BLOOD-sucking vampire or a humble Blackburn cotton weaver?

Sarah Roberts, an East Lancashire woman who died 96 years ago in Peru, is one of the most iconic cult figures in the South American country.

According to Peruvian legend, she had to be buried there as nowhere else in the world would take the casket of a woman believed to be one of the three brides of Dracula.

But historians in East Lancashire said Sarah was ‘just a cotton weaver’ and that there was no substance whatsoever in the Peruvian myth.

Now her gory legend is being immortalised in a play being written by villagers from Pisco, in the south of Peru.

They want to hear from any descendants of Sarah in East Lancashire.

Pisco legend says in June 1913, Sarah, of Isherwood Street, Blackburn, was sentenced to death by East Lancashire officials after she was accused of being a witch, a vampire and a murderer.

They believe as she was flung, still alive, into a lead-lined coffin, she cursed those who had consigned her to her fate and vowed to return for vengeance in 80 years – 1993.

Fear led the authorities to ban her body from their graveyards, legend says.

Drama enthusiast Racso Miro Quesada, who is turning the legend into a play, said: “Her husband J.P. Roberts travelled the world trying to find a place to bury his wife.

“Because of the things she was accused of, there was no place on earth where she could rest.

"No one wanted to have the remains of the person he loved.

"She ended up being accepted in a small fishing town in south Peru – Pisco.”

In 1993, as Sarah was due to exact her revenge, her gravestone cracked.

Pregnant women fled in fear that Sarah’s spirit might try to reincarnate itself in their child and hundreds bought vampire kits, complete with garlic and a wooden stake, before descending on the graveyard to await the resurrection.

When she failed to appear, those who had been throwing holy water and praying said they had kept the ghoul at bay.

Peruvian television produced a documentary of the happenings in 1993.

Rasco said: “The story of this woman from Blackburn is one of the most iconic cults in Peru.

"It is a story of love, fear, renaissance and perseverance.

“Pisco was in the media some time ago because of a gigantic earthquake.

“People travel long distances to visit Sarah’s grave.

“It happens to be one of the only graves that survived the earthquake – something that reinforces the belief that Sarah is a powerful saint.”

However, Roger Booth, Blackburn with Darwen’s library officer for local history, said: “Sarah has gone down in history, but in reality she was just a cotton weaver.

“It is understandable people in Peru may have believed this tale in 1913 but it is hard to see how they still thought she was going to emerge from her grave in 1993.”


SARAH Ellen Gargett was born in Burnley in 1862 and was known to be living at Bolton Road, Blackburn.

She married weaver John Pryce Roberts, then of Charlotte Street, Blackburn, at St John’s Church, Blackburn, in 1892.

By the time the 1901 census was taken they had two children, William and Frank.

In that year John’s brother left his job as manager of St Paul’s weaving mill, Nab Lane, to take up a similar position at a cotton mill in Lima, Peru.

Records show that both John and Sarah made trips to see him, including a visit in 1913, when Sarah died on June 9 in Pisco.

In a spooky twist her death was reported in the obituary column of the Northern Daily Telegraph on Friday the 13th.

Peruvian legend said John vanished and was never seen again after burying his wife, but records show he opened a grocery shop in Johnston Street in 1922. He died in 1925 was buried at the old Blackburn cemetery.

Following numerous requests from across the world, Stephen Smith, a volunteer for local history website Cotton Town, tried to find out more about her life.

He said: “After 96 years it is hard to get a true picture of the couple. What the cause of her death was is now a mystery. There was a story that Sarah had another son while she was in Peru so perhaps she died in childbirth or maybe she died of some disease.”