John Winchester

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Name John Eric Winchester
Actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Matthew Cohen (Young John)
Nels Gulofen (Child John)
Dates 1954 - July 19, 2006 (killed by Azazel)
Location Lawrence, Kansas (formerly)
Occupation Marine
Vessel for Michael (5.13)
Episode(s) 1.01 Pilot
1.04 Phantom Traveler (voice only)
1.09 Home
1.10 Asylum (not seen)
1.11 Scarecrow
1.16 Shadow
1.12 Faith (mentioned)
1.14 Nightmare (mentioned)
1.18 Something Wicked
1.20 Dead Man's Blood
1.21 Salvation
1.22 Devil's Trap
2.01 In My Time of Dying
2.22 All Hell Breaks Loose: Part Two
4.03 In the Beginning
4.04 Metamorphosis (mentioned)
4.13 After School Special (not seen)
4.16 On the Head of a Pin (mentioned)
4.19 Jump the Shark (mentioned)
5.13 The Song Remains the Same
5.16 Dark Side of the Moon (mentioned)
8.12 As Time Goes By
9.07 Bad Boys (not seen)


Surviving a lonely childhood, a stinking war... only to get married and have his wife taken by a demon... and later killed by one himself. That man got a bum rap around every turn. But you know what? He kept going. And in the end, he did a hell of a lot more good than he did bad.

Dean to Henry Winchester, 8.12 As Time Goes By

John Winchester was Sam and Dean's father, and son of Henry Winchester. Born in Normal, Illinois, he was four when his father disappeared. John thought Henry had simply left, not knowing that his father was one of the Men of Letters and that he had fled through time to escape the demon Abaddon. Had Henry not left, John would've been been initiated into the Men of Letters[1]

A photo of a young John and Henry Winchester.

Nothing is known of John's mother, but he moved at some point to Lawrence, Kansas. After returning from the Vietnam War from where he served as a marine, John worked as a mechanic and was eventually co-owner (with Mike Guenther) of a garage. He described himself as "a mechanic from a family of mechanics,"[2] so it may be assumed that either his mother remarried, or he was adopted by a family of mechanics, or that there were mechanics on his mother's side.

John and Mary Campbell did not initially get along when they met. However Heaven was interested in bringing together the lines of hunters and Men of Letters, and so a Cupid intervened and they fell in love.[3] At one point John went to a car yard to purchase a beige VW van but was persuaded by Dean who had come from the future to save him to get the Impala instead.[4] In 1973, John was about to propose to Mary in when Azazel kills him. Mary makes a deal with Azazel for John's life, in exchange for a promise to allow Azazel into her home in ten years time.[2]

John was unaware of Mary's life as a hunter. He did learn of this when Sam and Dean return to 1978 protect their parents from the angel Anna,[5] but his memory is wiped of this information by Michael, following Michael's possession of John in order to kill Anna.

John and Mary's marriage was not always happy, and at least once he moved out of the family home.[6]

When Mary died in 1983, John raised their two sons, Sam and Dean alone. Due to the nature of her death, John sought revenge, taking up the occupation and lifestyle of a hunter, which created a unique childhood for his two young sons. John moved his family from town to town following leads on supernatural creatures (telling Sam that he was a traveling salesman), often leaving the boys for days or even weeks[7] to fend for themselves.[8][9] Though he never settled anywhere for very long, John did establish a lock-up where he stored weapons (including landmines and grenades), curse boxes and mementos from Sam and Dean's childhood.

In 1990, unbeknownst to Sam and Dean, John fathered a child with nurse Kate Milligan. Though Adam Milligan didn't meet John until he was 12-years-old, John had sporadic contact with Adam from 2002 until John's death in 2006. As John raised Sam and Dean in a very militant and non-conventional environment, it seemed he used his time with Adam to do more traditional father-son activities, such as going to a baseball game, that he either couldn't or wouldn't do with his older two sons.[7]

John cut off contact with Sam after Sam chose to leave the family and hunting and attend Stanford, although he regularly visited Palo Alto to check up on Sam.[10] In 2005, John got a lead on the demon that was responsible for Mary's death, and he left Dean in order to pursue it.

