After inheriting a vast fortune upon the death of her husband in 1881, Sarah Winchester purchased a simple farmhouse in San José, California. She built additions to the house and continued construction for the next twenty years. When neighbors and the local press could not imagine her motivations, they invented fanciful ones of their own. She was accused of being a ghost-obsessed spiritualist, and to this day it is largely believed that the extensive construction she executed on her San José house was done to thwart death and appease the spirits of those killed by the Winchester rifle.
Author and historian Mary Jo Ignoffo’s definitive biography unearths the truth about this reclusive eccentric, revealing that she was not a maddened spiritualist driven by remorse but an intelligent, articulate woman who sought to protect her private life amidst the chaos of her public existence and the social mores of the time. The author takes readers through Winchester’s several homes, explores her private life, and, by excerpting from personal correspondence, one learns the widow’s true priority was not dissipating her fortune on the mansion in San José but endowing a hospital to eradicate a dread disease.
Sarah Winchester has been exploited for profit for over a century, but Captive of the Labyrinth finally puts to rest the myths about this American heiress, and, in the process, uncovers her true legacies.
About the Author
Mary Jo Ignoffo is an author and historian specializing in California and the West. She has written books and articles, curated historical museum exhibits, has been interviewed for documentary films and for podcasts airing in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. She is the author of Captive of the Labyrinth Sarah L. Winchester Heiress to the Rifle Fortune, La Verdad A Witness to the Salvadoran Martyrs and Gold Rush Politics. Ignoffo holds degrees from Santa Clara University and San Jose State University.