cover of book

Captive of the Labyrinth: Sarah L. Winchester, Heiress to the Rifle Fortune, Revised and Updated Edition
by Mary Jo Ignoffo
University of Missouri Press, 2022
Paper: 978-0-8262-2270-1 | eISBN: 978-0-8262-7481-6
Library of Congress Classification F869.S394I36 2022
Dewey Decimal Classification 979.404092

Captive of the Labyrinth is reissued here to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of rifle heiress Sarah L. Winchester in 1922. After inheriting a vast fortune upon the death of her husband in 1881, 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.

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