Sunday, March 21, 2010

"I can heal you."

A few years ago I saw a teacher aide in one of the schools where I worked who had a terrible disfigurement to her upper lip. Half of it appeared to be burned away, and there had been surgical attempts to repair the lip, but cosmetically it still looked bad. The story was that this lady had gone to a quack who told her she had cancer of the lip, and sold her some compound she applied locally that over time ate her lip away.

If you talked to the victim of quackery, she said, "I had cancer and [the doctor] cured me." She might be disfigured, but she was cured!

In 1899 you could get your cancer cured by the application of soothing, balming oils at Dr. B. F. Bye's Sanitarium in Indianapolis. The ad is in Black Cat Magazine.* I wonder how many desperate people, in pain and with organs being eaten away from cancer, spent their last days at Dr. B. F. Bye's Sanitarium with someone applying useless balms to them. In those days the treatment of cancer was pretty terrible, "knife or burning plaster," according to the ad. Ugh. But nowadays it's probably not all that much better: knife, chemo and radiation, with the attendant side effects and problems. No one ever got better from soothing, balming oils. The only thing they'd do is make you feel better while you're getting rubbed down.

As a side benefit, you can also cure your catarrh, piles, fistula, eczema and all skin diseases at this sanitarium.

That seems to be the hallmark of a quack claim: that their treatment can cure all or any disease.

For instance, these two handsomely mustachioed gentlemen, Professor Weltmer and Professor Kelly, can teach you how to cure others by using their technique of magnetic healing, "that proves that all diseases can be cured." You see, life is a "short space" of time given to us by an "all wise God," who didn't intend for this "short space to be filled with aches and pains." Disease is caused by "humanity and can be cured by human hands." They use the typical quack technique of anecdotal evidence, with real people: "Hon. Press Irons, Mayor of Nevada [Missouri] was afflicted with kidney and bladder problems," and "in one week he was completely restored by Professor Weltner." Mrs. Jennie L. Linch, of Lakeview, Missouri, "was for two years afflicted by ulceration of the womb, heart and stomach problems," but no more. In less than 30 days she was cured by what Professor Weltmer modestly called Weltmerism.

Professor Weltmer would teach you his method of Weltmerism. After all, he's too busy curing people, and he needs to train others to assist in this "noble work."

As if Weltmerism weren't enough, we can also get cured by magnetism. Not only that, but Professor Thos. F. Adkin, of the "New York Institute of Science," claims by "combining three forces, [Adkin] discovered a new force many times more powerful than the old force, called human magnetism." And it can be had from a distance, just like wireless telegraphy. Wonders never cease in the world of quackery. "The results obtained have astonished all who tried it."

Professor Adkin will teach you how to do these long distance miracles. He has "hundreds of Students in all parts of the world. They are meeting with unbounding succcess [sic] and reaping a harvest of money as well as scores of gracious patients."

Well, perhaps I can find something of his method of long distance human magnetism and do it over the Internet. According to the ad, I can make $10 to $20 a day. That kind of money would be worth the risk of spending time in prison for quackery, don't you think?

In the first case I mentioned, the lady with the disfigured lip, the "doctor" was prosecuted, but the victim refused to cooperate with authorities. She claimed the doctor had at least cured her cancer. She had no medical diagnosis, just the word of the quack that she had cancer. So that's the final ingredient for quackery: people willing to believe these fanciful, outrageous and often dangerous claims.

*I've done a another posting featuring this magazine's ads, here.


Can't See Sheep said...

Just found your blog & am really liking it. Where do you get these great old ads, they're wonderful. It's always sad when you hear people being bilked out of cash for quackery. They hear words like cancer & then rather than get a second opinion they panic & give the person whatever they want to try & keep them alive. They peddled a lot to vanity & fear just like they do today.

Might as well just tell the person, give me all your money, I'll go travel Europe & the more enjoyment I have, the better the chances of you being cured.

El Postino said...

I found the ads in an old magazine called Black Cat, which was a short story publication. Remember the good ol' days, when people read stories for pleasure?

The Pure Food and Drug Act of the early 20th Century helped stop this type of advertising and these outrageous claims, but there are still people who spend their money on useless "cures."

In 1996 my friend, dying of liver cancer, spent $15,000 in a quack Mexican cancer clinic. They pulled all his teeth, then sold him some useless electronic "device" which would rid him of what was causing his cancer. It didn't prolong his life one day, and the tooth extractions made him all the more miserable.

I appreciate your comments. Thanks for dropping by and saying hi.