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Dr Quack

Starvation Heights

Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard was a sadistic and greedy quack who convinced patients that only by starving themselves for months at a time could they regain their health. Unsurprisingly, many of her patients died of starvation.

Her “sanitarium” in the small town of Olalla in Kitsap County was nicknamed Starvation Heights by the locals, who sometimes came across skeletal escapees staggering down the road begging for food. Hazzard and her husband, Sam, also had the habit of helping themselves to patients’ assets through fraud, forgery, and outright theft.

Hazzard would imprison wealthy patients until they starved to death. She’d then rob them of their jewellery, yank out any gold teeth and perform a bathtub autopsy on their emaciated bodies. Along with starvation, it was a way to get (patients) to submit to her will. It was physical domination.

When she was tried for murder in January 1912, the prosecutor called her “a financial starvationist” and made the case that she intentionally starved her patients to death for monetary gain.

Hazzard was author of several books including Fasting for the Cure of Disease. Although she had only a little training as an osteopathic nurse, Hazzard didn’t hesitate to call herself a doctor, snapping at the news reporters covering her trial: “I have told you time and time again, it is Dr. Hazzard. Mrs. Hazzard is my mother-in-law.”

Despite her lack of a medical degree, she was licensed to practice medicine in Washington. A loophole in a licensing law grandfathered in some practitioners of alternative medicine who didn’t have medical degrees, including Hazzard.

Hazzard said disease could be cured by fasting, allowing the digestive system to “rest” and be “cleansed,” removing “impurities” from the body. Fasting, she maintained, could cure anything from toothache to tuberculosis. The real source of all disease was “impure blood” brought on by “impaired digestion.” There were other popular proponents of fasting around at the time. Hazzard said she had studied with one of them, Dr. Edward Hooker Dewey, author of The Gospel of Health.

But Hazzard added some embellishments of her own. Her regime included daily enemas that went on for hours and involved up to twelve quarts of water. Patients were heard to cry out in pain during these procedures. The third part of her therapy was massage that consisted of Hazzard, a wiry woman said to be stronger than the average man, beating her fists against the patients’ foreheads and backs. One alarmed witness reported her doing so vigorously while shouting “Eliminate! Eliminate!”

 Hazzard was born in Carver County, Minnesota, in 1867, and at 18 she married and had two children. But in 1898 she left her husband and children to pursue her career in Minneapolis.

She appears to have killed her first patient there in 1902, around the time her divorce became final. After the coroner determined that death was caused by starvation, he tried to get her prosecuted, but since she wasn’t licensed to practice medicine, she wasn’t held accountable. When investigators asked what had happened to the victim’s valuable rings, Hazzard was evasive.

There was more bad publicity after she met and married the man of her dreams, Samuel Christman Hazzard, a West Point Graduate who had ruined a promising military career by misappropriating Army funds. A drunk, lecher, and swindler, he had married twice before, and hadn’t bothered to divorce at least one of the wives when he married Linda. There was a highly publicized trial for bigamy which ended in a two-year prison sentence for Sam.

After Sam finished his sentence in 1906, the couple set out for Washington State to start over. Linda Hazzard began practicing in Seattle, commuting by ferry from a 40-acre spread in the Kitsap County town of Olalla she named Wilderness Heights. She planned to build a big sanitarium there some day.

Locals, including freethinkers and Theosophists, embraced her medical theories. One of them was Hazzard’s first known Washington victim, Daisey Maud Haglund, a Norwegian. After a 50-day fast under Hazzard’s direction, she died on February 26, 1908, at the age of 38. She left behind a 3-year-old son, Ivar. Ivar Haglund would go on to make his name and fortune feeding millions of people as the owner of successful seafood restaurants.

Other victims soon followed, Ida Wilcox in 1908, and Blanche B. Tindall and Viola Heaton in 1909. Mrs. Maude Whitney succumbed in 1910. When civil engineer Earl Edward Erdman took the cure in 1911 and died of starvation three weeks later, The Seattle Daily Times headline read “Woman ‘M.D’ Kills Another Patient.”

But patients kept on coming. Frank Southard, a law partner in the firm of Morris, Southard and Shipley and C. A. Harrison, publisher of Alaska-Yukon magazine, died under Hazzard’s care a few months later, along with Ivan Flux, an Englishman who had come to America to buy a ranch and who had fasted for 53 days. During his fast, Hazzard got control of some of his cash and property, and his family was told he died with $70 dollars left to his name.

