- 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.
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.
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.
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.• • •
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…