Linda Burfield Hazzard: The Doctor Who Starved Her Patients to Death

Linda Burfield Hazzard: The Doctor Who Starved Her Patients to Death

  • Despite not having a medical degree‭, Hazzard was able to exploit a‭ ‬loophole allowing some alternative healers to practice medicine in the state of Washington.
  • A fasting specialist who killed more than 15 of her patients for monetary gain, but ironically died of starvation after starting her own fasting plan.

Never heard of‭ ‬Dr. Linda Hazzard‭? ‬Well, here‭’s the skinny on Olalla, Washington‭’s most notorious resident.‭ ‬By all accounts, Dr. Hazzard‭ ‬(born‭ ‬1867‭) ‬was an imposing, outspoken and domineering‭ ‬force to be reckoned with, ‭‬capable of bending people to her will with her booming voice and piercing gaze.‭ ‬Although she held no medical degree‭ ‬the shrewd, Hazzard was able to exploit a‭ ‬loophole allowing some alternative healers to practice medicine in the state of Washington.‭ ‬Hazzard was a‭ ‬quack, a‭ ‬champion of‭ ‬fasting as a medical treatment.

In the‭ ‬1890s, Hazzard established Wilderness Heights in Olalla, a sanatorium where patients suffering all manner of maladies sought her help.‭ ‬She promoted her fasting treatment as a miracle‭ ‬cure-all for any ailment, from everyday aches and pains to cancer.‭ ‬Patients in Hazzard‭’s‭ ‬”care‭” fasted for months at a time, subsisting on miniscule‭ ‬amounts of juice.‭ ‬They were made to undertake long walks.‭ ‬When they became too weak to walk, they were made to crawl.‭ ‬They were bathed in scalding water, forced to endure hours-long enemas at least once a day.‭ ‬Hazzard gave patients‭ ‬”vigorous massages‭” which nurses described as beatings.‭ ‬In this manner, more than forty patients died under her supervision.

Linda Hazzard‭
Linda Hazzard‭.

Starvation Heights

Death certificates signed by Hazzard never listed the cause of death as starvation.‭ ‬It was always put down to an undisclosed and‭ ‬/‭ ‬or previously undiagnosed disease.‭ ‬At the place locals called‭ ‬”Starvation Heights,‭” the bodies continued to pile up.‭ ‬Hazzard carried on in this manner unchallenged until she met the Williamson‭ ‬sisters‭ (‬Claire and Dora‭)‬, well-to-do British heiresses and alternative medicine buffs who came to Wilderness Heights‭ ‬for a holiday in‭ ‬1911‭ ‬envisioning a beautiful health spa.‭ ‬After a month of Hazzard‭’s brand of treatment, Claire Williamson was dead from starvation, leaving behind an‭ ‬unrecognizable corpse weighing a mere‭ ‬50‭ ‬pounds.‭ ‬Dora was not faring much‭ ‬better.‭ ‬She‭ ‬was‭ ‬close to death from starvation ‬but was rescued in the nick of time by a family friend who came to check on her after receiving a rambling telegram from Dora.

Starvation Heights
‘Starvation Heights.’

It seemed that Hazzard had inherited Claire‭’s estate upon her death, Claire‭”s will having recently been changed to name Hazzard.‭ ‬The doctor had Dora declared insane and was awarded legal guardianship of her.‭ ‬She had effectively gained control‭ ‬of the Williamson fortune.

Once Dora escaped and alerted authorities to the goings on at Starvation Heights, ‬a first-degree murder‭ ‬charge‭ ‬was brought against Hazzard.‭ ‬The trial caused a media storm.‭ ‬The courtroom and streets outside were packed with onlookers.‭ ‬The jury heard that Hazzard had forged Williamson‭”s‭ ‬will, diary, checks, and letters.‭ ‬She had stolen Williamson‭’s diamond rings and fancy gowns.‭ ‬She even helped herself to the dead woman‭’s gold fillings.‭ ‬Prosecutors presented death certificates signed by Hazzard‭ ‬for‭ ‬her deceased‭ ‬patients.‭ ‬Various diseases were listed as a cause of death, ‭but ‬never starvation.‭ ‬Secondary death certificates by other, ‭reputable doctors, ‭‬unanimously named the cause of death as starvation.‭ ‬Prosecutor Thomas Stevenson declared Hazzard a‭ ‬”financial starvationist‭”‬ and‭ ‬”a serpent who trod sly and stealthy, yet with all her craft left a trail of slime‭.”

Details emerged of Hazzard‭’s lengthy history of persuading wealthy patients to sign over sizeable portions of estates‭ ‬just‭ ‬before they died.‭ ‬Even the land that Starvation Heights was built on was procured by Hazzard in this manner.‭ ‬Facing‭ ‬a twenty-year sentence for her crimes, ‬Hazzard was found‭ ‬guilty of a downgraded manslaughter‭ ‬charge‭ ‬and ended up serving just two‭ ‬years in Washington State Penitentiary, whereupon she inexplicably received a gubernatorial‭ ‬pardon.

Mugshot of Linda Burfield Hazzard
Linda Hazzard: guilty of manslaughter‭ ‬charge‭.

Her reputation in tatters, Hazzard fled to New Zealand where she established herself as a dietician and osteopath until‭ ‬1920.‭ ‬She aroused the suspicion of a local newspaper reporter who investigated Hazzard and published‭ ‬details of her quackery.‭ ‬She was charged‭ ‬and found guilty of practicing medicine‭ ‬whilst unlicensed.‭ ‬Hazzard‭’s luck held out and she escaped with a fine.

Hazzard quietly returned to Olalla and opened a‭ ‬school for health‭ ‬where she continued to direct fasts until the school burned down in‭ ‬1935.

In‭ ‬1938, Hazzard fell ill.‭ ‬Staunchly unrepentant to the last, she got a taste of her own medicine when she‭ ‬began a self-treatment of fasting and‭ ‬died soon thereafter of starvation.

•   •   •
Linda Hazzard and her Book Fasting For The Cure Of Disease
Linda Hazzard published a book in 1908 that started it all – ‘Fasting For The Cure Of Disease’ – promoting fasting as a cure for virtually every ailment, including cancer.

Earl Edward Erdman died of starvation under the supervision of Linda Hazzard in. He had kept a diary which detailed treatment during the preceding weeks that provides an insight into the treatment Hazzard prescribed to her patients.

The following are excerpts from his diary:

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.S

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…

Victims of Linda Hazzard
Victims of Linda Hazzard
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