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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Much too long!
The first quarter of the book is very interesting. But the needless detail of the trial portion of the book leaves you waiting for it to end.
Gregg Olsen's books are invariably wonderful. Starvation Heights is one of the best!!
Macabre and very long reading
There are very few books that once I start them I stop before finishing. I read all of this but it was a very long, tedious read. The author goes into every minute detail to the point that I constantly was looking to see how many pages I had left to complete. So it became a chore rather than an enjoyable experience for me. I generally have no problem with reading many details but this was over the top in my opinion.