He eventually reunited with Sam and Dean in order to obtain the Colt. As they got closer to the Yellow-Eyed Demon, John was kidnapped by the demon Meg, and possessed by Azazel. However Sam wasn't unable to kill his father with the Colt in order to kill the demon.[11]

Following a car crash caused by a demon, John offered his own life and the Colt to Azazel to save Dean. John revealed that he has known the "truth" about Sam all along. Before he died, John warned Dean that he may have to kill Sam.[12]

John Winchester died and went to Hell where over the next year he was tortured by Alastair, who later told Dean that John never "broke" -- i.e. never gave in to Alastair's temptation to protect himself by torturing others. Dean, by contrast, gave in after three months (equivalent of thirty years) of torture, thus breaking the first of the 66 Seals to free Lucifer: a righteous man shedding blood in Hell.[13]

In 2007, a Gate to Hell is opened by Jake Talley and John's spirit escapes, helping Dean to kill Azazel.[14]


John with Sam and Dean after escaping the house fire that killed Mary.

1.01 Pilot

John discovers his wife Mary on the ceiling of Sam's nursery, which is on fire. He gives the infant to young Dean, instructing him to flee the house, but is unable to rescue his wife.

22 years later
Dean visits Sam at Stanford, telling him that John has gone missing. Sam reluctantly accompanies Dean to Jericho where John was on a case, but while they find his motel room, and belongings including John's Journal, he is not there.

1.04 Phantom Traveler

At the end of a case with an old friend, the boys get a cell phone number. The message on it is from John, redirecting people to call Dean if they want help - the first sign the boys have that John is still alive.

1.09 Home

Distressed at returning to his home town as they follow one of Sam's visions, Dean calls John but receives no answer. While investigating the haunting at their old home, Sam and Dean visit the garage John once owned with Mike Guenther. He directs them to Missouri Mosely. She helps the boys, but unbeknownst to them John Winchester is in town and in contact with Missouri. He tells her he can't contact them until he knows "the truth."

1.10 Asylum

John sends Dean a text message with the coordinates of the Roosevelt Asylum in order to send them to hunt the ghost of Dr. Ellicott who is killing people there. They believe at first he's meeting them there but eventually realize that it’s just another job.

At the end of the episode Dean's cell phone rings and Sam answers it. To his shock, it is John.

1.11 Scarecrow

Dean’s cell rings, and Sam answers to hear his father’s voice. John expresses sympathy at the murder of Jess, and for the first time reveals that he knows that what killed Mary and Jess was a demon. John tells Sam that he must stop looking for him and he starts to give Sam details of a new hunt, but Sam argues that he wants to help John hunt the demon. Dean grabs the phone and takes the details from John about couples who have gone missing near Burkitsville, Indiana.

Later Sam leaves Dean, intending to travel to California and find John. However, after Dean goes missing on the case, he returns saying while he still wants to find John, he and Dean need to stick together.

1.12 Faith

With Dean near death, Sam tries to call John for help but gets no answer.

John being attacked by a daeva.

1.14 Nightmare

After the Winchesters' encounter with Max Miller - another boy who acquired powers after the demon visited him as a child and killed his mother, Sam notes for the first time that they were lucky to have John as a father; where Max's father turned his anger and rage at the loss of his wife on to his son, John channeled his grief at the creatures that killed Mary while doing what he could to protect his children.

1.16 Shadow

When Sam and Dean encounter Meg in Chicago and realize she is linked to the demon that killed Mary and Jess, Dean calls John. He later arrives and Dean embraces him warmly. John reveals that Meg was trying to kill him because he is hunting the demon with the intention of killing it, something he isn't sure is possible but is determined to try. Just as he reunites for the first time in years with Sam, greeting him warmly and showing some regret that it has been so long, they are attacked by daevas and are nearly killed before Sam manages to dispel them with flares. Afterward, Dean supports John when he says it is too dangerous for them all to be together, and they part with John promising that the fight is just beginning and that they will be a part of it.

