Our Mystery Adventure Tour

A few weeks ago, Neil and I came up with the idea of a day of touring mysterious attractions within the South Bay. In particular, I wanted to go on a family Mystery Hike at Big Basin Redwoods Park, and Neil wanted to check out the Winchester Mystery House again. I thought why not do them together, and throw in a visit to Santa Cruz’ Mystery Spot while we were doing all things mystery.

The Big Basin Redwoods are about an hour away, and the hike was scheduled at 10 am, so we had to get out of the house fairly early for us. It was, as usual, briskly cold at the park, but we’d arrived in time to enjoy the wonderful warm fire in the lodge. The hike wasn’t as mysterious as I’d expected it to be. The park’s famous mystery is about whatever happened to the guy who discovered the glorious falls in the middle of the park, and then went back and disappeared. This hike was more about secrets of the redwood forest, with hidden signs the children could seek and find.

Neil said he knew it all, having learned it at his environmental science magnet school. I, on the other hand, learned a lot of interesting stuff, IMHO. And our guide happened to be the grandfather of one of Neil’s classmates! Besides, I really enjoyed being on a hike, and it was just long enough to tucker Kelly out and make her fall asleep on the way to the Mystery Spot.

Neil’s goal at the Mystery Spot was to find out how it works. The Mystery Spot is one of those old roadside attractions where balls roll uphill, people have to lean, and they seem to change height by where they’re standing.

It’s also surprisingly popular, for an attraction that involves single-lane roads no matter which way you get to it. Neil brought along his compass and carefully measured various angles, and yes, he solved the mystery, which our guide quietly confirmed after the rest of the group had left. I’m not telling you what it is though: part of the fun is going to the Mystery Spot and trying to solve it yourself.

Finally, we returned to San Jose to see the Winchester Mystery House. The tour always strikes me as somewhat overpriced for just seeing what a crazy old lady with way too much money did with Silicon Valley real estate. But the Bay Area south of San Francisco seems to attract and foster the rich and eccentric, like James Lick and Steve Jobs, so maybe the Winchester Mystery House is really an appropriate symbol for the area. And this time, our second time to go there within a year, I noticed how professionally run it is. The staff was getting ready for the Halloween rush, and their upcoming night-time flashlight tours. I noticed a huge stash of flashlights, presumably for that very purpose. Kelly also needed a potty break near the end (but still 2 or 3 rooms to go) of the tour, and our guide called in someone else who could get us out of the house as quickly as possible, which still required going through 5 rooms.

Our goal was to find out if Sarah Winchester, and therefore, her crazy house, was haunted, as she thought it was. Well, we did the Ghost Hunters thing and looked through our digital camera and took lots of pictures. I thought I had captured something on the first set of “low riser” stairs, and the lights mysteriously flickered on and off twice. Here’s the picture:

Ooooo, how spooky is that. Neil took a look at it, and quickly sussed out the “apparition” as hair.  He took this picture of one of Sarah Winchester’s cryptic stained glass windows (which just look into another room, not towards any sun):

You have any idea of what this means? Us, neither.

Anyway, it looks like the crazy old lady theory still holds fast.  When Neil’s 10, he can go on the Behind the Scenes Tour, which takes people into the basement and other areas of the Winchester Mystery House, so maybe we’ll know more then.

Our mysteries over, and solved, we went home to our less mysterious lives.

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