Winchester Mystery House celebrated the centennial of Sarah Winchester’s death with a special event; Beyond the Veil with James Van Praagh on September 5th, 2022. It’s not much of a secret how much I adore Winchester Mystery House and Sarah Winchester herself. From obsessing over the cobweb windows to maternity photo shoots, as well as designing a cocktail inspired by Sarah’s love of Daisies, there is something about the Winchester Mystery House that resonates in my bones. Being able to attend this limited special celebration on Monday genuinely made me feel like a VIP.
Advertised as a séance experience, a total of fifty guests split between two tour times would follow medium James Van Praagh through the halls of this famous mansion in attempts to connect with Sarah and other spirits said to walk the halls of this historic home.
Awaiting admittance to Winchester Mystery House
Our tickets encouraged us to arrive twenty minutes before our 7pm time slot. This was to allow time for check in and signing a waiver for video filming. I wanted to wander the grounds a little before that. I threw together a gorgeous outfit to honor the occasion with the hopes of getting some photos in the gardens. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to Winchester until after they had officially closed the gates to general guests.
Luckily, we were the first lined up at the Daisy gate (oooo~! Special entrance!) and to sign our waivers. As we waited to enter the house, Erick snapped a few quick shots of me in the garden before entering. Our day temperatures were around 104° while our evening predicted temperatures in the 90s. I’m glad I didn’t look like the hot mess I felt like.
Black fabric bunting and funeral floral displays dressed the main entrance of Llanda Villa. Between these was Sarah’s photo; flowers, cards and papers left beneath this from visitors that day. It was rather touching and set the mood of the evening for me. Employees then opened the doors to the front of the house, a path not many guests get to enter from. Walter, the General Manager, and Natalie, Director of Marketing, (both of whom I recognized from Midsummer Scream), greeted and ushered guests into the ballroom.
We entered to a large, long table covered in black tablecloths and candelabras. This was place directly beneath the thirteen-light chandelier. Chairs for each guest surrounded the table. Placed at each setting was a commemorative pin, notepad with pencil and a cabinet card honoring Sarah’s death. The stage was set to go Beyond the Veil at the Winchester Mystery House.
Beyond the Veil with a Séance Virgin
In total transparency, I have never attended any sort of séance nor had the pleasure of seeing a medium work. This means I had absolutely no idea what to expect. My only idea of what might occur was some version of a Victorian gathering. Something you might have witnessed in Penny Dreadful or Insidious. You know, the perfect examples to make someone nervous. Ha ha ha. I can definitely say that what transpired was anything but.
Walter introduced important employees that were present (including the house historian) and then moved on to our guest of honor. James started off discussing Sarah and how she was present and quite a strong-willed spirit. It was at this point, he mentioned Sarah was correcting him on the name of the room. He stated that it was her parlor, not ballroom and this was where she welcomed guests. Then, he discussed spiritual energy and threw out his beliefs of death and spirits. This part was all very interesting to me.
He then spent the next thirty minutes of the evening addressing random guests. James would mutter off to the side as if talking to someone there. Then, he would mention details of the spirit(s) he was sensing around a particular guest. For most of those singled out, you could tell it was a reassuring moment. Yet even then, there were some that were didn’t feel like he was hitting the mark. This part was not really my favorite. I would have rather spent this half hour+ exploring more of the house instead of hearing about all of these strangers. James wrapped up a couple times, however the staff encouraged him to continue each time. I couldn’t help but check my phone, wondering if this was going to be the entire event.
Exploring Winchester with Sarah
Finally, we stood from our seats and began a romp through some of Llanda Villa’s most well-known rooms. James, speaking for Sarah, mentioned that she was ready to start the “walk-about” (as she put it). Our first stop was the Daisy room, reportedly where the 1906 earthquake trapped Sarah. I always feel a sense of calming and comfort in this room. Even if we don’t stop in it during a tour, catching just a glimpse of it through the windows brings me peace. However, when James asked around for energy feelings, most guests threw out sad or depressing vibes. Thankfully, James picked up on something else. He shared visions of window-gazing at blooming flowers and sitting in a two-sided chaise. Enchanting!
We then moved on to the basement. Thankfully, the coolest place in the house. As we all took reprieve from the 90° temperatures, James resumed his medium-ing. He brought up children playing games in this dark space and employees sneaking a little liquid warmth near the furnace. Someone suggested turning off lights, but it seems the spirits didn’t want us in the dark. With little left calling to James, we moved on to our final destination, Sarah’s bedroom.
Here, James picked up the sense of Sarah reminiscing over old letters from her husband, wrapped in a ribbon and thoughts of Vienna. He also threw out Sarah declaring the room not being in proper order as she had it. James mentioned her bed facing the window and a rocking chair. He also stated her leaving with a great sense of peace and readiness to move on. I couldn’t help but feel emotional over this. However, I was also battling the excitement of getting to stand IN her bedroom on the other side of the ropes.
Final Winchester Mystery House Moments Beyond the Veil
We held a moment of silence as two staff members rang the bell. A bell rung only for special occasions these days. We said thank yous, goodbyes and then were guided out in preparation for the next group. And that was it. We tried to take a couple more photos, but being nighttime with little lighting, there wasn’t much we could capture.
Impressions of Winchester Mystery House Beyond the Veil
It truly was a special evening. As mentioned before, I had no prior experience seeing a medium at work. Honestly, I could have done without the guests’ spirit chatter. However, I understood that although there were many of us present for Sarah and Winchester Mystery House, there were just as many there to witness James at work.
Did I feel anything spiritual or supernatural during my visit? I doubt it. I did have a moment in the ballroom/parlor where my right elbow got numb and tingly, but that could have just been the chairs. The vibes James would address, I could definitely relate to, but that could just be my love of this place influencing that.
I don’t know if I would sign up for another evening like this. I cannot complain about the humble bragging rights to being only one of fifty guests in Winchester Mystery House after hours on the hundredth anniversary of Sarah’s death. Yet, I felt unfulfilled by the end of the evening. I’m not sure what I hoped for, but this wasn’t quite it. Still, I learned so much and my appreciation for Sarah and her home have only deepened. Whether or not James’ messages came from Sarah herself, I would like to believe she really was present.
I would love to know if you would sign up for an evening like this. Were you there as well? Should I give a medium experience another chance?