Authorities tried to step in when Lewis Ellsworth Rader, a former legislator and publisher of a magazine called Sound Views, began wasting away. Hazzard treated him at the Outlook Hotel in 1911, and health inspectors tried to convince him to leave but he refused. Hazzard spirited him away to a secret location where the 5-foot, 11-inch tall man died weighing less than a hundred pounds.

The health director of Seattle said he couldn’t intervene, since Dr. Hazzard was licensed and the patients were willing participants in her deadly therapy. She had many loyal followers, and a commanding personality. Some of her patients were afraid of her, and couldn’t bring themselves to disobey her. But the health director did keep an eye on her in case she treated any children, at which point he said he would step in.

The pattern was becoming distressingly familiar. Patients were put up in Seattle hotels or in cabins on Dr. Hazzard’s Olalla property. Autopsy reports listed starvation as the cause of death, unless Linda Hazzard performed the autopsy, in which case anything but starvation would appear as the cause of death.

There was one exception to the pattern. In 1909, 26-year old Eugene Stanley Wakelin’s decomposing body was found on the Hazzard’s property. This son of a British lord had died as a result of the bullet in his head, a presumed suicide.

Linda Hazzard had power of attorney over the young man’s estate and she wired his lawyer complaining she needed more of his funds to pay his bill at the mortuary. Later, the British vice-consul in Tacoma speculated that he had been shot by the Hazzards, who were frustrated to learn that despite his aristocratic family, he wasn’t rich.

Dorothea (known as Dora) and Claire Williamson, two sisters in their early 30s, were rich, they are the best-remembered of Hazzard’s patients. The British sisters were the orphaned daughters of a well-to-do English army officer.

The sisters first saw an ad for Hazzard’s book in a newspaper while staying at the lush Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia. Though not seriously ill, the pair felt they were suffering from a variety of minor ailments: Dorothea complained of swollen glands and rheumatic pains, while Claire had been told she had a dropped uterus.

The sisters were great believers in what we might today call “alternative medicine,” and had already given up both meat and corsets in an attempt to improve their health. Almost as soon as they learned of Hazzard’s Institute of Natural Therapeutics in Olalla, they became determined to undergo what Claire called Hazzard’s “most beautiful treatment.”

The institute’s countryside setting appealed to the sisters almost as much as the purported medical benefits of Hazzard’s regimen. They dreamed of horses grazing the fields, and vegetable broths made with produce fresh from nearby farms.

But when the women reached Seattle in February 1911 after signing up for treatment, they were told the sanitarium in Olalla wasn’t quite ready. Instead, Hazzard set them up in apartment on Seattle’s Capitol Hill, where she began feeding them a broth made from canned tomatoes. A cup of it twice a day, and no more. They were given hours-long enemas in the bathtub, which was covered with canvas supports when the girls started to faint during their treatment.

By the time the Williamsons were transferred to the Hazzard home in Olalla two months later, they weighed about 70 pounds, according to one worried neighbour. Family members would have been worried too, if any of them had known what was going on. But the sisters were used to family disapproving of their health quests, and told no one where they were going.

Dr. Hazzard began to make inquiries about the sisters’ business affairs, and offered to store the women’s diamond rings and real estate deeds in her office safe. By April, the sisters were emaciated and delirious. Dr Hazzard’s private attorney obtained a shaky signature from Claire. It was a codicil to her will leaving a monthly stipend of 25 pounds sterling per year to the Hazzard’s “Institute,” adding that in case of death she wanted her body cremated under the charge and direction of Linda Burfield Hazzard.

On April 30, the sisters’ childhood nanny, Margaret Conway, received a cryptic telegram, summoning her to visit them in Olalla. She set sail from Sydney, Australia, a week later, arriving in Seattle on June 1.

Sam Hazzard met the boat and took Conway to Linda Hazzard’s Seattle office. There, Conway was told that Claire was dead and Dorothea was insane. She was also taken to the E. R. Butterworth & Sons mortuary and shown an embalmed body she did not recognize as Claire. Then, she was taken to Olalla for a reunion with Dorothea who was by now a human skeleton living alone in a rough cabin no better than a shack.

