True Nightmares: Tales of Terror is investigating the bizarre story of Linda Hazzard, aka the Starvation Doctor, who promoted fasting as a cure for a variety of ailments. In 1912 she was convicted of the death of wealthy British woman Claire Williamson.
Hazzard created a sanatorium called Wilderness Heights in Olalla, Washington, where she “treated” patients for long periods, up to years in some cases. Hazzard is suspected of having been at fault for the deaths of at least 12 patients in her care at the facility, which locals dubbed “Starvation Heights.”
Patients at Wilderness Heights entered into a strict dieting regime that involved only eating small amounts of tomato and asparagus juice and sometimes a teaspoon of orange juice. Hazzard claimed that the diet flushed out dangerous toxins that caused imbalances in the body.
Hazzard first came to the attention of the law authorities following the death of Claire Williamson. Williamson had traveled from England with her sister, Dora Williamson, to the facility where they became patients.
However, Claire and Dora soon began to fear for their welfare, and one of the sisters managed to send a telegram to a member of the family asking for help. Tragically, help came too late for Claire, who died weighing only 50 pounds. Thankfully, Dora was taken from the facility while weighing only 60 pounds.
Linda Hazzard had stolen Claire Williamson’s property
Hazzard was arrested on a charge of manslaughter and was put on trial. In the meantime, the cops learned that the quack had forged Williamson’s will and had stolen many of her valuables.
Hazzard was eventually ordered to serve between 2 and 20 years behind bars. She was paroled after two years in 1915, and in 1916 the Washington state governor, Ernest Lister, actually pardoned her.
The sanatorium reopened in 1920 and continued to operate until a fire permanently shut the facility in 1935. Hazzard died in 1937 while attempting one of her own starvation cures.
While Wilderness Heights remained in operation, it’s thought that about 40 patients lost their lives. However, many could have died from a variety of illnesses that had already been diagnosed or were still to be diagnosed. It’s presumed many of the patients passed away from cancer or cirrhosis of the liver.
It should also be noted that many patients survived their treatment and were full of praise for Hazzard’s methods.
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True Nightmares: Tales of Terror airs at 10:30/9:30c on Investigation Discovery.