Major Hollywood Feature-Film Planned, The Winchester Mystery House
07/01/2009 - San Jose, Ca
PARANORMAL DAILY NEWS - The Winchester Mystery House had better get ready for its close-up because San Jose’s most iconic haunted house has been cast as the star of a new horror movie.
The first major motion picture to be shot in San Jose in ages, the “Winchester Mystery House” movie will be produced by Saratoga native Andrew Trapani, best known for the Lionsgate hit “The Haunting in Connecticut.” The filmmaker, who attended Saratoga High School and Santa Clara University, says he has been fascinated by the valley’s original monster home since childhood.
“I must have toured the house a dozen times. The question isn’t what is fascinating about the Winchester but what’s not fascinating about it,” says Trapani, who now lives in Los Angeles. “As a kid, it was a big scary place that terrified me. As an adult, it’s something I want to research and investigate.”
Hundreds of thousands of people flock to the 160-room mansion, one of the most popular haunted houses in America, each year. Originally built by eccentric rifle heiress Sarah L. Winchester in the late 1800s, the house is also considered a center of spectral activity by many. Through the years, apparitions have been reported by staff and visitors alike. The seance room, where Winchester nightly tried to commune with the afterlife, is among the hot spots.
“It’s the great American haunted house,” Trapani says. “It’s also a great mystery. What motivated her to do what she did? That’s what we want to explore with this movie. The reports of paranormal activity are so numerous that it’s certainly worth investigating.”
Legend has it that Winchester was so wracked with guilt over the deaths caused by the Winchester rifle, the gun that won the West, that she thought legions of ghosts were after her. Some say she believed that if she never stopped building, the spirits could never find her. Construction on the 24,000-square-foot Victorian mansion went on 24 hours a day for 32 years until her death in 1922. Among the Byzantine house’s infamous architectural oddities are doors that open onto nothing and stairways that lead to ceilings.
Trapani is brainstorming the plot, which probably will entail “a contemporary tale about the house with flashes into the past.” Nothing has been decided on who might distribute or star in the picture. For the record, Shozo Kagoshima, manager of the Winchester, says he has never seen any evidence of the supernatural in his 33 years on staff. “I don’t doubt people who say they have seen things,” he says. “But I think you have to believe before you can see.”
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The publicity is expected to raise the profile of not just the city’s biggest tourist destination but also the city at large. “A major motion picture would be a major boost to our local economy and tourism industry by showcasing San Jose to a broader audience,” says Dan Fenton, CEO of Team San Jose. “We welcome the chance to put San Jose on the big screen.”
Over the years, the house has inspired countless TV segments. San Jose Repertory Theatre even staged a musical about the house. But producers are quick to note that this will be the first feature film granted permission to shoot on location. Filming is slated to begin by the end of the year.
“They wanted to make sure that the movie would be handled with care,” Trapani says, “that nothing would be done to defame the legacy. We want to honor it.”