Dorothea immediately begged to be taken away, but the next day she withdrew her request and insisted that the cure was doing her a world of good. Margaret stayed with Dorothea, hoping to convince her to leave. She tried to sneak some rice or flour into her main source of nutrition, a broth made from canned tomatoes. Although the patients were usually separated from each other, they were all let out for a Fourth of July celebration. Two of them approached Margaret Conway and begged her to get them out the place, saying they were prisoners.

Conway also noted that Dr. Hazzard was wearing Claire’s silk dressing gown and her favorite hat. She learned that Dorothea had given the Hazzards power of attorney and helped themselves to some of her funds. When she announced to Dr. Hazzard that she would be leaving and taking Dorothea with her, Dr. Hazzard said Dorothea was not free to leave. The Hazzards had obtained a legal guardianship of Dorothea. They explained that Dorothea would be spending the rest of her life with them.

In the end it took the arrival of John Herbert, one of the sisters’ uncles, whom Margaret had summoned from Portland, Oregon, to free Dora. After some haggling, he paid Hazzard nearly a thousand dollars to let Dora leave the property. But it took the involvement of the British vice consul in nearby Tacoma—Lucian Agassiz—as well as a murder trial to avenge Claire’s death.

As Herbert and Agassiz would discover once they started researching the case, Hazzard was connected to the deaths of several other wealthy individuals. Many had signed large portions of their estates over to her before their deaths. One, former state legislator Lewis E. Radar, even owned the property where her sanitarium was located (its original name was “Wilderness Heights”).

Rader died in May 1911, after being moved from a hotel near Pike Place Market to an undisclosed location when authorities tried to question him. Another British patient, John “Ivan” Flux, had come to America to buy a ranch, yet died with $70 to his name. In all, at least a dozen people are said to have starved to death under Hazzard’s care, although some claim the total could be significantly higher.

The British vice-consul in Tacoma brought pressure to bear on Kitsap County to prosecute Hazzard. When they said they couldn’t afford it, wealthy Dorothea Williamson offered to pay for the prosecution. In August 1911, Linda Hazzard was arrested. The Tacoma Daily News headline read: “Officials Expect to Expose Starvation Atrocities: Dr. Hazzard Depicted as Fiend.”

Dr. Hazzard said that she was being persecuted because she was a successful woman, and that a cabal of traditional doctors resented her success and opposed natural cures. She told reporters “I intend to get on the stand and show up that bunch. They’ve been playing checkers but it’s my move. I’ll show them a thing or two when I get on the stand.”

Her lawyer kept her off the stand, but the judge admonished her for signaling to witnesses. Besides damning medical testimony, a complete paper trail, including a forged diary entry saying Claire wanted Linda Hazzard to have her diamonds, made it clear the Hazzards were crooks.

Dr. Hazzard had her defenders, including loyal staff members and patients. John Ivar Haglund testified that even though his wife Daisey had been Hazzard’s first Washington victim, he had faith in Dr. Hazzard and had taken his little boy, Ivar, to her for treatment three times a week, even after his wife’s death. The jury, however, came back with a verdict of manslaughter. The press theorized that if she had been a man, the verdict would have been murder.

Hazzard managed to kill two more patients while awaiting sentencing.

The jury in Hazzard’s trial was unmoved by her claims of politically motivated persecution. After a short period of deliberation, they returned a verdict of manslaughter. Hazzard was sentenced to hard labour at the penitentiary in Walla Walla, and her medical license revoked (for reasons unknown, she was later pardoned by the governor, although her license was never reinstated).

She served two years, fasting in prison to prove the value of her regimen, and then moved to New Zealand to be near supporters, and where she operated under the titles of physician, dietitian, and osteopath, published another book, and made a lot of money. In 1920, she returned to Olalla to finally build the sanatorium of her dreams, calling the building a “school for health.

Since the state of Washington had pulled her medical license, she called it “a school of health.” The lavish building included a basement autopsy room. Hazzard continued starving people to death.

The sanitarium burned down in 1935, and three years later, Dr. Hazzard died. She hadn’t been feeling well and had embarked on a fasting cure. Today, her books can still be found in natural healing bookstores and in downloadable form on the Internet. The total number of her victims is unknown.


The Doctor Who Starved Her Patients to Death

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