Thursday, November 22, 2012

Linda Hazzard and her Killer Cure

Linda Burfield Hazzard
1867 - 1938 

Linda Burfield Hazzard was born in 1867 in Carver County, Minnesota. In many ways, she was a feminist of her time. She received training as an osteopathic nurse, and she was a successful author. However, Linda Hazzard had one obsession: to promote her experimental cure. Her ambition prompted her to leave her husband and two children to pursue her career in Minneapolis.

Touting fasting as a miracle cure for all disease, Linda Hazzard fed her patients meager portions of vegetable broth and forced them to undergo lengthy and painful enemas. Hazzard claimed that these procedures cleansed the body of all toxins, and that all ailments were the simple result of an imbalance of the blood. It was in Minneapolis that Linda Hazzard killed her first patient.

The coroner determined that the death was caused by starvation, and he attempted to have Hazzard prosecuted. However, because Hazzard wasn't licensed to practice medicine, she wasn't held accountable. To add to the questionable circumstances of the death, investigators noted that the victim's valuable rings had gone missing.

In the years that followed, Hazzard met and married her second husband, Samuel Hazzard, a debauched West Point graduate who had failed to divorce one of his former wives. The couple's nuptials were overshadowed by a highly publicized trial during which Sam was convicted for bigamy. After Sam completed a two-year sentence for his crime, Mr. and Mrs. Hazzard decided to start over in Washington. Thanks to a loophole in Washington law, Hazzard was allowed to take on the title of "doctor" and to acquire licensure to practice her deadly cure.

Sam Hazzard

It was also in Washington that Dr. Hazzard formed her grand vision to build a sanitarium where she could house patients, but to build such an establishment, she would need money. She commuted to Seattle from her 40-acre plot of land in Olalla, which she called "Wilderness Heights", where she found a thriving client base among health faddists of the day. 

Wilderness Heights
(Starvation Heights)

Despite killing at least one patient the tesame year, she released her first book Fasting for the Cure in 1908, which promoted fasting as the solution to all disease, including cancer.

Eventually, she earned enough money to build a ramshackle sanitarium of cabins, where inpatients were prescribed the standard broths and enemas. A pattern began to appear as Wilderness Heights began delivering emaciated corpses to the local morgue. In addition to taking their lives, Dr. Hazzard managed to finagle her way into some of her patients' wills. Despite the mounting evidence of foul play, authorities and health officials were unable to intervene. Dr. Hazzard was licensed and her patients were accepting treatment willingly.

But just how willing the patients were is debatable. Many described Dr. Hazzard as an incredibly persuasive orator, and some believed that her patients were too intimidated to disobey her. Sick, malnourished and at the brink of death, many patients were delirious and incapable of escape or resistance. In many ways, Dr. Hazzard tricked her patients into becoming completely under her control.

Authorities weren't the only ones who were catching on to Dr. Hazzard's maniacal procedures. Locals nicknamed the Wilderness Heights sanitarium "Starvation Heights" in reference to the emaciated bodies that were confined to the cabins or wandered to the road to ask for food. It took three years and an estimated 40 deaths, but in 1911, Dr. Hazzard's twisted and greedy motives came to light.

During a trip to Canada, two wealthy British sisters named Dorothea and Claire Williamson stumbled upon Dr. Hazzard's book. The two sisters were reputed hypochondriacs and were very curious about alternative medicine. Because they wished to avoid any scorn from their family, the sisters decided to seek Dr. Hazzard and undergo treatment.

Dorothy and Claire Williamson with a friend

The two sisters were treated in Seattle until malnutrition brought them to the brink of death. They were delivered to Wilderness Heights in two ambulances, but before Claire Williamson starved to death, she signed over a portion of her inheritance to Dr. Hazzard's practice. Dorothea surely would have fallen victim to the same fate, had she not been able to smuggle a telegram to her former Nanny, Margaret Conway.

