Linda Hazzard

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Linda Burfield Hazzard (1867–1938) was an American quack doctor noted for her promotion of fasting as a treatment; she was imprisoned by the state of Washington for a number of deaths resulting from this at a sanitarium she operated there in the early 20th century. She was born 1867 in Carver County, Minnesota, and died during a fast in 1938.

Career[edit]

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.

According to her book "The Science of Fasting", Burfield studied under Edward Hooker Dewey, M.D. one of the two pioneers of fasting (the other was Dr. Henry S. Tanner M.D. who famously fasted for 42 days in 1877).

She created a "sanitarium", Wilderness Heights, in Olalla, Washington, where inpatients fasted for days, weeks or months, on a diet of small amounts of tomato and asparagus juice and occasionally, a small teaspoon of orange juice. While some patients survived and publicly sang her praises, more than 40 patients died under her care. Hazzard claimed that they all died of undisclosed or hitherto undiagnosed, serious organic illnesses such as cancer or cirrhosis of the liver. Her opponents claimed that they all died of starvation.[1] Local residents referred to the place as "Starvation Heights". She assured people that her method was a panacea for all manner of ills, because she was able to rid the body of toxins that caused imbalances in the body.[2]

In 1912, she was convicted of manslaughter for the death of Claire Williamson, a wealthy British woman, who weighed less than 50 pounds at the time of her death. At the trial it was proved that Hazzard had forged Williamson's will and stolen most of her valuables. Williamson's sister, Dorothea, also took the treatment, and, it is alleged, only survived because a family friend showed up in time to remove her from the compound. It is suggested that one of them managed to smuggle a telegram to alert the family, however by the time of arrival Claire had already died. She was too weak to leave on her own, weighing less than 60 pounds. She later testified against Hazzard at trial.

Hazzard was sentenced to 2 to 20 years in prison, which she served in the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla.[3] She was released on parole on December 26, 1915 after serving two years,[4] and the following year Governor Ernest Lister gave her a full pardon.[5] She and her husband, Samuel Christman Hazzard, moved to New Zealand, where she practiced as a dietitian and osteopath until 1920.[3]

In 1920, she returned to Olalla, Washington and opened a new sanitarium, known publicly as a "school of health" since her medical license had been revoked,[3] and continued to supervise fasts until it burned to the ground in 1935; it was never rebuilt.

Linda Burfield Hazzard died in 1938 while attempting a fasting cure on herself.[3]

The Earl Edward Erdman Diary[edit]

On March 28, 1910, Earl Edward Erdman, a City of Seattle Civil Engineer, died of starvation in the Seattle General Hospital. He had kept a diary which detailed Hazzard's treatment during the preceding weeks that provides an insight into the treatment Hazzard prescribed to her patients.[6] 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.

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....


This diet continued more or less unchanged until his hospitalization on March 28. He died that afternoon, just before his coworker was to tranfuse blood.

In popular culture[edit]

Hazzard is the subject of a nonfiction book, Starvation Heights, by Gregg Olsen. The book was adapted for the stage by Portland, Oregon playwright Ginny Foster. It debuted as a part of the National New Play Festival in July 2008. It was announced in January 2009 that the book was optioned by producer Jason Fogelson and Pulitzer Prize-winner Tracy Letts for a film adaptation. Letts will write the script.

Dr. Hazzard is profiled through re-enactments and interviews in the Investigation Discovery Network show, "Deadly Women" in its first episode entitled "Obsession".

In Season 4 of Ghost Adventures, in the Kells Irish Pub episode, a brief history is given on Linda Hazzard and her crimes.

In Season 2 of Mysteries at the Museum tells her story while featuring her a copy of her book Fasting for the Cure of Disease on display at the Harbor History Museum in Gig Harbor, Washington.

In Season 1 of The Dead Files Amy Allan, a medium investigates the house once owned by Linda Hazzard, while her partner, investigator Steve DiSchiavi sheds light on much of Linda Hazzard's deeds, including description of the treatment and the process of the kind of death starvation would cause. They also present shocking photos of Dorothea Williamson before and after her hospitalization. Amy Allan, the medium, suggests that the house be torn down. The owner promises the destruction of the house. The final outcome is unknown.

Deaths attributed to Hazzard[edit]

1908

  • Mrs. Elgin Cox[7]
  • Daisey Maud Haglund (Mother of Ivar's restaurant founder Ivar Haglund, whose official cause of death was stomach cancer. She would have starved to death without Hazzard's assistance) [8]
  • Ida Wilcox[3]

1909

  • Blanche B. Tindall[7]
  • Viola Heaton[7]
  • Eugene Stanley Wakelin - Died from a bullet in the head on Hazzard's property. Whether she was responsible for the shooting remains unknown, though it is speculated to be the case.[3]

1910

  • Maude Whitney[3]
  • Earl Edward Erdman<[7]

1911

  • Frank Southard[3]
  • C.A. Harrison[3]
  • Ivan Flux[3]
  • Lewis Ellsworth Rader[3]
  • Claire Williamson[3]

See also[edit]

John Bodkin Adams - British doctor who extracted money from his patients before murdering them.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Olsen, Gregg. Starvation Heights. Warner Books, 1997.
  2. ^ Holmes, Ronald M., and Stephen T. Holmes. Serial Murder. Third Edition ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc, 2009
  3. ^ "Woman Fast Doctor Released on Parole." The Oakland Tribune. Oakland, California. 21 Dec 1915.
  4. ^ "Convict 'Doctor' Wins a Pardon." The Eau Claire Leader. Eau Claire, Wisconsin. 6 June 1916.
  5. ^ "Erdman Diary Tells Methods of Treatment". The Seattle Daily Times. August 14, 19011. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Dr. Hazzard Attacks Medical Profession in Latest Pamphlet". The Seattle Daily Times. September 30, 1911. 
  7. ^ "Starvation Caused Woman's Death: Condition of Stomach Cancer Made it Impossible for Mrs, Fannie Haglund to Retain any Food Whatever for Many Weeks". The Seattle Daily Times. February 27, 1908. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Olsen, Gregg. Starvation Heights : The True Story of an American Doctor and the Murder of a British Heiress, Warner Books, 1997. ISBN 0-446-60341-4
  • Demon Doctors: Physicians as Serial Killers Tucson: Galen Press, Ltd., 2002.

External links[edit]