‘Most murderous house’ hosts fundraising events

OLALLA – This moldering cottage at the end of a driveway in Olalla has a dubious distinction that many locals would prefer to keep under wraps.

“It’s the most murderous house in Washington history,” Gregg Olsen said after leaving the tiny attic room where Dr. Linda Burfield Hazzard would imprison wealthy patients until they starved to death. She’d then rob them of their jewelry, yank out any gold teeth and perform a bathtub autopsy on their emaciated bodies.

As many as 40 people are believed to have died under Hazzard’s care during the early 1900s. Most of them wasted away in captivity at her Institute of Natural Therapeutics in Olalla.

Olsen wrote a book about Hazzard, amplifying her cruel exploits far beyond what Olalla had long kept down to a low whisper.

“People don’t like to talk about bad things, and people in Olalla are very respectful,” said Olsen, an Olalla resident whose “Starvation Heights” was first published in 1997. “When I started asking questions about Dr. Hazzard, they said they’d rather talk about the strawberry festival.”

About 300 people are expected to visit Olalla for two events this week marking the centennial of Hazzard’s 1911 arrest and eventual conviction for killing one of her patients. Olsen, who has written several nonfiction books, and other experts on the Hazzard saga will give tours of the old house and the site of the 100-bed sanitarium she built nearby. Proceeds from the $150-per-plate Friday dinner event and the $50 Saturday afternoon tours will benefit the Kitsap Regional Library Foundation.

“The interest in this really amazes me,” said Peter Raffa, executive director of the KRL Foundation. “We’ve got people coming in from Canada, Idaho, California, Wisconsin and all over Washington state.”

The events may be the last opportunity to get a look at Hazzard’s house before it is dismantled by its owners.

“When mom bought it 30 years ago, she had no idea what happened here,” said Shane Jones. “Did the real estate agent say anything? Of course not.”