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Captive of the Labyrinth: Sarah L. Winchester, Heiress to the Rifle Fortune Hardcover – December 6, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
In this scattered but well-meaning biography of the heiress to the massive Winchester arms fortune, Ignoffo's attempts to undercut rumors of eccentric behavior become bogged down in historical minutiae. Born in 1839 in New Haven, Conn., Sarah Lockwood Pardee entered the Winchester dynasty in 1862 when she wed William Wirt Winchester, the son of the founder of the legendary Winchester Repeating Arms Company. The Winchester rifle became the preferred gun of the expanding American frontier, and Sarah moved westward herself four years after William's death in 1881, using her substantial wealth to settle in a then undeveloped California. Rumors of her spiritualist leanings and reclusive tendencies began after Sarah purchased a large ranch in the Santa Clara Valley, christening it Llanada Villa, which became the titular labyrinth. When completed, it was over three stories high, with rooms and hallways tacked on at random. Sarah purchased several more properties surrounding Llanada and near San Francisco, all while remaining aloof from neighbors, primarily due to debilitating rheumatoid arthritis. While Sarah Winchester's intriguing life has been largely overlooked by historians, Ignoffo does her subject few favors with a lack of organization and frequent tangents. (Dec.)
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“Captive of the Labyrinth is an excellent read. Ignoffo finally sets the record straight on one of the most fascinating and misunderstood women in California history. A real page-turner!” --Gary F. Kurtz, California State Library Director of Special Collections
“Written by a local historian and considered the first full-length biography of the wealthy recluse who built and lived in what is now the renowned tourist attraction opposite Santana Row, Captive of the Labyrinth: Sarah L. Winchester, Heiress to the Rifle Fortuneis definitely not 'authorized'. . .Among the fascinating information in Ignoffo's book is her contention that the 1906 earthquake that toppled a seven-story tower and damaged two floors of the San Jose mansion explains away some of the mysteries. . . like sealed up chimneys and stairs that once went somewhere. ” --San Jose Mercury News
“Each page is packed with information pertaining to Winchester's upbringing and family and not only does the biography tell Winchester's story, but it touches on that of her relatives and associates. rdquo; --Santa Clara Weekly
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So I was excited to come across this book through Amazon's search engine; although I ordered it a few years ago, I didn't read it until last week.
Sarah's history is long, complicated, and very interesting. The book chronicles the origin of her family, her husband's family; describes how the Winchester Rifle Co. came into existence; and the course of her life thereafter. Although it gets to be a little difficult at times to keep track of the various families involved, overall the information is very comprehensive and I think necessary to understand more of who exactly Sarah Winchester was as a person AND as a citizen of California. I was amazed at the scope of the wide-ranging properties she owned, and enjoyed reading follow-up information that details what those locations have evolved into since her death. She was a very savvy businesswoman, and certainly nobody's fool! :)
I definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the "real" story of Sarah Winchester and the backstory of her famous house. It left me wanting to know even more about Sarah - not because the book isn't thorough (because it certainly is!), but because she was a very intriguing a person who led a long, very atypical life.
Then, I came across this book and for the first time, I had to search to get in contact with the author to thank her! I have never tried to contact an author before, but I just had to in this case. Finally there is a book that has the real stories. Mary Jo Ignoffo has done much research and presents it in a way that keeps you wanting more. I have recommended this book to so many friends and people I dont know. When I go to paranormal events, I make sure to take this with me to share and let people know to always research legends instead of just believing stories created by media and Mr. Brown (who purchased the property for the sole purpose of making it an amusement park...to make money, not tell the truth.) In all, if you are interested in history, live in the area like me and want to know more of local history, or are into the ghost stories of the legend, I highly recommend reading this book!