As many of you San Jose enthusiasts already are well aware, Helen Mirren is slated to play our beloved Sarah Winchester in a movie sometime in the next year. We’re already dying of curiosity to see what type of angle this movie takes.
So what should the movie include? We thought that the best person to ask is someone deeply familiar with the Winchester story, and the mansion itself. Cue our resident Winchester expert Brian, former Winchester Mystery House tour guide. Here are his thoughts on some ways Hollywood can maximize the story.
“If there’s one scene that I would love to see put to screen, it would be the 1906 earthquake. The mansion used to be considerably larger than it is now, and the most spectacular piece was the large, 7 story tower. Following the earthquake it was so damaged that it had to come down (and an entire wing of the mansion was sealed off to boot), but it’d be very slick to Hollywood that up. Add in the shrieking of angry spirits and so forth as the gigantic 7 story tower goes toppling down to the path below. And it should also probably explode.
In seriousness, though, it seems like the earthquake had a pretty profound effect on Sarah. She was trapped in an unfinished room for several hours, and while I’m not sure that she blamed the spirits for the earthquake, she definitely blamed them for her being stuck in that part of the mansion. She boarded it off (basically the entire front part of the mansion, aka the only part of the mansion that actually looks a little bit nice) and focused more on cheap, rapid, eternal building. That’s one of the reasons for the varied designs you see when you walk through the house. You have her initial, crazy stage where she’s trying all sorts of fun, kooky stuff (the secret passages, traps, and so forth). Then she gets to the, “Oh… wait… I’m rich…” portion, where she tries to make things look like a rich person’s home. Then the earthquake hits and suddenly she goes into the “clearly I’m not building fast enough” phase, where she just builds as cheap and fast as humanly possible.”
“If they’re going to go with the ghost angle, it might be fun to have the workers (who are supposed to be the current ongoing residents of the mansion, not Sarah) start developing their unnatural connection to the place. Like you could have one of them quit and move away, but the work crew continues to see him around the site. They could even telegraph him to make sure he’s not still around, but he’s just sort of left this permanent imprint. Or you could have them develop their own superstitions and paranoias about various portions of the house.
There was one spot in there that always freaked me out at the end of the day. When we would shut the lights off and begin to close up, there was a long hallway that had an intersection with another long hallway. No matter which way you looked: in front of you, behind you, to the left or to the right, the hallways stretched straight away into dark eternity. I HATED that part of the mansion. I can’t help but imagine that the workers would develop their own aversions, maybe particularly to the sealed off front part of the house.”
The Winchester rifle victims
“Another supernatural angle: what if the ghosts of the people killed by the Winchesters forgot how to be human, and so they started imitating the workers whose routines were predictable and constant? So the ghosts at the mansion today are actually the same ones Sarah was afraid of, only they behave like the workers they observed for so long.”
What do you think should be included in the movie?
I’d like to see some foreshadowing of what the valley would become…perhaps with a touch of irony.
“This valley…so rich in agricultural bounty…will forever remain the sustenance upon which we depend. It will never become home to the types of evil contraptions that steal men’s souls”.
“I will keep building. This valley has abundant, affordable land with which to grow.”
OOoo! Time to join the screenwriting team, Dave!
I for one would like to see a connection to NZ being made. Winchester has a lot in common with Wellington, both being names starting with the letter ‘W’ and being of 3 syllables. And that is just for starters.
The possibilities are ENDLESS.
I’d like to see them focus on how intelligent, educated, cultured, inventive, and independent Mrs. Winchester was. How well she treated her employees, and her philanthropy to a gossiping community that treated her poorly. With a name like Helen Mirren attached to the project, I hope they give Mrs. Winchester a fair accounting–and not just latch on to the unfounded oogyboogy myths.
Steve (another former tour guide)
Couldn’t agree more; the more we learn about the friendship between Sarah W and San Jose legends like Mary Hayes, the less we feel she’s the reclusive weirdo she’s been painted as. Definitely hope the movie captures her multi-faceted, complex personality! Thanks for weighing in!
I agree with Steve, being a former tour guide for 3 years, I would like people to see how smart and kind Mrs. Winchester was to the community and her staff. I really hope the movie will touch on that aspect of who she was, but I understand it is Hollywood and they have to sell the movie. I think it is just really awesome that someone took enough interest and decided to make a movie about the mansion and Mrs. Winchester, any publicity is GREAT to keep Mrs. Winchester’s name and house to carry on.
We couldn’t agree more, and we’re always happy to hear from another Winchester tour guide; let me know if you ever want to pen something on what you learned about “the real Sarah Winchester” — would be an awesome post for when the movie premiers! 🙂
I agree with you Jordan, the Winchester Mystery House had a unique look and/or appearance with the 7 story tower until the 1906 Earthquake that shook the entire Bay Area I do hope that in the future they can re-build the 7 story tower again. I saw the trailer for the Winchester motion picture, it looks and appears scary but exciting.