The Home of Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard

At the dawn of the 21st century, there’s all kinds of medical mumbo jumbo floating around. ‘Radical’, ‘revolutionary’, ‘amazing’ and ‘miracle’ cures and treatments, which claim to do everything from help you to lose weight, grow hair, tone the skin, increase the size of your…mental storage-capacity…among other things! But radical, ‘cure-all’ medical claims date back a lot further than the year 2000, with fitness fads and diet-pills and stuff like Tae Bo and Slimfast and free, 12-month membership to your nearest Jenny Craig or Lite’n'Easy diet-center.
Indeed, at the turn of the last century, a new kind of medical treatment was emerging; a controversial and dangerous treatment which many people in the medical profession at the time, saw as complete quackery, but which some people were willing to give the benefit of the doubt, anyway. It was called ‘fasting’, and Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard became the world’s first ‘fasting specialist’…in fact she had a medical degree in it, when she graduated from university and started active medical practice back in the early 1900s.
‘Fasting’ is the systematic and deliberate starvation of oneself for supposed ‘medical benefit’. By limiting food and drink to insanely small portions, the body was supposed to purge itself of all its ‘evils’ and ‘toxins’ and the patient would soon feel full of life and vitality again. That was the theory behind it, anyway. Unfortunately, there is next-to-no practical proof to back up this claim…something that people obviously forgot to tell Dr. Hazzard. In fact, by the turn of the last century, fasting had already been debunked as medical flipflop and not worth serious scientific study, but some people persisted, regardless. Dr. Linda Hazzard was amongst them.
The Hazzardous Doctor
Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard was a special woman. And she saw herself as a special woman. She saw herself as a pioneer in the area of medicine which she saw as her speciality: ‘fasting’. She was special because, in an era when most women entered the medical profession as nurses, she was a qualified physician who was doing groundbreaking research! She even wrote a book on the subject, it’s calledFasting For The Cure Of Disease, and it was published over 100 years ago, in 1908. In it, she claimed that fasting could cure everything from common aches and pains to something as serious as cancer. Did it? No.
“Fasting for the Cure of Disease” by Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard
Dr. Hazzard believed so strongly in the supposed virtues of fasting as a restorative or cure, that she even created her own sanitarium for her to carry out her treatments in. It was called ‘Wilderness Heights’ and it was located in the small, Washington town of Olalla. It was a place where her patients could come to, to be treated and cured, amongst the birds and bees, breezes and trees. In the countryside. Relaxing, huh? Or it might have been…for a while.
Starvation Heights
Dr. Hazzard’s HQ was her sanitarium called ‘Wilderness Heights’. It was advertised as a place for patients who were seeking natural therapies to cure their ills, to go to, to place themselves under the doctor’s care. Here, they would fast for a period of time, after which, according to Hazzard, their bodies would experience bursts of energy which would leave them feeling energised and full of life, ready to combat everything, with all her patients making claims like they do on TV these days, that this new treatment had left them ‘with more energy than I had ever imagined! I’m not drowsy or sleepy anymore, I don’t have cramps! Dr. Hazzard…wow! She’s a miracle worker!’.
Or at least, that was the theory and fancy. The reality of it was very different.
A common horror-movie or horror-story plot is the mad doctor who lives in a secluded spot in the woods, carrying out all kinds of weird experients and killing patients. If you thought this was all Hollywood mumbo-jumbo or the makings of a pen-pushing, doped up writer hunched over his desk…think again.

Wilderness Heights was the archtypal ‘spooky hideout of a mad doctor’. It’s as if Hazzard went through a checklist of spookjoint prerequisites for her sanitarium. Let’s go through them together, shall we?
No telephones to call for help? Check.
No Way to contact the Outside World? Check.
Isolated and lonely and quiet? Check.
Near the forest, convenient for burying dead bodies? Check.
In the countryside where nobody can hear your screams? Check.
Near a quiet, sleepy, country town where everyone keeps to themselves? Check.
Everything was there, including the mad doctor herself!

