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)


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.


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. I leave you today with an interesting case of paranormal activity:

Starvation Heights author Gregg Olsen researched the full story of Linda Burfield Hazzard and her sanitarium in Olalla. In the 1990s, he took Weird Washington author Jeff Davis on a visit to its former location. At that time, a family with two children lived in the house, which had not changed very much from the time when Hazzard and her husband lived there.

The family experienced some ghostly phenomena over the years. On one occasion, the woman who lived in the house was in the kitchen cooking dinner. She was facing the stove, which was against one wall, and the bathroom door was behind her. She moved back and forth between a counter on her left and the stove for several minutes. When she turned around, she saw that every chair in the kitchen, and a few from the room next door, had been piled up against the bathroom door.

The woman had been alone in the house at the time, and it’s doubtful that someone else would have taken the time to sneak in and silently pile all the chairs up against the door while the she made dinner. Gregg Olsen was skeptical, but suggested that if there were any ghosts, the owners might want to close off the bathroom where people once experienced enemas and hard massages, or if they died, were autopsied by Hazzard. Some people say the bathtub in the bathroom is the original, others that it is a replacement made after she died.

In the attic were several low “ledges” where the family stored small items. A psychic once said she saw the spirits of many of Hazzard’s victims sitting on the ledges, too afraid to move even in death. The psychic burst into tears several times over the anguish she felt saturated the walls of the little house.

Washington State Paranormal Investigations and Research (WSPIR) visited Starvation Heights three times during 2005-2006, and Weird Washington spoke to their President, Darren Thompson, about some of their experiences there.

The first time, they divided into three teams, each of which had a psychic. To keep the destination a secret, they blindfolded the psychics and put them in separate cars. During the drive, technicians sat next to psychics and recorded every action and statement made with a video camera. Along the way, two psychics felt they were going to a large institution having something to do with medicine. When they arrived at the cottage, the teams removed the blindfolds from the psychics and kept them from communicating with each other. Each psychic was to go through the house alone.

WSPIR investigators Jill and Darren went inside with a psychic named Merlyn. As Merlyn walked up the stairs she saw a book, which she picked up. Upon reading the title, she said, “Oh no!” and threw it down. It was a copy of Fasting for the Cure of Disease. Merlyn was disappointed because this knowledge tainted her impressions.

Darren asked the owners about the book, and they admitted they owned a copy, but had hidden it away so that no one would see it. They did not know how it had gotten there.

The investigators also got some evidence on video and audio tape. One team recorded a video that starts inside their car, then pans outside, where the microphone recorded a muffled statement made by a team member. The video then pans back inside the car, where one can hear a strange, breathy voice, saying “Help me!” The voice could only have come from the inside of the car, and was not made by team members either inside or outside of the car.

Another WSPIR team recorded pictures and audio outside of the house while walking toward a ravine where Hazzard may have hidden victim’s bodies. Their audio recorder taped a voice that said, “Are you talking about me now?” The team members did not hear the voice at the time, and continued their conversation. Another voice seemed to say, “Take us up” or “Dig us up.”

During the second investigation, WSPIR learned that the cottage would be torn down once the owners put a new house up on a different part of the property. They quickly organized a third investigation, during which several members spent the night.

One man tried relaxing in the Hazzards’ former room: the room in which Linda died. The man never had any psychic experiences before, but he felt like something spiritual was in touch with him. He went into a trance and answered simple questions with rumbles of “yes” or “no” from deep in his chest. It seemed he was in communication with Linda Hazzard, who was still in the house. She refused to leave, and refused to let anyone demolish it. Her spirit was wrong, however. The family moved and the cottage was pulled down. Was this last communication the result of overactive imaginations or a final attempt to interact with the other side?

There are many more legends surrounding Starvation Heights, some of which are easily debunked. According to one, for every person that Linda Hazzard killed, she planted a tree. Some distance away from the cabin, there is a stand of nearly 100 large trees, which people believed represented her victims. In reality, the trees were on a different lot and planted by a local landowner, not Hazzard. Other people believe Hazzard killed several patients during the 1920s, when she ran her larger sanitarium. All that is left of this sanitarium is a concrete foundation and a rusting trash incinerator. It was rumored that she burned bodies in the incinerator, but given the close watch the authorities kept on her and her patients, this is not likely.

The cottage that was once Starvation Heights is now gone, but it isn’t known if the spirits detected there, whether they are those of Dr. Hazzard or her unlucky patients, left with its demolition. It seems that we’ll remain hungry for an answer (Source).

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