John saves Sam and Dean from a shtriga.

1.18 Something Wicked

Dean reveals to Sam that in 1989 when John was hunting a shtriga, he left Dean and Sam alone. When the shtriga attacks Sam, John returns just in time to save him. In the present, John sends them the coordinates to Fitchburg, Wisconsin, knowing the shtriga is there and that killing it is unfinished business for Dean.

1.20 Dead Man's Blood

Following up on the death of the hunter Daniel Elkins, Sam and Dean are surprised when John arrives. He tells them about the Colt, a gun that can kill any supernatural beings, which he know realizes Elkins had. Together they fight the vampires that killed Elkins, and retrieve the Colt, although John and Sam clash almost immediately and argue. John tries to send Sam and Dean to safety while he confronts the vampires, but is nearly killed. However, Sam and Dean defy him and return, saving his life. John then kills the vampire leader Luther with the Colt. After the hunt, John finally realizes that Sam and Dean are right and decides to continue hunting the demon with Sam and Dean.

1.21 Salvation

As hunters they know start being killed, the Winchester start the hunt for the demon in earnest, following signs, that John has learned are associated with its appearance, to Salvation, Iowa. Sam has a vision concerning a young woman and her baby, suggesting she is a target of the demon. John is angry that the boys hadn't told him about Sam's visions, but Dean stands up to him.

When Meg calls she demands the Colt, killing his friend Caleb as John listens. John plans a ruse to give her a fake Colt, as Sam and Dean take the real Colt to kill the demon. Both plans go wrong, when John is captured, and the demon eludes the boys.

1.22 Devil's Trap

Sam and Dean turn to Bobby for help. When Meg turns up, they capture her, and manage to find out John's location. The boys rescue John, and take him to a remote cabin. It is while he is telling Dean he is proud of him that Dean gets suspicious and realizes that John is possessed by the Yellow-Eyed Demon. He taunts Dean and Sam and is killing Dean when John manages to wrest control for a moment, and allow Sam to get control of the Colt. Sam however can't shoot to kill and the demon escapes after Sam only shoots John in the leg. As they escape in the Impala, a demon-possessed truck driver totals the car.

John makes a deal with Azazel to save Dean's life.

2.01 In My Time of Dying

All the Winchesters are in hospital, with Dean near death, when Sam discovers John is planning on pursuing the Yellow-Eyed Demon, they argue. John promises to hold off until Dean recovers, but actually summons the Yellow-Eyed Demon and makes a deal - his life for Dean's.

John has a final few moments with his sons. He tries to make peace with Sam, and then whispers a secret to Dean. The secret is later revealed to be John's warning to Dean: Dean needs to save Sam, but if he can't, Dean will have to kill his brother.

Moments later the deal is called in - John dies and Dean recovers.

2.04 Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things

Following their father's death, Sam insists on him and Dean taking a trip to their mother's grave, a memorial erected by an uncle that Sam and Dean have never met, to bury their father's dog-tags with her; this results in them getting caught up in a case involving the reanimated Angela Mason, returned to life as a zombie after she died the week before.

2.08 Crossroad Blues

While talking with a crossroads demon, Dean is informed that John is currently in Hell after saving his life.

2.20 What Is and What Should Never Be

In a dream world created by a djinn where Mary was never killed, John died of a stroke at approximately the same time as he died in the real world. He apparently played in a softball team in this world.

When Dean learns that, in the world where he and Sam are not hunters, the people he saved are all dead, he goes to John's grave to talk about his frustration over the idea that they have to sacrifice their chance at normal lives for others, but admits in the end, while he doesn't know what the John of this world would say, the father who raised him would remind him that he cannot let others suffer for his stake.

2.22 All Hell Breaks Loose: Part Two

When Jake Talley manages to open the Devil's Gate in Wyoming using the Colt, John escapes from Hell and saves Dean from the Yellow-Eyed Demon. John distracts the demon by temporarily pulling him out of its meatsuit long enough for Dean to retrieve the Colt and finally kill him as the demon returns to his body. John then shares an emotional moment with his sons and disappears in a flash of white light.