The locals in the nearby town of Olalla called Hazzard’s home ‘Starvation Heights’, because of all the patients who starved to death there. All kinds of stories emenated from the house, including the one that Dr. Hazzard performed autopsies in her bathtub! (Which she did). But what was it like in Starvat…ahem…in Wilderness Heights?
Once a patient arrived in Wilderness Heights, they would be housed on Hazzard’s estate. They would then live there for anywhere from a few days to a few months, living entirely on vegetable broth, made of tomatoes and asparagus, occasionally supplemented by orange juice. And the patients didn’t get the broth whenever they wanted it, either. It was served in strict portions, only once or twice a day, and this was ALL that they ate, for up to a month.
it’s probably not surprising to hear that Hazzard’s patients didn’t last very long. Many starved to death. Hazzard was prosecuted a few times, but the charges were always dropped for various reaons, ranging from her not yet being a licensed doctor, to patients going to her of her own free will, and that she wasn’t held accountable if her treatments didn’t work. Almost invariably, death certificates listed the cause of death of Hazzard’s patients as ‘starvation’, unless Hazzard herself carried out the autopsies in her bathtub, whereafter, the cause of death was almost always written down as ‘cirrhosis of the liver’ or ‘cirrhosis of the kidneys’.
One exception to this was when police, while searching Hazzard’s Wilderness Heights estate, found the body of Eugene Stanley Wakelin. Wakelin’s body was found, badly decomposed and with a gunshot wound to the head. Originally, the police suspected suicide, but others believed that the Hazzards, both Linda and her scheming, no-good, bigamous husband, Samuel, had actually killed Wakelin after Linda somehow managed to get Power-of-Atttorney over him and his money. Despite that several people think, even though Wakelin was of artistocratic and noble birth (his father was a British lord), Eugene himself actually had very little money…so the Hazzards’ murderous actions against the young (26-years-old) Wakelin were for nothing.
As the years went by, more and more weird things started happening. People started going missing. If they were found, the police were unable to account for any valuables missing from the dead patients. Personal effects such as jewellery, pocket watches and chains, necklaces, money and other personal items were found either missing, or having been signed over to Dr. Hazzard. If Hazzard ever became really rich from her treatments, you can bet it wasn’t by her patients paying her their medical bills!
The Williamson Sisters
Dr. Hazzard’s shady doings of starving her patients, stealing their money, property and valuables and then saying that things went ‘horribly, horribly wrong’ during treatment, couldn’t last for much longer, though. People were getting suspicious and people were getting angry. The big problem was that the authorities couldn’t really do anything. As the people who died under Hazzard’s care had gone to see her of their own free will, the law was powerless to tell people that they COULDN’T go to see Dr. Hazzard, and the killings continued.
But it couldn’t last. And it didn’t, because in 1911, things came to a shuddering halt.
Two English sisters, Dorothea and Claire Williamson were in Canada on holiday from England. While in Canada, the two wealthy sisters who were diehards for all kinds of alternative medicines and treatments, heard about Dr. Hazzard and her amazing fasting cures. Without even telling their family where they were going (the Williamson family were already weary of their childrens’ constant seeking-out of weird and wonderful medical treatments), the two, thirty-something sisters headed off to Washington, USA, into the trusting and twisted arms of Dr. Linda Hazzard.
Only one of them would leave those arms alive.
Originally, the sisters stayed in one of the cabins away from the main estate, where they were placed under the care of a nurse, who fed them Dr. Hazzard’s prescription vegetable broth. Hazzard herself showed up regularly to give the girls massages and enemas and she made smalltalk with the Williamson sisters, digging into their financial backgrounds. Unlike the Wakelin boy, the Williamsons were rich, and this made Hazzard very happy. She probably told them a cock-and-bull story about how it might be dangerous when they moved to Wilderness Heights, with all the other patients around, and she got the Williamsons to entrust their jewellery (mostly their diamond rings) and their valuable paperwork, such as real-estate deeds and wills, to the doctor’s safekeeping, which she had locked up in her office safe.
On the way to the Wilderness Heights sanitarium, Hazzard further exploited the sisters gullible natures. By now, the sisters, weak and delirious from weeks of starvation, were convinced by Hazzard’s lawyer, to sign neat little pieces of paper. What did the pieces of paper say? Only that the sisters (or specifically, Claire), would leave Dr. Hazzard the sum of 25 pounds sterling, to be paid to Dr. Hazzard every year after her death, and that Claire’s body be cremated upon her death. This was supposedly Claire’s ‘dying wish’…in fact it was Hazzard’s. By having Claire sign the paper, she could burn Claire’s body to a crisp when she died, and therefore, hide all evidence of her crimes, saying that it was Claire’s wish to be cremated, and present the ‘proof’. In fact, when Claire signed the document, she was so weak, she could barely hold the pen, let alone write out a recognisable signature.
Help on the Way
So far, everything was going swell for Dr. Hazzard. She had two, rich, crazy ladies willing to give her all their money! But the big problem with rich people is that they’re invariably well-connected and tend to have even richer, and more powerful friends and relations, or even worse, for Dr. Hazzard, devoted and loving servants who have known their masters and mistresses since birth. It was this latter group of people who were to spell Hazzard’s doom.
The lady who came to the Williamson sisters’ rescue was a lady named Margaret Conway. Margie Conway was more than just the Williamson sisters’ friend, she had been their nanny since childhood! She had watched the sisters grow and develop from toddlers to teenagers, and she knew the girls like the backs of her own hands…which would probably come in useful in a few months’ time.
On the 30th of April, 1911, Conway, then living in Sydney, Australia, recieved a telegram from America, inviting her to come and see the sisters, saying that they were at the Wilderness Heights sanitarium. Today, this would be no problem for Conway. She could hop on a plane and be in Washington in a week. But this was 1911. It took Conway two months to reach Washington by ocean-liner and steam-train! By the time she got there on the 1st of June, it was almost too late.
By the time Margie Conway arrived at Wilderness Heights, Claire Williamson had already died from starvation. Dorothea Williamson was still alive, but just barely. Conway was shocked when she was asked to identify Claire’s body at the local mortuary, and she was even more horrified when she met her one-time ward, who was living in a ‘cabin’, a little more than a shack, on the Hazzard estate. Dorothea’s mental state had deteriorated rapidly and she wavered wildly between begging Conway to take her away, to telling Conway she wanted to stay.
Conway was shocked by everything that she saw. It soon became clear to the nanny that her darling Dorothea, along with other patients at Wilderness Heights, were bieng kept at the sanitarium against their will. She was furious! When she saw, to her horror, that Dr. Hazzard was even wearing some of Claire’s old dresses, the nanny became even more enraged. She threatened to take Dorothea away with her as soon as she could, whether or not Dr. Hazzard said that Dorothea was fit to leave!
Of course, the doctor said ‘no’, but Conway wasn’t about to go down without a fight. Even though she’d learned that Hazzard had attained legal guardianship of Dorothea and had stolen all her money, Conway still considered herself Dorothea’s nanny, and as such, she still had a responsibility to her charge, not to abandon her to a monster like Hazzard. Hazzard said that Dorothea had intended to live all the rest of her days at Wilderness Heights and that she wouldn’t leave without paying Hazzard at least $2,000, which was an astronomical sum of money in 1911!
Conway knew for a fact that she hadn’t the money. But she’d been working for the incredibly wealthy Williamson family for long enough to know who did. One evening, she snuck out of Wilderness Heights (which had no electricity, and thus, no telephone), and sent a telegram to Dorothea’s wealthy uncle. Appropriately so, Dorothea’s uncle wasn’t very happy about the news that his neice was being held to ransom! He bullied Hazzard into letting Dorothea go, which she finally did, for a substantially smaller price.
Free from the clutches of the evil Dr. Hazzard, Conway and the Williamsons started plotting the doctor’s downfall.

