She got married when she was 18 years old and had 2 children, but in 1898, she left her husband and children to pursue her medical career. Linda Burfield Hazzard had some training as an osteopathic nurse and no medical degree, but a loophole in the law in the state of Washington granted her a license to practice medicine. The obscure law awarded medical licenses to a few practitioners of alternative medicine who did not have a medical degree but were grandfathered in, and Linda was one of the lucky recipients. Her degree described her as an osteopath.

Hazzard cherished her professional title. During her eventual murder trial, she snapped at reporters who didn’t address her properly: “I have told you time and time again, it is Dr. Hazzard. Mrs. Hazzard is my mother-in-law.” Dr. Hazzard wrote several books; in 1908 she published Fasting for the Cure of Disease. The fact that she was a doctor and “medical textbook” author gave her credibility in her community. Her motto was “fasting cures all ailments.” The only problem was that when she put her patients on her unique diet for a prolonged period of time, many of them died of starvation. She truly believed that fasting rid the body of the toxins that made people sick or caused disease. Fasting, she reasoned, enabled the digestive system to become calm and be cleansed by eliminating impurities from the body.

Fasting was considered a fringe fad at the time, but Hazzard did her best to give it credibility as a cure-all. A few medical professionals were proponents of fasting: pioneer physician Dr. Henry S. Tanner, who fasted for 42 days in 1877, and Edward Hooker Dewey, who wrote a book, The Gospel of Health, praised the power of fasting. Hazzard said she studied under Dr. Dewey, but her own twist on some of his methods of fasting, which included daily enemas (further dehydrating her fasting patients) and rigorous massage, were found by some patients to be extremely painful. The basic diet Hazzard prescribed included tomato broth, asparagus broth, and an occasional orange or strained orange juice.

Deadly Therapy


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Linda divorced her husband in 1902, the same year the first patient under her care died. A coroner determined that starvation was the cause of death; however, his attempt to have Hazzard prosecuted failed. What also aroused suspicion was the fact that the victim owned valuable rings that were missing from her belongings. When investigators questioned Hazzard about the expensive rings, she was evasive, and nothing ever came of the matter.

After the incident, Linda met and married Samuel Christman Hazzard. Sam was a West Point graduate pursuing a military career that got derailed when he was dishonorably discharged for misappropriating Army funds. Sam was known to be an alcoholic, swindler, and lecher; he was married twice before he met Linda, but never got a divorce from one of his wives. This negligent act resulted in a bigamy trial that sent Sam to prison for 2 years. Linda waited patiently for her husband to finish up his prison sentence. In 1906, after his release, Linda and Sam moved to Washington State, and she opened a private practice in Seattle. He was her perfect companion in crime.

Linda seemed to have no shortage of money. In addition to her solo medical practice, she also opened up her own sanitarium in Olalla, a small town in Kitsap County, Washington, and named it Wilderness Heights. The main treatment offered at her medical clinic was “therapeutic fasting” for days, weeks, or months, depending upon the patient’s ailment. However, her treatments were closer to starvation than salvation, and many patients under her care literally starved to death following her extreme fasting regimes. More than 40 patients died under her care at Wilderness Heights; many deaths were attributed to starvation. Locals nicknamed her sanitarium “Starvation Heights” after reports from nearby residents who came across patients with skeletal physiques fleeing her facility, staggering down the road and pleading for food.

The problem was that many of her patients praised the doctor’s methods. Linda was a fiery orator with a charismatic personality who charmed many of her patients into thinking that fasting was their only way to better health. Most patients bought into her philosophy, and the deaths mounted.

In 1908, Daisy Maud Haglund, a wealthy Norwegian immigrant, died at the age of 38 following a 50-day fast under Hazzard’s supervision. Other patients who died under her care in 1908 included Mrs. Elgin Cox and Ida Wilcox.