John's spirit has a final quiet moment with Sam and Dean.
John's spirit moves on.

3.03 Bad Day at Black Rock

Dean and Sam receive a call on one of John's old cellphones about a break-in at a lock-up where John kept various supernatural artifacts that he either couldn't or didn't want to destroy, along with some items from Sam and Dean's childhood such as an old soccer trophy of Sam's and the sawed-off shotgun Dean made in sixth grade.

3.14 Long-Distance Call

A creature called a crocotta impersonates John's voice and contacts Dean on his cell phone, telling him about an exorcism that can allegedly kill the demon that holds his contract (in reality, the crocotta sends Dean after a grieving father that the crocotta has been calling posing as his daughter, the father assuming Dean to be his daughter's murderer). After the ruse is revealed, Dean confides to Sam how scared he is of going to Hell.

4.03 In the Beginning

John in 1973 with Dean and the Impala.

Back in 1973, Dean meets a young John Winchester, not long returned from Vietnam. Dean follows John to a car lot, where he suggests his father buy the '67 Chevy Impala instead of an old VW van. Dean introduces himself as Dean Van Halen and assures John that the car will still be "bad-ass when it's 40." Dean tries to get info about any mysterious events but John doesn't know anything. Dean follows John on a date with Mary Campbell - who John is planning to propose to.

Later, as Mary decides to elope with John to escape a life of hunting, he is killed by Azazel. So she makes a deal to bring John back to life - his life in return for letting Azazel access to her house ten years in the future, when unknown to her he will feed demon blood to baby Sam.

4.04 Metamorphosis

Dean tells Sam of his encounter with John in 4.03 In the Beginning and describes him as having been surprisingly hopeful as a young man (like Mary). Sam wonders what the point was to Azazel killing him and the rest of their family, just to give Sam himself Demon Blood. Dean and Sam go to help Travis with a hunt; it appears that Travis was another hunter friend of John's, as he had known Sam and Dean when they were younger and says that John would've been proud of them sticking together the way that they are.

4.13 After School Special

In flashbacks, John drops off Sam and Dean at a high school they attended for a few weeks while he was on a job. Throughout the flashbacks he calls Dean and picks them up after the job is done. John's face is never seen throughout the episode, mostly from the neck down in the Impala or as a silhouette.

4.16 On the Head of a Pin

As Dean tortures Alastair, he reveals that in the hundred years John spent in Hell, he never broke and accepted the deal that Dean was offered - that the torture would stop if he started doing it himself. If he had, this would have broken the first of the the 66 Seals - instead it was Dean who did.

4.19 Jump the Shark

Sam and Dean learn that John had a son with Kate Milligan, a nurse he met January 1990. She worked as a nurse, when he was injured during a hunt. Adam Milligan was born on September 29, 1990. He didn't have any contact with John until he was twelve, after which John showed up at some of Adam's various birthdays to buy him his first beer or take him to baseball games. Adam lost saw John "a couple of years ago", so perhaps some time in 2007. In 1990, John killed a ghoul; now its children want revenge on John, and use Adam and Kate to lure John in. Adam and Kate both die.

5.13 The Song Remains the Same

Castiel takes Sam and Dean to 1978 to save their parents from Anna, who is trying to kill them. John is shocked to learn the truth about the supernatural, and that Mary was raised as a hunter. When Sam reveals he and Dean, were raised that way too, John, unaware of their true identity, criticizes their father. Sam gets a chance to defend his father and says he now understands better that John tried his best, and that he loves him.

When Anna and Uriel attack the family, John is injured. Michael appears and asks for John's permission to take him over as a vessel and save Mary. John consents. Later Michael erases all memory of the events from John and Mary.

5.16 Dark Side of the Moon

While in Heaven, Sam and Dean meet Ash, who informs them that he has been unable to locate John, Mary, Ellen or Jo in Heaven, despite his success in tracking down psychic Pamela Barnes.

John Winchester when he was a child.