Dorothea Williamson, shortly after her departure from Wilderness Heights. Despite the poor quality of the photograph, the effects of Dr. Hazzard’s ‘fasting treatment’ are clearly evident
Arrest and Trial
Away from Dr. Hazzard and her starvation regime, Dorothea slowly began to heal and mend, under proper medical supervision and a proper diet. The Williamson family was enraged by what Dr. Hazzard had done, fasting specialist or not. The British Vice-Consul put pressure on the Washington state government to prosecute Hazzard for murder, but the government insisted that it didn’t have the money! Dorothea Williamson, now thoroughly recovered from her ordeal, said that she would gladly pay for the prosecution from her own funds, if the government would get off its backside and arrest Hazzard.
In August of 1911, Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard was arrested. Newspaper headlines screamed:
    ““Officials Expect to Expose Starvation Atrocities: Dr. Hazzard Depicted as Fiend.”
    - Tacoma Daily News, 1911
In court, Hazzard painted herself as a persecuted medical pioneer. People were attacking her because she was a *gasp*…WOMAN!! And nothing else! She claimed that she had perfectly sound reasons for everything she did. She even had her own defenders, ranging from former patients and even staff at her own sanitarium.
Despite everything, however, the prosecution won in the end. Or they sort of did. The jury returned with a verdict of ‘Manslaughter’. The newspaper media of the day widely theorised that Hazzard had escaped a verdict of ‘Murder’ purely because she was a woman and the jury refused to believe that a woman could do something like this.
The Aftermath
Despite the best efforts of Conway, The Williamson Family and the prosecution, Hazzard might as well never have gone to court at all, for all the good it did. Hazzard was sentenced to a mere two years in prison, after which she fled to New Zealand and started practicing again, killing even more patients. In 1920, she returned to Olalla. The Washington state government had pulled her medical license, so she couldn’t say she was a practicing doctor anymore, but that didn’t stop her from building another Wilderness Heights sanitarium where even more of her patients starved to death.
It all came crashing down in the end, though, in a way that almost nobody could imagine. In 1935, Wilderness Heights caught fire and burnt to the ground and Hazzard was forced to move out. Three years later in 1938, Hazzard was caught up in her own web of lies. She fell ill herself and attempted to use her own fasting-treatment to cure her illness, living mostly on her own prescription broth of tomatoes and asparagus. She died a few weeks later, presumably of starvation. In her roughly forty years of medical ‘care’, Hazzard is believed to have killed at least one dozen to as many as two dozen, or more, of her patients.

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