In 1909, patients Blanche B. Tindall and Viola Heaton both succumbed under her care. Another of her patients, 26-year-old Eugene Stanley Wakelin, was murdered by a bullet to his head on Hazzard’s property. An investigation to identify the murderer was inconclusive; suicide was presumed, but suspicions that Dr. Hazzard was the culprit swirled around town. Wakelin was the son of a British lord. Somehow, Hazzard was given power of attorney over his estate. She wired Wakelin’s lawyer and demanded additional money to pay his outstanding bills. However, Wakelin wasn’t wealthy, even though he had a noble title and aristocratic family. It was speculated that Hazzard had murdered Wakelin expecting financial gain.

In 1910, her patient Maude Whitney died under her care. Also in 1910, civil engineer Earl Edward Erdman followed her fasting diet and died of starvation 3 weeks afterward. These mounting deaths were not going unnoticed; after Erdman died, The Seattle Daily Times headline read: “Woman M.D. Kills Another Patient.”

Apparently, the bad publicity didn’t affect her practice, nor did another troubling pattern: most of the patients who died under her care were mysteriously robbed of their money and/or valuable possessions. Some patients even left generous financial gifts to Hazzard upon their death. Her husband, Sam, was her accomplice in the fraud, forgery, and outright theft of her dead or dying patients.

In 1911, 5 more patients under her care died, including C.A. Harrison, publisher of Alaska-Yukon Magazine, who passed away a few months after adhering to Hazzard’s fasting regimen, and Ivan Flux, who died after 53 days of fasting. During Flux’s fast, Hazzard managed to gain control of some of his property and cash.

Also in 1911, 2 wealthy sisters in their early 30s, Dorothea and Claire Williamson, visited Victoria, British Colombia and read an ad in a Seattle newspaper promoting Hazzard’s book, Fasting for the Cure of Disease, and were enamored with its medical philosophy. Accompanying the book was a pamphlet promoting Hazzard’s Institute of Natural Therapeutics: Wilderness Heights. The sisters were wealthy and in financial control of a large estate. In February 1911, they left Canada and rented apartments in Seattle to undergo Hazzard’s fasting cure, under the care of Dr. Hazzard’s osteopathic nurse. They were put on a diet of weak vegetable broth. Hazzard would visit the sisters regularly to administer enemas and pummeling massage therapy. She inquired about the sisters’ business affairs. Noticing their diamond rings, Hazzard offered to store the rings in her office safe, for safe keeping while they were in therapy.

By April 1911, the sisters were transferred to Wilderness Heights sanitarium; by then, both looked emaciated and seemed delirious. Hazzard had somehow managed to have Claire modify her will, donating a 25-pound monthly stipend to Hazzard’s institute. Claire’s will was further modified to include instructions that, upon her death, her body was to be cremated under the supervision of Hazzard. On the last day of April, Margaret Conway, the sisters’ trusted childhood nanny, received a cryptic telegram asking her to visit Dorothea and Claire at the sanitarium. Margaret set sail from Sydney, Australia and arrived in Seattle in June.

Linda’s husband, Sam, met Margaret at the boat and hustled her to Hazzard’s office in Seattle. Once there, he told Margaret that Claire had passed away and Dorothea had gone mad. When Margaret was shown an embalmed body at a mortuary, she said the corpse did not look at all like Claire Williamson. Next she was whisked to see Dorothea at the sanitarium. Dorothea looked like a human skeleton and pleaded with her former nanny to take her away from the sanitarium. Strangely, the next day, Dorothea told Margaret that her fasting cure was working wonders and she no longer wanted to leave. Margaret tried to convince Dorothea to go, and even sneaked in some cooked rice to put in her broth to provide some nutrition to the starving Dorothea.

July 4th arrived, and even though the patients at Hazzard’s sanitarium were separated from one another, Dr. Hazzard let them all out on the grounds to celebrate the holiday. Margaret attended the gathering and noticed that Hazzard was wearing Claire’s silk dress and the deceased woman’s favorite hat. During the celebration, 2 patients approached Margaret and begged her to help them escape the sanitarium, explaining that they were being kept there as prisoners against their will. Margaret discovered that Dorothea had given Hazzard power of attorney and that she was siphoning her funds. Margaret met with Hazzard and told her she was taking Dorothea home with her. Hazzard informed Margaret that she had obtained legal guardianship of Dorothea. The sisters’ former nanny wired a message to their uncle in Portland, Oregon. The uncle arrived and managed to leave with Dorothea after paying a fee for her treatments. Dorothea weighed 60 pounds at the time of her release.