8.12 As Time Goes By

In 1958, before his father leaves for his initiation into the Men of Letters, he visits John in bed, accidentally waking him up. John asks what Henry's pin is and Henry promises to explain one day before putting on John's music box and leaving.

In 2013, Henry arrives looking for John and wanting his help to protect a mysterious box and defeat the demon Abaddon. He is shocked to find Sam and Dean instead and to learn that John is dead. Henry is also disgusted to learn that his son became a hunter as the Men of Letters look down on them. Sam and Dean are unsure about their grandfather as John had always believed Henry had abandoned him and hated for it, though they realize that perhaps he never made it home instead. Searching through John's Journal for information on Abaddon, the Winchesters learn that John once tortured a demon who worked for Abaddon and learned that Abaddon is a Knight of Hell. Henry finds that John's Journal is actually the journal he had ordered for himself before he disappeared. Henry reads through the Journal, learning of John's life as a hunter and tries to return to the past to raise John in a better life, but is stopped by Dean. Henry is killed defeating Abaddon, explaining why he never returned to John, but tells Sam and Dean that after meeting them, he is proud of the man John became. Sam and Dean are left wondering what would have happened had Henry been there to raise John. They also realize that John and Mary were brought together to unite the Winchester and Campbell bloodlines: the brains and brawn of the supernatural world.

9.07 Bad Boys

After Dean is caught stealing food, John tells the arresting deputy to let Dean "rot in jail." This leads to Dean spending two months at a boys home, before John and Sam come to retrieve him for a job.

Age Speculation

  • A draft script of the Pilot places John's age at 30 when Mary dies (therefore early 50s at present).
  • John's email address,, could be read to refer to his birthdate - December 1946. This fits with the use of Mary's date of death throughout the show (it is used as a lock combination, or referred to as 110283 or 1183). This would place John at age 60 in 2006.
  • John cannot plausibly have been born any later than 1957 (so as to have been 18, and in the Marines, in 1975). Considering the notes below about Vietnam force reduction, the likelihood is high that he turned 18 before 1971 (in which case his birth year would be 1953 or earlier). This supported by the fact that he is clearly at least a few years old in 8.12 As Time Goes By.
  • In an alternate reality experienced by Dean, John's gravestone indicates he was born in 1954.[15]

Known Acquaintances

Dean: Well, yeah, but last time we saw you, I mean, you did threaten to blast him full of buckshot. Cocked the shotgun and everything.

Bobby: Yeah, well, what can I say? John just has that effect on people.

Dean: Yeah, I guess he does.

Bobby Singer and Dean Winchester discussing John, 1.22 Devil's Trap

John tended to work alone and avoid other hunters, although many appeared to know him or of him and he seemed to have a good reputation as a hunter. According to Jo's Journal, John used to visit the Roadhouse before her father's death in 1995. Ellen infers that her husband's death was John's fault - they were both usually solo hunters, hunting together, when Bill died.[16] While in Heaven, Ash told Dean and Sam that he searched for John Winchester when he arrived, but he reported that he hasn't seen John.[6]

  • Bobby Singer - Knew John since the boys were small. The last time he saw John alive, they argued and Bobby pointed and cocked a shotgun at him.
  • Adam Milligan - John's son, the product of a brief relationship John had with Kate Milligan.
  • Jim Murphy - Knew John since the boys were small.
  • Caleb - Weapons and munitions supplier for hunters.
  • Missouri Mosely - A psychic he sought help from after Mary's death and the person who first told him of the supernatural.
  • Deacon - Was in the Marines with John.
  • Bill Harvelle - Was on a hunt with John when he was killed.
  • Ellen Harvelle - Part of the hunting world, she also partly blamed John for her husband's death.
  • Daniel Elkins - A hunter John had fallen out with.
  • Martin Creaser - A hunter who had a mental breakdown.
  • Fred Jones - A psychokinetic John was acquainted with.

John's Military History

John's dog tags.

In 2.09 Croatoan, Dean says that John was a Corporal in the Marine Corps, with company 'Echo 2/1' (2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, Echo company). Sam reiterates this to Stan Thompson in 8.08 Hunteri Heroici.

