Starved Spirits: Dr. Linda Hazzard’s Deadly Fasting Method

Appetite is Craving; Hunger is Desire. Craving is never satisfied; but Desire is relieved when Want is supplied. – Linda Hazzard, Fasting for the Cure of Disease (which you can read online)

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Linda Hazzard

While staying at the Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia, sisters Claire and Dorothea (Dora) Williamson saw a newspaper advertisement for Linda Hazzard’s book about fastingThe girls were attracted to alternative medicine and were interested in healing their minor ailments. These wealthy British sisters decided to take a trip to Olalla, Washington to enjoy the countryside and seek treatment from “Doctor” Linda Hazzard. Claire died weighing only 50 pounds, and Dora would nearly escape at the weight of 60 pounds. Claire was one of 40 to die under Hazzard’s care. Hazzard herself would die using her own fasting method.

While their bodies starved, their souls lingered on the property.

Hazzard’s Fasting Method

Hazzard studied under Edward Hooker Dewey, MD, an advocate of the “No Breakfast Plan.” Linda had no medical degree, but was licensed to practice medicine through some grandfather loophole. She established a “sanitarium” in Olalla, Washington where patients would fast for days, weeks, or months. The community dubbed the location “Starvation Heights” for obvious reasons.

Linda believed fasting helped rid the body of toxins. According to The Smithsonian:

Her methods, while not entirely unique, were extremely unorthodox. Hazzard believed that the root of all disease lay in food—specifically, too much of it. “Appetite is Craving; Hunger is Desire. Craving is never satisfied; but Desire is relieved when Want is supplied,” she wrote in her self-published 1908 book Fasting for the Cure of Disease. The path to true health, Hazzard wrote, was to periodically let the digestive system “rest” through near-total fasts of days or more.

At her sanitarium, patients were served small amounts of vegetable broths and juices. They also received enemas, some lasting up to an hour. While their bodies became increasingly frail, they received intense massages that the nurses said sounded like beatings.

In March of 1910, Earl Edward Erdman, a civil engineer from Seattle died of starvation. His diary outlined Hazzard’s deadly method. The following is an excerpt.

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….

The diary gives a glimpse inside Hazzard’s strict regiment. One can imagine the patients trying to fight through the hunger to reach corporal purity and not having the physical strength to escape.

The Case of Claire Williamson

Margaret Conway, the childhood nurse of Claire and Dora received a weird telegram and decided to take a lengthy trip to check in on the sisters. When she arrived, she was greeted by Linda’s husband Samuel (who was once arrested for bigamy after marrying Linda). Samuel told Margaret that Claire was dead and that her death was caused by cirrhosis of the liver. Margaret, upon seeing Claire’s lifeless body, knew she starved to death.

More clues alerted Margaret of other wrongdoings by the Hazzards, as described by The Smithsonian:

The horrors revealed in Dora’s bedroom were matched by the ones in Hazzard’s office: the doctor had been appointed the executor of Claire’s considerable estate, as well as Dora’s guardian for life. Dora had also signed over her power of attorney to Samuel Hazzard. Meanwhile, the Hazzards had helped themselves to Claire’s clothes, household goods, and an estimated $6,000 worth of the sisters’ diamonds, sapphires and other jewels. Dr. Hazzard even delivered a report to Margaret concerning Dora’s mental state while dressed in one of Claire’s robes.

Margaret was unable to convince Linda Hazzard to release Dora from her care, so their Uncle John Herbert made a trip. He as able to convince the Hazzards with money to free Dora. Working with a nearby British vice consul, Lucian Agassiz, Herbert was able to discover Hazzard’s connection to the deaths of other people. She had been starving people and stealing from them for quite some time.

On August 15, 1911, Dr. Linda Hazzard was arrested. She was sentenced to 2 to 20 years. After two years, she was released on parole. The year after, she was pardoned of her crimes. She continued to serve as a fasting specialist in New Zealand and later returned to Olalla in 1920. She opened a new sanitarium where she aided patients in fasting until it burned to the ground in 1935.

She died in 1938 after using her own fasting method.

Hauntings

Linda Hazzard trapped people both in life and the afterlife. According to Weird U.S., the former location of Starvation Heights has many sad, restless spirits. Click the link to learn more.

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