Starvation Heights, by Gregg Olsen

In one of the most gripping tales of historical true crime I’ve ever read, “Starvation Heights” had me from page one, and it completely caught me by surprise. It’s the story of a power-hungry doctor from the 1910’s who espoused a “healing” method that was popular at various times in history called fasting.

But the lengths that Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard went to to “heal” her patients were nothing short of serial murder.

(For a brief overview of this story, see this article at crimelibrary.com.)

Dr. Hazzard believed that a diet of nothing but a few teaspoons of soup and water, along with enemas (which were quite popular in the early 20th century) and vigorous massage, would rid the body of “toxins”, leading to better health.

As the patients wasted away, Dr. Hazzard would “encourage” her patients to sign over power of attorney, quietly and violently becoming a very rich woman.

Two of Dr. Hazzard’s patients – British sisters named Claire and Dora Williamson – are the sad subjects of this book. They came to Dr. Hazzard’s rural Washington clinic in search of healing and emotional well-being.

After dwindling down to under 75 pounds, Claire managed to send a telegram home begging for help. But before her Nanny could arrive, she passed away. Dora, however, was able to escape and eventaully was nursed back to health and was able to be a witness in the trial of Dr. Hazzard, where she was convicted of manslaughter.

But justice would not prevail in this case, and after serving only a short term, the governor commuted her sentence. Eventually re-arrested after the death of another patient, the number of victims who died under her care will likely never be known.

In an odd twist, Dr. Hazzard’s book, Fasting for the Cure of Disease is still available at various locations online.

I recommend this book, not only as a great historical true crime book, but just as a gripping read all around. Pick it up – you won’t be disappointed.

Published in: on September 15, 2006 at 3:24 am  Comments (16)  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: http://incoldblog.wordpress.com/2006/09/15/starvation-heights-by-gregg-olsen/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

16 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Angie,through the miracle of Google Alerts, I came across your blog about my book Starvation Heights. Needless to say I’m thrilled that you included it among your favorite historical TC books. You might be interested in my site http://www.starvationheights.com. I also blog at http://www.crimerant.com. Thanks again! You really made my day!
    Best,
    Gregg Olsen
    http://www.greggolsen.com

  2. I just finished the book and loved it. I live in the area and had no idea what I rich history we have here. I had trouble putting this book down!

  3. I read this book not to long ago and it was brilliant.
    I am very close to my sisters and sympothised with the story. They were so innocent in so many ways. They were verey worldly but so nieve. However arent we all when we are doing things with the people we love and trust the most in the world. I would walk accross fire for either one of my sisters expecially if they were gonna do it too.

    As for Mrs.Hazzard she was an evil damented manipulative self righteous wind bag!!!!

  4. when you say it’s ove. Stacy Fabian.

  5. hey everyone i went to the semertary and i cryed for all the people who died it was amazing but scary there!!

  6. I live right by this place I have lived in Olalla all my life. I am going to go buy the book so I can learn more about the historical event that took place in my home town.

  7. I live on Burley lagoon, only minutes from Olalla. I was recommended the book when I first moved out here a few years ago. It was one of those truly rare books where I literally had to force myself to put it down (you know.. clean house, go to work, brush my teeth lol). I was so impressed with the book, that I met the author at a book-signing in Silverdale; quite a talker! Very charming and fun to listen to.

    At any rate; I would LOVE it if they could somehow turn this into a movie along the lines of ‘The Village’ with M. Night Shyamalan as director. Only one woman really comes to mind to play Dr. Hazzard – and that would be Demi Moore. How perfect would that be?

    Great blog – Sincerely, Flora :)

    • lifetime can do this movie,,would be great!!!! my choice for Dr. Hazzard would be Miss Alley,,christi

    • hi flora,,im reading the book now,,i would like to know if i leave tacoma and cross the narrows bridge,, do i need to go through bremerton or is my cut off before that.

  8. Dear Gregg Olsen, My half sister has a murder mystery story, that I think you would be very interested in writing a book about. The story happened in Port Orchard, a few generations ago. She has the court records of the murder, but she said the wrong relative went to prison. I told her about you and your book, Starvation Heights. She has decided she wants to talk to you. She doesn’t have a computor right now, but she says I can give you her phone number. It has taken a year, for Roberta to decide she wants a book written about her Uncle being wrongly accused. Please let me know if you want her phone number. She lives in Oregon. Thankyou, Rebecca DeLancy

  9. Dear Gregg Olsen, My half sister has a murder mystery story, that I think you would be very interested in writing a book about. The story happened in Port Orchard, a few generations ago. She has the court records of the murder, but she said the wrong relative went to prison. I told her about you and your book, Starvation Heights. She has decided she wants to talk to you. She doesn’t have a computor right now, but she says I can give you her phone number. It has taken a year, for Roberta to decide she wants a book written about her Uncle being wrongly accused. Please let me know if you want her phone number. She lives in Oregon. Thankyou, Rebecca DeLancy

  10. ok,, my husband found this book, STRAVATION HEIGHTS, at a thrift store,,I live in washington state. Didn,t olalla eventually become a rehab for alcoholics? anyways i will read the book as i have started. i so much want to do research then go there. if anyones enterested,,please email me. hey mr. gregg olsen,,, i think we should take a metal dectector,, see what we find. im suprised Ann rule has not written of this subject!!! anyways let me know if any of you would like to check this out,,ty.

    • ok,,,im heading over there soon,, im already taken by the book, greg but more so how its laid out. im also from this local territory!! i plan on taking my medal detector. i applaude you greg on your writings,,,this is a true crime,,which most of us prefer is totally perfect. there is more to this story then what has been told. i have someone who went to this place for rehab for alcoholism, in the 60s. thats what caught my eye.i entend to find more info on this subject,,ty greg!!!

  11. Being a fan of historical true crime and the true crime genre for quite a while, I kept seeing this site listed in books I read. Finally decided I should go on it, sign up and read the articles and posts, and am glad I did. The writers and those who comment use an intelligent respect in their words about this sobering area of interest.

  12. My Mom & I went on the Market Ghost Tour in Seattle last Saturday, on the tour they talked about Dr. Hazzard and what had happened and after the tour we wentback & bought your book. I just finished chapter 15 and it’s so hard to put down. My great Grandmother lived in Seattle when she was 25+ y.o. at the time starvation Heights took place. I have may photos of her dated 1910 so I can so visualize the clothing and styles from this era of your book. Well I gotta go, got more to read, & loving every bit of it!

  13. Just finished the book and so glad a F.B. friend from Port Orchard told me about it! Now to start reading more Gregg Olsen works… GREAT STUFF!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: