~ Winfred celebrating with her sisters in their renewed youth.
~ Winifred calls to her book.
Winifred "Winnie" Sanderson is the main antagonist of the 1993 Disney live action dark fantasy horror comedy film Hocus Pocus.
Winifred is the eldest and most intelligent witch among her sisters Mary and Sarah. For her sinister and witch-like activities, Winifred and her sisters were sentenced to death and later resurrected by Max Dennison. Upon her return, she and her sisters set out to suck the life forces (otherwise known as souls) out of younger children to stay young and alive forever.
She was portrayed by Bette Midler, who also played Kitty Galore in Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. Bette will also be returning as Winifred in Hocus Pocus 2.
Back when Winifred was alive, her lover was William "Billy" Butcherson, but she found out that he had an affair with her sister named Sarah. Enraged, Winifred poisoned Billy and sewed his mouth shut with a dull needle so that he could not reveal her secrets even in death. That also proved that Winifred was always the most jealous type among her own sisters.
Winifred sold her soul, and possibly the souls of her sisters, to The Devil for a spellbook of evil magic, which contained a recipe for a potion that would enable them to suck the youth from children and maintain their own.
In the 17th century, Sarah lures Emily Binx into the forest to the house where she and her sisters live. However what she does not know is that Emily's older brother, Thackery Binx, saw them enter the forest and followed them. Inside the house she helps her two sisters, Winifred and Mary, concoct a potion which will allow them to take the life force of children in order to remain young. Thackery interrupts this however before they can give it to Emily but he is soon overcome by Winifred and they proceed to inhale Emily's life force, killing Emily. They then proceed to turn Thackery into a black cat with immortality so he can 'live forever with his guilt'. But once they perform this spell the villagers arrive at their house and as Winifred and Mary barricade the door Sarah stupidly says what the witches were doing.
The villagers capture the witches and but Winifred prophesies their return via the Black Flame Candle lit on All Hallows Eve by a virgin. Sarah and her sisters are subsequently hanged and left within the forest.
300 years later, a Californian boy named Max takes his sister trick-or-treating and gets together with Allison whose mother used to run the museum that was the Sanderson house. They break into the house and Max foolishly lights the candle thinking that it's just a bunch of hocus pocus and ends up resurrecting the Sandersons. Max steals Winifred's Spellbook at the behest of Thackery so that Sarah and her sisters cannot create the potion needed to steal the life force of children and they run.
The children all ran to the cemetery as Thackery led them however the witches all followed them on their broomsticks and nearly got the book back. However, before they can escape Winifred raises Billy Butcherson, her former lover, back from the dead and instructs him to get the book back before flying away to the outside of the cemetery as they cannot set foot on hollowed ground. There they employ the help of a bus driver and ask him to find them children and eventually come across a house owned by a man dressed as the devil who they mistake for their master. They subsequently get into a fight with the man's wife as Sarah was dancing with him but are scared away by the dog. Outside they find that their broomsticks have been stolen.
The witches then follow the children to the party where Max's parents are and after being exposed to the room by Max Winifred takes charge and ridicules him before singing "I Put A Spell On You" therefore enchanting all the adults causing them to dance forever. After this the children lead the witches to the school after Allison gets an idea from a restaurant and after unwittingly walking into the furnace they are locked in and the children burn them alive.
However, they did not die due to the curse protecting them from death until sunrise and they end up capturing and locking up the two bullies that make fun of Max after they call them ugly. Winifred, desperate for her eternal youth decides to try and make the potion from memory. Sarah, surprisingly, shouts out the correct ingredient but is hushed by Mary who thinks Winifred has all the right answers. At Max's house though Max and Allison open the book therefore allowing it to send out a signal to the witches who fly to the house, using a modern cleaning broom, mop and vacuum cleaner as improvisations for their stolen broomsticks and take the book and kidnap Dani and Thackery. Sarah is instructed to sing her siren song to all the children of Salem so they will go to the Sanderson house.
