As the General Manager of Winchester Mystery House, Magnuson leads a staff of 110 employees that operate the mansion’s world-famous tours.

Member of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.

General Manager of Winchester Mystery House, LLC.

Favorite Professors:  Jerry Tartaglia, Keith Sanborn, Peter Costello, James Mathias Fennelly, Richard Garner

Favorite Classes: Film Production, Experimental Filmmaking

Greatest personal/professional accomplishment: “My greatest personal accomplishment is my son who was born this past January. Every day, there is something new and amazing to notice about him. As far as my greatest professional accomplishment, I think it’s that if I come into a space and I’m given a task, I leave it better than when I got there.”

Advice for current students, or new graduates: “The job market is more competitive than ever. You have to genuinely connect with people. You have to find people who believe in you. This combined with internships is critical. Look at every connection you have. Use social media as well as your own personal networks and find people that will advocate for you.”

For nearly 100 years the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, has stood as a testament to Sarah Winchester who lives on in legend as a grieving widow who continuously built onto her small farm house to appease the spirits of those killed by the guns manufactured by her husband’s firearms company. The mansion is renowned for its many architectural curiosities and paranormal activity resulting in the world’s most unusual and sprawling mansion (24,000 square feet built at a then astronomical cost of $5.5 million), featuring: 160 rooms, 10,000 windows, 2,000 doors, 47 fireplaces, 40 staircases, 13 bathrooms and 9 kitchens.

The estate is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a California Historic State Landmark, a San Jose City Landmark and one of the leading attractions in Northern California. It attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year from throughout the United States and around the world.

Responsible for overseeing it all is Walter Magnuson ’02. As the General Manager of Winchester Mystery House, Magnuson leads a staff of 110 employees that operate the mansion’s world-famous tours.  

Prior to his current position working in what TIME magazine has cited as among the “Top 10 Haunted Places,” Magnuson worked at “The Happiest Place on Earth” as the first-ever senior manager of special events at the Disneyland Resort in Southern California. In this role, Magnuson was tasked with increasing brand loyalty and visitation to Disneyland Park. He led teams that developed and executed premium offerings for VIPs and once-in-a-lifetime experiences for members of Disneyland’s exclusive Club 33.

Magnuson’s career at The Walt Disney Company began while he was a student at Adelphi. “Like a lot of folks, I had fond memories of trips to Disney resorts. I loved all the characters and feeling like I was walking into a different world. It really made a strong impression on me,” said Magnuson. “But, it was when I took a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida while I was in college that I had an epiphany. I knew that I wanted to have a hand in producing the immersive environments that Disney is known for creating.”

After doing some research, Magnuson applied to the Disney College Program. “I would recommend the program to anyone,” he said. His first assignment in the program was to interact with guests at the Magic Kingdom park, first as a skipper on the famed Jungle Cruise attraction in Adventureland and then as a trainer and coordinator on Splash Mountain in Frontierland.

Though Magnuson didn’t know until college that he wanted to work for Disney, he always knew that he wanted to work in the entertainment industry. Prior to coming to Adelphi and majoring in Communications, Magnuson worked at DJ Productions in his hometown of Franklin Square, where he was an event planner and production assistant.

Magnuson, whose mother worked in Adelphi’s Facilities Department, chose to attend the University because he wanted to receive a quality education without having to relocate. While at Adelphi, Magnuson worked on the staff of The Delphian and immersed himself in all things related to film and television. During a film festival at the University, Magnuson won an award for his music video To Make a Vow, which was about televangelism in America.

The skills Magnuson learned at DJ Productions and at Adelphi were put to good use when in 2004, after three years of working at Walt Disney World, he was offered the job of post-production assistant at NBC Universal Television Studios in Los Angeles. There he worked on the post-production of hit NBC television shows like “Law & Order,” “The Office” and “Will & Grace.” Two years after that, he became a project coordinator at Chace Audio By Deluxe, a prominent audio production facility in Hollywood, where he managed restoration film titles and audio projects for Sony Pictures. Some of the classic films he worked on included “Lawrence of Arabia,” “West Side Story” and “South Pacific.” Then, Magnuson headed back to Disney. This time he went to work for Disney Music Group.

While working for Disney Music Group in Asset Management, Operations and Distribution, Magnuson managed global asset collection, storage and distribution and assisted with preservation, restoration, product development and marketing.

In 2009, after two years at Disney Music Group, Magnuson became a project manager for Walt Disney Studios where he directed and tracked all operations within Disney’s global audio migration workflow, provided process solutions and status reports and partnered with numerous businesses to ensure deadlines were established and met. 

Magnuson, who longed to return to working in tourism and hospitality, became the chief of staff to the President of Disneyland Resort, George Kalogridis, in 2010. “It was a time of great expansion for the resort,” said Magnuson. “George taught me a lot during that time and became a mentor to me.”

Magnuson earned the custom-made role of senior manager of special events at Disneyland in 2011. Over the course of the next four years he successfully achieved his goals by developing creative and experimental marketing initiatives. His outstanding work got the attention of the owners of the Winchester Mystery House who approached him in 2015 and offered him the job of General Manager.

Magnuson, his wife and son (who was born this past January), now live in San Jose, California, and enjoy long walks, traveling and listening to Magnuson’s extensive collection of vinyl records.

Magnuson credits Adelphi for helping achieve much of his success. “Adelphi exposed me to things that I might not have come into contact with someplace else,” said Magnuson, “At Adelphi, I was encouraged to think about things in different ways and ask thought provoking questions. Before I got to Adelphi, I was on a different path. The University put me on the path to where I am now and I’m very grateful for that.”

Published August 2016

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