read all the signs and listen to the audio when possible, but my own self-imposed need to be courteous to the group behind us made me feel like as soon as we knew the next group had moved on, we needed to do so as well. I felt like it would have been a much more pleasant experience if they had spaced a larger gap between the groups walking through the house, perhaps by alternating between each audio segment before allowing the next group to begin.
My only other complaint was the staff who were inside the house. Other than one of the staff who shared some very fun tidbits while we waited on the next group to move on, the staff who greeted us had no information to share. They just asked if we had any questions. We would hear them chat up the group before us, but seemed like they were done sharing information when we got to them. 🙁
Luckily, I have this pass for two years, so there will be lots of opportunities to traverse the house at our own pace again.
Have you had the pleasure to haunt the halls of the Winchester Mystery House? Have any questions for me to ask the staff on my next trip?