Authorities quickly stepped in to investigate Linda Hazzard and her medical practice. Hazzard was arrested in August 1911. The Tacoma Daily News ran a headline that read: “Officials Expect to Expose Starvation Atrocities: Dr. Hazzard Depicted as Fiend.” Hazzard was defiant, exclaiming that she was being persecuted because she was a successful woman. She went on to say that traditional doctors who did not believe in natural cures resented her and that all accusations against her were nothing but a witch hunt.

She was quoted in the press: “I intend to get on the stand and show up that bunch. They’ve been playing checkers but it’s my move. I’ll show them a thing or two when I get on the stand.” But her lawyer kept her off the witness stand. A few loyal staff members testified on Hazzard’s behalf, as did John Ivar Haglund, the husband of Hazzard’s first victim, who died under her care in 1902. Haglund testified that even after his wife’s death, he believed in Hazzard’s treatment methods and went on to report that he used to take his son for treatment to Hazzard 3 times a week.

However, overwhelming damning testimony, autopsy findings, and revelations of forged documents proved her guilt in the death of Claire Williamson as well as the ongoing robbery of her possessions and money. Prosecutors convinced the jury that Hazzard starved her patients to death in order to rob them. Most convincing was the fact that Claire weighed less than 50 pounds at the time of her death. Hazzard boasted: “They won’t hang me; the muscles in my neck are too strong.”

The jury found her guilty of manslaughter. It was theorized that the verdict would have been murder but because Hazzard was a woman, conviction of a lesser degree was typical of the times. She was sentenced to 2 to 20 years. Hazzard was released on parole in 1915, after serving only 2 years in the state penitentiary at Walla Walla, Washington. The same year, Governor Ernest Lister gave her a full pardon. Shortly after her pardon, she and her husband Sam moved to New Zealand and they opened a practice using such titles as physician, dietician, and osteopath. She published another book, and once again managed to make a considerable sum of money.

Unimaginably, in 1920, just 5 years after her release from prison, Linda and Sam returned to Olalla, Washington, where she opened up a lavish new sanitarium, which she named the School of Health, because her medical license had been revoked upon her conviction. The building contained an autopsy room where Hazzard herself could determine the cause of death for any of her patients. She continued to prescribe her fasting regimen to unsuspecting patients for about 15 more years, sometimes receiving legal reprimands for practicing medicine without a license.

Yet she continued to charm many. In 1922, the Longer Life League held a raw-food dinner and Hazzard was the guest speaker. The Industrial Revolution created many unhealthy side effects, including eating larger portions and exercising less, which caused a rise in the number of Americans who developed obesity. Her second sanitarium mysteriously burned to the ground in 1935 and Hazzard never bothered to have it rebuilt. In 1938, she underwent her own treatment to cure an illness, and died of self-starvation.

To this day, Linda Burfield Hazzard’s books can be found in bookstores that sell natural-healing publications, and some are even downloadable on the Internet. You can also find a book about her life by Gregg Olsen, titled Starvation Heights.

Reference

  1. Beck K. Hazzard, Linda Burfield (1867-1938): fasting proponent and killer. HistoryLink website. October 26, 2006. http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&file_id=7955.
  2. Bovsun M. Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard was hungry for riches, so she starved her patients to death. New York Daily News website. June 5, 2010. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/dr-linda-burfield-hazzard-hungry-riches-starved-patients-death-article-1.179290.
  3. Linda Burfield Hazzard. Murderpedia website. http://murderpedia.org/female.H/h/hazzard-linda.htm.
  4. Ramsland K. Angels of death: the doctors. Crime Library website. http://www.crimelibrary.com/serial_killers/weird/doctors/11.html.
  5. Starvation Heights website. http://www.starvationheights.com/.