Like most people, I would have a terribly hard time giving up tasty foods and replacing them with a soup-based fasting routine. I was always taught that healthy foods fuel the body and keep everything running properly. In today’s post I will be putting the spotlight on Mrs. Linda Burfield Hazzard, a woman who gained infamy by starving her patients to death.
Linda was born in 1867 and grew up in Minnesota with her seven siblings. She had no formal medical training, yet she was able to obtain a medical license as a “fasting specialist” in the state of Washington due to a system loophole (Lovejoy). In 1908 she published a book entitled, Fasting for the Cure of Diseases, which gained a cult-like following. Linda believed that a number of illnesses could be cured by allowing the digestive system time to rest and regenerate. Although fasting was a practice in the medical field for centuries, belief in it being an effective treatment for various serious diseases was uncommon. Linda hoped to build up the credibility of fasting through the institution she opened in Olalla, Washington known as Wilderness Heights (local residents referred to the sanatorium as “Starving Heights”) (‘Linda”).
“Appetite is Craving; Hunger is Desire. Craving is never satisfied; but Desire is relieved when want is supplied.”
Some of the most common treatments that Linda prescribed were long-term fasts where patients only ingested vegetable broths and juice, rough massages, and lengthy enemas (Lovejoy). Reports later came out of witnesses claiming to have heard patients scream out in pain and discomfort while enduring her treatments. Two of her most well-known patients were Claire and Dorothea Williamson, the orphaned daughters of a fallen English army officer (Lovejoy). The pair were fed about one cup of tomato or asparagus soup a day and some orange juice. They endured 12-hour enemas and often passed out as a result. Claire, 33 years old, weighed just 50 pounds at the time of her death in 1911 (Lovejoy). Her sister only lived because she was rescued by family members who came in time to collect her from the institution (“Linda”).
“I have told you time and time again, it is Dr. Hazard. Mrs. Hazzard is my mother-in-law.”
This was not the first time that the public had become suspicious of Linda Hazzard’s role in the death of patients under her care. It is believed that she had a hand in at least 40 deaths throughout her working career as a fasting specialist. After the death of Claire Williamson, it was discovered that her will had been forged and that Linda had also stolen clothes, jewelry, and money from her after she had passed away (Lovejoy). She was eventually charged for the murder of Claire and was sentenced to 2-20 years of hard labor. After 2 years, she was released on December 26, 1915 (“Linda”). Throughout her lifetime, Linda never claimed any responsibility for the deaths she was accused of causing. Instead, she made statements that their conditions were simply too far gone to be cured through fasting.
After her release she had a 100-bed sanitarium constructed but it burnt down shortly after (”Linda”). In her 70s she became very ill and followed her own fasting regimen in an attempt to heal herself. She died of starvation in 1938.
If you liked this post then please check out my post which focuses on the remains of Charles Byrne HERE.
Thanks for Reading!
Until Next Time:
*“Linda Burfield Hazzard.” Murderpedia. Accessed 13 May, 2021. murderpedia.org/female.H/h/hazzard-linda.htm.
*Lovejoy, Bess. “The Doctor who Starved Her Patients to Death.” Smithsonian Magazine. 28 October, 2014. Accessed 13 May, 2021. smithsonianmag.com/history/doctor-who-starved-her-patients-death-180953158.