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Captive of the Labyrinth: Sarah L. Winchester, Heiress to the Rifle Fortune

3.56  ·  Rating Details ·  78 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews

Since her death in 1922, Sarah Winchester has been perceived as a mysterious, haunted figure. After inheriting a vast fortune upon the death of her husband in 1881, Sarah purchased a simple farmhouse in San José, California. She began building additions to the house and continued construction on it for the next twenty years. A hostile press cast Sarah as the conscience of
Hardcover, 280 pages
Published December 6th 2010 by University of Missouri (first published October 30th 2010)
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Sep 26, 2012 Mairi rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2012
Well then.

Let's try this: Think about everything you know about Sarah Winchester. Good.

Now, think about everything you know about Britney Spears, Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, Princess Di, any other woman in the public eye. How much of it that did not come from their own words do you believe? Better: How much of it that did not come from their own words do you trust?

I found it a bit dry at times but enjoyed it nonetheless. Sarah Winchester was not the unhinged obsessive that the popular narr
Oct 20, 2011 Meg rated it liked it
Very detailed historical account of the life and doings of Sarah Winchester. It focused so much on portraying Winchester in an accurate light (i.e. she was NOT a haunted, crazy, spiritualist) that I found myself longing for the excitement and mystery of the embellished modern day perception of the matron of the Winchester "Mystery House." I suppose I don't need the myth of the woman as much as I crave more details and photos of the actual house and its construction. Ignoffo seemed to want to deb ...more
Jul 21, 2015 Robin rated it really liked it
It is so rare to find anyone challenging the accepted view of things, that I delighted in the very idea of a writer/researcher asking "how do you know that?" and going right to primary sources. I celebrated when she discovered that the treasure trove of a crazy old widow's papers where not lost to time (or worse, non-existent) but in the hands of her attorney. No one had bothered to look.
At the base, this is simply a thoroughly good biography. Where Ignoffo consistently debunks the haziest of my
Linda Hooper
Dec 24, 2013 Linda Hooper rated it really liked it
Everything you know about Sarah Winchester is wrong.
Ignoffo's book is a great example of how local history should be done. Some readers have criticized the book for being repetitive, but it is obvious that the chapters have been published separately as journal articles. I appreciate how each chapter stands alone, and explores different themes, although they progress temporally. There were many widows living in the SF Bay area at the turn of the century in huge Victorian Mansions. Most of them w
Mar 08, 2014 Mary rated it really liked it
I grew up just miles from The Winchester Mystery House, totally accepting the local lore of Sarah Winchester being a crazy old bat. I loved learning the truth about the quirky house, the history of the Santa Clara valley, and how the negative public perception of Sarah Winchester came about. Sarah was well-loved and respected by those in her inner circle, as well as her employees. She was a generous philanthropist and savvy business woman. All of the reports of her superstitions and spiritualism ...more
Apr 16, 2011 Mj added it
This book caught my attention at our midwest city library. I had visited the Winchester house while on vacation years ago with my sister because she had heard of the unusual structure. This compilation of facts and stories was interesting and informative about the history of New Haven and the California areas where Sarah Winchester lived. Thank you to the author and all who contributed to give a factual accounting of a woman who made a difference in the lives of many people.
Marie Everett
Apr 14, 2014 Marie Everett rated it it was ok
This seemed dry as dust to me. It was basically a long winded account of her life from birth to grave with no real substance in between. The author spent so much time telling us why the Winchester legacy is not supernatural, that any romance, mystery or awe of Sarah's house is snuffed out. I was highly disappointed.
Jul 18, 2015 Meg rated it liked it
I have visited the Winchester House and found this book interesting in parts. Sometimes the author got too bogged down with too much family history and repeating facts that were already stated. There were some interesting facts about Stanford University and the real personality of Sarah Winchester.
Apr 22, 2015 Teresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating. I've loved the Winchester Mystery House all my life, and this book exposed the real truth behind the enchanting but misleading legend. The real Sarah Winchester was an intriguing local figure in her own right. If you've ever visited the house, it's time to treat yourself to the truth.
Apr 16, 2014 Jennifer rated it liked it
Good biography of Sarah Winchester. Dispelled many of the myths surrounding Sarah and the Winchester Mystery House. Having been fascinated with the house since I was a kid I'm not sure I like that, but interesting nonetheless.
Apr 16, 2016 Olivia rated it it was amazing
This book is the real behind the scenes tour of the Winchester Mystery House. It is wonderfully written, and in many cases, emotionally moving. I recommend it highly but with caution: it will be somewhat of a shock for any of those who grew up a fan of the attraction.
Jun 03, 2011 Candace rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Katy Little, Amelia Mugele
A little academic in tone, it was good to hear the truth of Sarah Winchester. I think if I ever went to see the house, which I would like to for the architecture, I would want to set the record straight. Unfortunately, Mrs. Winchester couldn't set the record straight when she was alive.
Juli Cady Ryan
Apr 14, 2014 Juli Cady Ryan rated it really liked it
Got this book because I was fascinated by the Winchester house, but once I began the book I realized Sarah herself was the more fascinating of the two! Enjoyed reading about her life and the times she lived in.
Sensibly Sassy
Jul 01, 2011 Sensibly Sassy rated it really liked it

