Wilderness Heights Sanitarium (known as Starvation Heights by locals) is so close to my house, there is no reason why I didn't go snoop around. Especially after my friend's mom read the book and told us all about it nearly ten years ago. Linda Burfield Hazzard was named the first "fasting specialist" in the country, had a cult following, and turned her Olalla, WA cottage into Wilderness Heights in the early 1900s. She rented out her attic to patients who had come to experience her revolutionary treatment, which she claimed would cure almost anything by ridding the body of toxins.
The treatment, outlined in her book, was a strict diet of one bowl of tomato or asparagus soup per day for about forty days. Occasionally, a spoonful of orange juice was allowed. The treatment also included long walks, hour-long enemas, and massage, which was really just beatings to the foreheads and backs of her patients while Hazzard shouted, "Eliminate! Eliminate!" Local farmers watched patients walk from the sanitarium to the store and back, but noted that the walks soon became daily crawls, as the patients lost energy and weight.
Hazzard had many rich patients, including Daisey Maud Haglund, whose parents owned Alki Point in Seattle. She died after a 50-day fast. (Side note: Daisy's toddler, Ivar, grew up and opened the iconic Ivar's seafood restaurant chain). While some people survived this starvation diet and raved about the cure, about forty patients died. Hazzard performed autopsies in her bathroom and rarely filed death certificates. She had an arrangement with a funeral home in Seattle for burials. And while her patients were weak and sick, she convinced them to sign over their estates or give her a prominent place in their wills.
Police had a hard time making an arrest because Hazzard's patients came and stayed at her sanitarium willingly. In 1912, she was finally convicted of manslaughter. Claire Williamson, a British heiress, died at age 33 weighing only 50 pounds. Claire's sister, Dorothea, survived because her family came in time to remove her. She weighed just 60 pounds and was too weak to leave on her own. Dorothea paid for the trial by the British Consulate and testified against Hazzard.
Hazzard spent two years in prison then moved to New Zealand, where she continued her practice and raked in the dough. In 1920, she came back to Olalla and built a larger sanitarium/nursing home, which was known as the School of Health. However, her reputation was ruined and she only had about ten patients in her 100-bed facility. This sanitarium burned to the ground in 1935 and was never rebuilt. Hazzard died in 1938 while (surprise, surprise) fasting.
There was some reported paranormal activity in Hazzard's house. The woman who lived there was busy cooking, going back and forth between her stove and counter. When she finally turned around, all of the kitchen chairs and a few from a nearby room were stacked against the bathroom door (where the autopsies were performed). The attic had many low ledges and a psychic from the Discovery Channel said she saw the spirits of Hazzard's victims sitting on the ledges, still afraid to move. When Washington State Paranormal Investigations and Research visited, they picked up voices saying, "Help me," and, "Dig us up." Historic preservationists looked at the house a few times, but deemed that it could not be saved. The current owners tore down the house in 2011, 100 years after the mass murders, to build a new one elsewhere on the property.
School of Health