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The Sanderson Sisters are the main antagonists of the 1993 live-action film, Hocus Pocus. They are a trio of witch sisters who were accidentally revived by Max Dennison in modern-day Salem and attempt to become immortal by sucking the life force of children (and some teens) using their life potion.

Role in the film

In 1693 Salem, Massachusetts, Thackery Binx is awakened and notices that his little sister, Emily, is being lured into the woods by an old woman while his best friend, Elijah, shows that the witches in the woods are conjuring. He gives chase, arriving at a cottage as Emily is led inside by one of the three women. It is home of the Sanderson sisters. Inside, they are brewing a potion with which to suck the life force out of young children to use as their own. Thackery is too late, however, and Emily drinks the potion. After subduing him with her powers, Winifred, along with Mary and Sarah, shares the life force from Emily, making them younger. When he calls her a hag, she decides not to kill him as punishment and, to their amusement, they transform him into a black cat who must live forever with the guilt of letting Emily die. The townspeople, led by their parents, come and capture the sisters to hang them; however, Winifred casts a spell that, on Halloween night when, the Moon is full, a virgin will summon them back from the dead so they can claim all the lives of the children in Salem.

In 1993, a teenager named Max Dennison, his sister, Dani, and crush, Allison, visit the Sanderson sisters' cottage, now a former museum, on Halloween night. While there, Max finds the Black Flame Candle and lights it, which causes the house to suddenly come to life; this culminates in the sisters reentering the front door for the first time in 300 years. Mary quickly finds Dani with her power to sniff out children, but Max interrupts before they can partake on a long overdue dinner. He tricks them into thinking he is a wizard using a lighter to summon the "Burning Rain of Death" (the fire alarm system) in the house. Before he can leave, however, Thackery, who can now talk as a cat, makes him grab the spellbook so the sisters can't create their life stealing potion. They soon give chase and Thackery leads them to a graveyard, telling them stories of the sisters, Allison deduces who he is. As the sisters can't set foot on hallowed ground, and air assaults are useless to the quickly moving children, Winifred summons her ex-boyfriend, Billy Butcherson, a zombie whom she caught cheating on her with Sarah and whose mouth was sewn shut with a dull needle so he can't divulge her secrets, to chase them. They escape through the sewers and Max knocks Billy's head off.

The sisters encounter a bus and Sarah is driving it when Thackery emerges from the sewers. Max and the others witness his death and resurrection due to the curse that he can't die. Meanwhile, unable to track Max and the others, the sisters encounter trick-or-treaters furthering their confusion of Halloween night. After an encounter with a man dressed as Satan and mistaking him for their true master who is wed to Medusa (a woman with snakes for hair), Winifred realizes the truth of Halloween, while their broomsticks are stolen by children dressed as them. Max and the others try to tell the police, but find a man dressed as a police officer instead. They go to warn their parents, but the sisters arrive and in a big song and dance number, discredit their claims and curse the adults to dance until they die. The kids lure the sisters to the high school and into a kiln where they are apparently burned to death. They are resurrected and return home defeated, Winifred is unable to remember the ingredients to the potion and they fall into despair as it was earlier established that the candle only brought them back to life for that night, and unless they can use the potion on children by sunrise, they are dust and cease to exist. As Dani and Thackery rest, Allison and Max, despite the warnings that nothing good can come from the book, open it to find a cure for his immortality. It signals the sisters who use a corn broom, a mop, and a Hoover vacuum cleaner to fly to its location. They secretly invade the house and grab the book, Thackery and Dani before violently exploding from the house, but not before Winifred reveals the nature of the spell that brought them back to Allison. Sarah uses her power, a siren song to lure the children of Salem to the house.

Max and Allison give chase and Max manages to trick the sisters again using the headlights of his parents' car to simulate sunrise. In the confusion, he frees Dani and Thackery and they return to the graveyard to hold out against the sisters. They encounter Billy and after using a knife to cut the stitches on his mouth, he apparently breaks the control Winifred has over him and joins the kids against them. They hold out well to start with, but Dani exits her protected grave plot when Winifred kicks off Billy's head and uses it to her advantage, swooping down and taking Dani. Thackery saves her by knocking the last vial of the potion out of Winifred's hand, which Max catches and drinks it to take her place. Winifred drops Dani and picks up Max to drain his life force, but Allison, Dani and Billy cause a distraction using Sarah and Mary which gives Max the opportunity to knock both himself and Winifred to the ground as Sarah and Mary fly up into the sky out of control. Winifred recovers and tries to steal Max's life force, but because she is standing on hallowed ground, she turns to stone. As the sun comes up, Mary and Sarah bid their goodbyes dramatically before exploding, followed shortly after by Winifred's statue exploding. With the sisters gone, the spell over Thackery is broken, and his soul reunites with Emily's spirit in the afterlife.

Meanwhile, back at the Sanderson's cottage, the eye of Winifred's spellbook opens up and looks around, hinting that perhaps the sisters aren't completely gone after all.

Disney Parks

The Sanderson sisters make their Disney Parks debut as the stars of the new Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular show during Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World. They add ingredients to their party potion and are aided by various Disney Villains including Doctor Facilier, Oogie Boogie, Maleficent, the Evil Queen, Hades, Cruella De Vil, Captain Hook, Jafar and Lady Tremaine. At the end of the show, the villains join the sisters in singing "I Put a Spell on You".

In the show, their worship of "the master" (the Devil) is changed to worship of Maleficent. This is ostensibly to make the show more family-friendly. That being said, Maleficent is established as having her powers come from Hell ("now you shall deal with me, oh prince, and all the powers of Hell!").

For the 2022 Halloween season, the Disney Cruise Line will debut a meet and greet with classic Disney characters dressing as the Sanderson Sisters with Minnie Mouse as Winifred, Clarabelle Cow as Mary, and Daisy Duck as Sarah.


v - e - d
Hocus Pocus (soundtrack/video) • Disney Emoji BlitzHocus Pocus & the All-New SequelHocus Pocus 2
Disney Parks
Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular
Original Winifred SandersonMary SandersonSarah SandersonMax DennisonDani DennisonAllisonThackery BinxBilly ButchersonDave DennisonJenny DennisonEmily BinxErnieJay TaylorMiss Olin

Sequel BeccaCassieIzzy

Come Little ChildrenI Put a Spell on YouWitchcraft
MassachusettsSanderson Sisters' CottageOld Burial Hill
Black Flame CandleManual of Witchcraft and AlchemyLife Potion