When Conway arrived at Dr. Hazzard's Seattle office, she was informed of Claire's death. She was appalled to find Dorothea, emaciated and helpless, living in one of the cabins in Wilderness Heights. Perhaps even more disturbing was seeing Dr. Hazzard wear one of Claire's silk dressing gowns and favorite hat. Further researched revealed that the Hazzards had been given power of attorney over Dorothea's assets and had been taking money from the patient.

Dorothea Williamson in emaciated state

At first, Dorothea begged to be taken away, but then later recited that the cure was helping her. When Conway tried to take Dorothea out of the sanitarium, the Hazzards revealed that they were Dorothea's legal guardians and that the British heiress would be forced to live with them until she died. Conway immediately contacted the sisters' uncle in Portland, who came to the rescue. The Hazzards, however, refused to let Dorothea leave until her $2,000 bill was paid. The uncle was able to negotiate a less expensive ransom.

With financial help from Dorothea and pressure from the British Vice-consul in Washington, the county was able to try and convict Dr. Hazzard of manslaughter and her medical license was revoked. After serving a two-year sentence, Mrs. Hazzard and her husband moved to New Zealand, where she practiced under a number of titles and released a new book that made her a great deal of money.

By 1920, she had made enough money to see her dream come true. She returned to Olalla to build a 100-bed sanitarium, complete with its own autopsy room, which would keep any nosey coroners from estimated a death toll in the new Starvation Heights. Because she no longer had a medical license, the sanitarium was cloaked with the title "school of health". Even after the sanitarium burned down in 1935, Hazzard continued practicing her miracle cure. Committed to the end, Dr. Hazzard followed her own medical advice in 1938 to cure an illness. At 71, she died quickly of starvation.

Linda Hazzard's School of Health
100 room sanitorium

Diary of Earl Edward Erdman
(One of Linda Hazzard's Patients)

February 1- Saw Dr. Hazzard and began treatment this date. No breakfast. Mashed soup dinner. Mashed soup supper.

February 5 through 7- One orange breakfast. Mashed soup dinner. Mashed soup supper.

February 8- One orange breakfast. Mashed soup dinner. Mashed soup supper.

February 9 through 11- One orange breakfast. Strained soup dinner. Strained soup supper.

February 12- One orange breakfast. One orange dinner. One orange supper.

February 13- Two orange breakfast. No dinner. No supper.

February 14- One cup of strained tomato broth at 6 p.m.

February 15- One cup hot strained tomato soup night and morning.

February 16- One cup hot strained tomato soup a.m. and p.m. Slept better last night. Head quite dizzy. Eyes yellow streaked and red.

February 17- Ate three oranges today.

February 19- Called on Dr. (Dawson) today at his home. Slept well Saturday night.

February 20- Ate strained juice of two small oranges at 10 a.m. Dizzy all day. Ate strained juice of two small oranges at 5 p.m.

February 21- Ate one cup settled and strained tomato broth. Backache today just below ribs.

February 22- Ate juice of two small oranges at 10 a.m. Backache today in right side just below ribs.

February 23- Slept but little last night. Ate two small oranges at 9 a.m. Went after milk and felt very bad. Ate two small oranges 6 p.m.

February 24- Slept better Wednesday night. Kind of frontal headache in a.m. Ate two small oranges 10 a.m. Ate on and a half cups hot tomato soup at 6 p.m. Heart hit up to ninety-five minute and sweat considerable.

February 25- Slept pretty well Thursday night. Ate one and a half cups tomato broth 11 a.m. Ate one and a half cups tomato broth 6 p.m. Pain in right below ribs.

February 26- Did not sleep so very well Friday night. Pain in right side just below ribs in back. Pain quit in night. Ate 1 and a half cups tomato broth at 10:45 a.m. Ate two and a half pump small oranges at 4:30 p.m. Felt better afternoon than for the last week....

Jillian Terry is a full-time writer for, where she writes about educational topics and offers advice to new teachers. In her spare time, Jillian Terry watches the History Channel and reads mystery novels.

From History and Women

1 comment:

Carolyn said...

Ivar Haglund's mother died from "the cure" and as a boy, apparently, he got away from the place and went on to found Ivar's restaurants all over the Pacific NW (Keep Clam) :)