17 book of 2012

This book not only shed some light on the real Sarah Winchester but it also educated me on the early days of California and the big players of that time (think James Lick and the Stanford family)
Jan 14, 2013 Sherilyn rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this biography on the woman who inherited the Winchester gun fortune. The first half of the book describes the history of the rifle...the second half covers her life after the death of her husband and what she did with all the money.
Jul 18, 2016 Carrie rated it really liked it
This was a really interesting biography. I've been to the Winchester Mystery House many times. Little did I know that the tour script is not even remotely close to the reality of Sarah Winchester.
Jan 11, 2017 Debbie rated it it was ok
This book was full of information but I wished it had focused on Sarah winchester's life only. Too many extra details made it more laborious to read.
Oct 28, 2016 Jessica rated it it was ok
Here's everything interesting about the book distilled into a few sentences: Sarah Winchester was not superstitious, did not hold seances, did not believe she was being haunted by the ghosts of people killed by Winchester rifles, and was not convinced that she would die as soon as she stopped construction on what later became the Winchester Mystery House tourist trap. After her husband died of tuberculosis and she moved to California, she kept to herself. The local press interpreted her preferen ...more
Feb 13, 2016 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For those history buffs that enjoy reading the background of people and places that have not been revealed previously: you will enjoy this book. For example, the date of Sarah Winchester's arrival in California is listed as 1884 by the Mystery House, but Ignoffo states that it was actually in 1885.
For non-historians: I think this book would be a bit dull and tedious.
If Ignoffo is correct that Sarah Winchester did NOT continue building for the purpose of staving of an early death, or to confuse g
I found this book to be quite informative about Sarah "Sallie" Winchester and the Winchester House. It told interesting facts that are not told in great detail anywhere else. This helped me a lot for my research, so I would recommend this to people who want to know more about the Winchester House or Sarah Winchester for a research project. I would also recommend this to people who like knowing about history or like knowing about landmarks. I do not recommend this book to anyone that is young and ...more
Susan Keady
Nov 05, 2016 Susan Keady rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amazing woman

Many years ago, when I visited Winchester House, I was lucky to meet a remarkable docent. He did not seem quite convinced by his mandatory narrative. When questioned, he revealed his respect and affection for Sarah. I'd forgotten about the incident until I read Colin Dickey's marvelous "Ghostland" last week. That led me to this amazing book about an intelligent and generous woman. She lived in an age that was all wrong for her but managed to accomplish a a great deal and use her mon
Nov 13, 2012 Babs rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012-reads
I stuck with this book to the bitter end afraid I might miss something. I guess I was hoping for a more personal look at Sarah Winchester, but after reading this account I realized her desire was to be anonymous for her own reasons.
Mary Ignoffo gave such an accounting of her life it left no room for the mysterious rumors that surrounded her up to her death in 1922 and on into our present day.
Oct 10, 2011 ninamo rated it really liked it
Thoroughly researched and fascinating.
Tai rated it really liked it
Aug 29, 2016
Jenny rated it really liked it
May 01, 2015
Michael Glass
Michael Glass rated it it was amazing
Mar 04, 2016
Julie rated it really liked it
Oct 04, 2014
Patty Templeton
Patty Templeton rated it really liked it
Jul 05, 2014
SunsetGirrrrl rated it it was amazing
Mar 15, 2017
Susan Orred
Susan Orred rated it liked it
Dec 23, 2013
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Mary Jo Ignoffo, author of Captive of the Labyrinth: Sarah L. Winchester, Heiress to the Rifle Fortune, available from the University of Missouri Press, is a historian committed to reaching beyond academia to present history to the public through exhibits, books, articles, lectures and forums.

The Chicago-born, Los Angeles-raised, longtime resident of the San Francisco Bay Area has spent much of th
More about Mary Jo Ignoffo...

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