New Book ‘Sarah Winchester: Beyond the Mystery’ Reveals Sarah Winchester’s True Story
In September 2019, Bennett Jacobstein released his book ‘Sarah Winchester: Beyond the Mystery‘ to tell the true story of Sarah Winchester.
“Sarah Winchester was a wonderful person who devoted a good part of her life to funding a hospital for tuberculosis patients. It has become a personal crusade for me to tell her true story. My goal with the book is to restore Sarah’s reputation,” says Bennett Jacobstein.
Sarah Winchester was a brilliant, creative and generous woman. She lost her only child, Annie, at six weeks old. Her beloved husband William, heir to the Winchester Rifle fortune, died at a young age from tuberculosis. Sarah never recovered from her two heartbreaking losses. Yet through all her pain she was focused on helping those in need.
Sarah spent major parts of her adult life on two building projects. Both of them live on today, 97 years after her death.
In San Jose, California, Sarah built an architectural marvel, a mansion in the American Queen Anne revival style reflecting great beauty and great innovation. The mansion has operated since 1923 as a tourist attraction known as the Winchester Mystery House. The house is a California Historical Landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Throughout the years rumors have been associated with Sarah and her house. The rumors suggest that the grief-stricken widow sought comfort from a medium in Boston who told her that (as the heir to the Winchester Repeating Arms Company fortune) she was being cursed by the spirits of those killed by the Winchester rifle. She should move west, the medium said, and build a house and never stop building. As long as construction continued, she was told, she would not die. The rooms would shelter the good spirits and the sound of hammers would drive away the bad spirits. These rumors led to Sarah being portrayed as eccentric and crazy.
According to Bennett’s research, there is a different version of the story. Not only were there rational reasons for everything in the house, but Sarah was not at all crazy and spent a good part of her life in a philanthropic effort.
In West Haven, Connecticut, Sarah funded the building and operation of a hospital for patients with tuberculosis. The hospital, honoring her husband, was named the William Wirt Winchester Annex for Tuberculosis. Sarah was especially concerned with helping those of limited economic means. Over the years thousands of lives have been saved through the work of this hospital. Although the hospital no longer exists, the fund Sarah created continues to support the Winchester Chest Clinic, now part of the Yale New Haven Hospital.
Sarah’s hospital remains virtually unknown, whereas Sarah’s mansion is toured by a steady stream of visitors from around the world. The Winchester Mystery House has more than a quarter million visitors a year from throughout the United States and internationally. However, they present a tour based more on legends than on actual fact. The mansion was the setting for the 2018 film Winchester, a paranormal thriller starring Academy-Award-winning actress Helen Mirren. The movie was advertised as “inspired by true events.” It is true that Sarah and the house both existed, but that is where the “true” events end.
The rumors surrounding the house continue to be told. Historical research including newspaper and magazine articles, personal correspondence, and interviews with Sarah’s contemporaries reveals an alternative explanation of Sarah Winchester and her mansion.
About the Author:
Bennett Jacobstein lives in San Jose, CA. He is a retired librarian and publisher of demographic materials. During past baseball seasons he has worked in the concessions stand at Municipal Stadium, home of Minor League Baseball’s Class A Advanced San Jose Giants.
During the 2014 baseball season, Bennett and his wife traveled to each of the major league stadiums to investigate the variety of food offerings. In 2015, Bennett published his first book The Joy of Ballpark Food: From Hot Dogs to Haute Cuisine. Available for sale on Amazon.
In 2018, Bennett worked as a tour guide for The Winchester Mystery House. It inspired him to learn more about Sarah Winchester. In September 2019, Bennett released ‘Sarah Winchester: Beyond the Mystery’ to tell Sarah Winchester’s true story.
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