In 2.19 Folsom Prison Blues, we meet Deacon, who served in the Corps with John, and saved his life.

Speculation on Rank

In 4.03 In the Beginning, John is referred to as 'Corporal' by the man welcoming him back home in the diner.

Speculation on Dates

It's unlikely John graduated from high school. The badges/medals/photos in his journal (see below) suggest he was a rifleman. High school graduates were almost always sent to aviation or communication schools, rather than combat arms.

The Tet Offensive took place in January 1968. It is possible that this got John all fired up with patriotic fervor and he decided to screw school and enlist in the Marines. If he joined with his parents' permission, he could have been seventeen at this point. At that stage in the war, recruits were given four months of training then shipped straight out to Vietnam, so he would have been there by June 1968, by which time American bombing was already being curtailed and negotiations were beginning. Even so, it would be another year until troop withdrawal began.

Given the timing of the events in 4.03 In the Beginning (April 1973), and the knowledge that he'd just returned from Vietnam, he would've had to have joined in 1971 in order to have served 2-years. If the headstone in 2.20 What Is and What Should Never Be is true, then John would have turned 17 in April 1971, and this is the earliest he could have joined the Marines. Therefore, John didn't finish high school.

Dog Tags

John's dog tags are buried by Sam at Mary's grave.[17] They have the following printed on them:

John's social security number suggests he was born in, or obtained his first job in, Indiana (source) (Although most children born today receive a SSN at birth or within their first year, this was not common practice when John was a child.)

Ribbons and Medals in the Journal

Medals on the inside of John's journal.

In 1.01 Pilot, the Combat Action Ribbon was briefly seen in the position of the Vietnam Service Medal. For all subsequent episodes, the ribbons have not changed from the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Metal, and Vietnam Service Medal.

Vietnam Information

These are all the official military campaigns for the Marines in Vietnam from 1970-73:

  • Vietnam Winter-Spring 1970 : November 1, 1969 to April 30, 1970
  • Sanctuary Counteroffensive : May 1 to June 30, 1970
  • Vietnam Counteroffensive, Phase VII : July 1, 1970 to June 30, 1971
  • Consolidation I : July 1 to November 30, 1971
  • Consolidation II : December 1, 1971 to March 29, 1972
  • Vietnam Cease Fire : March 30, 1972 to March 28, 1973

Although the Marines were in Vietnam until the end of the war (assisting in the evacuation of US embassies, for example,) ground force reduction begins in July of 1971. However, if Dean's statement was correct and John was in the 2nd Battalion 1st Marines (Echo 2/1), then he would have been reassigned to Camp Pendleton in June 1971.

USMC units in Vietnam

In 2.19 Folsom Prison Blues Dean states that John served in the "Echo 2/1".

Looking at the official Marine website's history of the 2nd Battalion 1st Marines ("Echo 2/1")[1] , it confirms that, if John had joined as soon as he turned 17 (April 1971, see above), he would have spent practically no time in-country.

In April 1971 the battalion was sent to Da Nang to join the 3rd Marine Amphibious Brigade (IIIMAB). The battalion was in Da Nang for three months, until June 1971, and then it was sent to the newly established Camp Pendleton in California. So John would have spent the majority of his military life on a safe, State-side base and not in the jungles of Vietnam.


  • Full name given on the tombstone in the alternative reality of episode 2.20: John E. Winchester
  • At Comic Con 2008, Eric Kripke confirmed that John's middle name was Eric.
  • In one version of the pilot script, Sam and Dean found John dead on the ceiling.S1Com,p.11
  • Having given the Impala to Dean, John drives a GMC Sierra Grande with the Kansas license plate CSG 8R3
  • John appears in a flashback in the spin-off novel Supernatural: Heart of the Dragon, where he hunts a fire-demon in San Francisco in 1989 (The Campbells, unknown to John, having defeated and banished the same demon in 1969), with Dean, Sam and Castiel permanently defeating the demon in 2009.

See also

John in Fandom