A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest
In this true story—a haunting saga of medical murder set in an era of steamships and gaslights—Gregg Olsen reveals one of the most unusual and disturbing criminal cases in American history.
In 1911 two wealthy British heiresses, Claire and Dora Williamson, arrived at a sanitorium in the forests of the Pacific Northwest to undergo the revolutionary “fasting treatment” of Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard. It was supposed to be a holiday for the two sisters, but within a month of arriving at what the locals called Starvation Heights, the women underwent brutal treatments and were emaciated shadows of their former selves.
Claire and Dora were not the first victims of Linda Hazzard, a quack doctor of extraordinary evil and greed. But as their jewelry disappeared and forged bank drafts began transferring their wealth to Hazzard’s accounts, the sisters came to learn that Hazzard would stop at nothing short of murder to achieve her ambitions.
When true-crime author Olsen (Abandoned Prayers) moved to Olalla, Wash., he was skeptical about reports of a local crime. In the early part of the century, he was told, a woman doctor killed her patients at a place called Starvation Heights. But Olsen began a dossier on the sinister sanitarium, the Hazzard Institute of Natural Therapeutics, eventually spending three years assembling information from books, interviews, newspapers, letters, comic books and trial transcripts. After reading Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard's Fasting for the Cure of Disease, British heiresses Claire and Dora Williamson arrived in Hazzard Institute in 1911 and were met with a regimen of fasting, broths, enemas and exercise. Within months, the sisters were emaciated and Claire died. When family nurse Margaret Conway arrived to find Dora "a hideous skeleton on the verge of death," she rescued her, and subsequent events led to the greedy, evil Hazzard's arrest and trial. Olsen brings an eye for atmospheric detail to a forgotten terror tale that nearly slipped into oblivion. Demonic and true, this is the even darker side of the health fads satirized in T.C. Boyle's The Road to Wellville.