After brewing the potion again they try to get Dani to drink it but are stop by Max who tricks them into thinking the sun has risen by using the headlights of a car. However they realize they have been tricked and follow the children back to the cemetery and attempt to get Dani to drink the potion again though Winifred drops the potion whilst Sarah tries to help Mary escape the children. Max catches the potion and threatens to smash it though instead drinks it after Winifred says she'll kill Dani if he smashes it. After a struggle with Max Winifred and the boy both fall to the ground and Winifred starts to take his life force but the sun comes up. Winifred turns to stone and explodes in green light whilst Sarah and Mary implode in purple and red light.
At the end of the movie, however, the book is seen and it blinks, therefore hinting the witches may return once again.
Winifred wore a purple dress under a long, ornate green robe embroidered with gold thread. When she went outside, she wore a dark green hooded cloak. She had curly red hair worn in a style similar to the shape of a heart, brown eyes, buck teeth, long nails, and a lack of eyebrows. She donned lipstick on the center of her upper and lower lips, which produced a pout effect. She had striped green stockings and shoes with curved points.
Powers and Abilities
Winnie's most distinctive ability was her ability to fire green magical lightning from her fingertips. She was adept at casting all manner of dark spells with her prized spellbook, as shown when she and her sisters transformed Thackery Binx into a cat or when she bewitched partygoers at the halloween ball to dance for eternity with song. She was also competent at brewing potions, as she required one to detach the essence of life from children she wished to absorb. She had some skill in necromancy, as she was able to raise her dead ex-lover Billy from his grave as a zombie. Like her sister Sarah, Winifred could bewitch people with her voice (although we aren't certain that it wasn't Sarah's voice that brought the magic into the song). She could also fly with the aid of a broomstick.
Furthermore, Winnie is the most intelligent of the three sisters. She never forgets that 300 years have passed, and resists most of Max's attempts to play on the sisters' anachronistic ignorance. When Mary notes that there are children all around them but they don't LOOK like children, Winnie correctly determines that in the course of three centuries Halloween has become "a night of frolic" on which people dress as other characters - including the Sandersons themselves. When the witches follow Max and Dani to their parents' Halloween party and Max tries to tell the crowd what has happened, Winnie pretends that Max is simply introducing her and her sisters as the next musical act, causing the crowd to laugh. Having heard the jazz band on stage strike up Screamin' Jay Hawkins's "I Put a Spell on You," Winnie uses the song as a cover for an ACTUAL spell, even reciting a vaguely Latin chant to a catchy improvised tune, knowing that the crowd will sing along and enchant THEMSELVES. She orders the partygoers to "dance till you die!" - and they nearly do, finally stopping the party only at daybreak when the witches are killed.
Winifred is highly intelligent, dramatic, sadistic, smart, temperamental, and clever and evil, which makes her all the more deadly if one isn't careful. Extremely vain, she is deeply offended whenever she is called ugly and swiftly punishes anyone who dares do so. When she caught her lover, Billy Butcherson, cheating on her with her beautiful sister Sarah, she flew into a jealous rage and poisoned him, sewing his lips shut with a dull needle for good measure.
As the eldest of her sisters, she is their leader, though she probably would be anyway due to her cunning and competence, traits which her sisters lack. She is also shown to be much more smarter, clever and observant than her younger sisters. Mary is her right-hand witch and compliments Winnie constantly, but Sarah's air-headed idiocy in particular frequently exasperates Winnie to no end. However, she tolerates them either because her idolized mother asked her to, or because they each have invaluable, unique powers necessary for her plans. Her own unique power is electrokinesis, which can easily and painfully subdue pesky older siblings who get in her way.
But if there is one thing she truly loves in the world, it is her beloved spellbook. Given to her by the Devil himself and able to magically change its contents to fit the situation, it is a priceless treasure that she absolutely adores. She is at her most caring, her most kind when she speaks to her book.
Her spellbook helps her find the perfect spells and potions to cause misfortune to others, be it painfully transforming her victims into other creatures or brewing a potion to suck away their life-force. She enjoys harming others with wicked glee and even when facing execution, her sarcastic, cruel sense of humor remains unfazed.
Bette Midler has stated in countless occasions that Winnifred Sanderson is one of her favorite roles. She even dressed like Winnie on stage during her Divine Intervention Tour in 2015. With the recent announcement of a sequel film for Disney+, Midler has expressed her interest on reprising the role.