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10 Of The Most Bizarre Quack Doctor Cures In History

by Debra Kelly
fact checked by Jamie Frater

There are different kinds of quack doctors. Some are just out to make a quick buck and prey on the sick, while others really, truly believe that they’ve found the next miracle cure or that they’re going to heal all the ills that plague mankind. But both kinds of quacks would be nothing without the people who believed them.

10 Louis XIV And The Royal Touch

There’s a lot of pressure and responsibility that goes along with being the monarch, and quite a few monarchs have been said to possess the “royal touch” and the capability to heal illnesses—especially scrofula, a type of tuberculosis. The idea started with England’s Edward the Confessor during his rule, which ended in 1066. Even Henry VIII was said to have the touch, which he passed along to ill subjects in the form of a protective coin that they could wear around their necks.

Some monarchs pushed the royal touch more than others. France’s Louis XIV saw around 3,000 people during his coronation alone, all waiting to be saved and cured by the touch of the king. Over the course of his reign, he was said to have touched, and perhaps healed, around 350,000 people.

The gift was said to be passed on by a particular oil by which the new king was consecrated. It had been handed down from king to king and had originally been brought to Earth by a dove that appeared at the 496 baptism of King Clovis. Kept in Reims Cathedral for hundreds of years, it was said to be the heaven-sent oil that bestowed healing powers on the kings.

Some monarchs discouraged it, with some—like William III—saying that good sense would most likely be more useful than a king’s touch. Eventually, it fell out of favor, and that happened largely with Louis XIV. The fate of the royal touch was helped along by an observation by Voltaire, who had stated that if he really did have the ability to cure scrofula by the touch, he certainly should have cured his mistress, who instead ultimately died from it.

9 Dr. Adolf Fritz, Ghost Surgeon

According to the story, Dr. Adolf Fritz was a German medic who died during World War I. Not content to leave his life’s work unfinished, he began possessing the bodies of Brazilian men, turning them not exactly into surgeons, but into faith healers.

His first occupation was of Ze Arigo, who acted as a vessel for the German doctor until 1971. Part of his routine was that he would visit with an ill person, and then write out a cryptic prescription for whatever it was that was ailing them. Conveniently, the only person who was able to read his handwriting was his brother, who also conveniently happened to be a pharmacist. Later, he moved on to psychic surgery, which he performed without cutting into the patient, removing tumors and such from bodies without leaving a mark on them.

Ze Arigo died in 1971, but Dr. Fritz showed up in a couple more bodies. Currently, he’s inhabiting Rubens Farias Jr., and he’s moving on from just plain psychic surgery to astral healing and a sort of medicine that treats a spiritual “body” in order to cure the physical one.

In 1997, members of the Heart Disease Research Foundation visited Farias and witnessed him in action. Diagnosis took only a few seconds, and most patients were given a shot containing an unidentified brown liquid, usually given around the area of the complaint. Occasionally, he actually performed a brand of surgery, usually assisted by actual, qualified medical personnel.

He ended up getting attention from the police in 1999, and when his office was raided, it was found that in addition to a stash of rather conventional medicines he was giving away without a license, he also had an armed guard with an illegal weapon, and plenty of allegations of fraud—including one from the illegally armed guard, swearing that people had died in his custody before being taken to a more traditional hospital.

Needless to say, no real evidence of an actual World War I surgeon named Dr. Fritz has ever surfaced, either.

8 Johanna Brandt’s Grape Cure

According to Johanna Brandt’s 1925 book, The Grape Cure, her method and medicine is mankind’s only hope to completely overcome cancer. She stresses that her methods are great as preventatives as well, and that following her instructions will help keep people cancer-free and even destroy cancer.

Her instructions are fairly simple. You have to prepare the body, first, with two or three days of fasting, drinking lots of water, and a few warm-water-and-lemon-juice enemas. All that means is the grapes will have a clean slate on which to start working their magic. After that, you have a few glasses of water, and your first grapes-only meal. Then you follow it with grapes-only meals every two hours from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM and repeat for a week or two.

A week or two may also be a month. Her directions aren’t really all that specific, but she is incredibly specific about the idea that you only eat grapes. You can eat all the different parts of grapes, and all the different colors of grapes (presumably, so you don’t get sick of eating grapes), but she definitely wants you to eat only grapes. At the very least, you should be eating 0.5 kilograms (1 lb) of grapes every day and 2 kilograms (4 lb) at the most. If you start to feel upset or resentful at the mere mention of grapes, skip a few meals, because in order to work best, you have to embrace and enjoy the grapes.

Needless to say, the American Cancer Society says that while grapes are, in fact, good for you, they’re not going to be curing cancer by themselves any time soon.

7 Peter Mandel And Colorpuncture

In the 1960s, Peter Mandel developed a new process of healing that balanced acupuncture, holistic healing and spirituality. He believed that the cause of sickness was an imbalance in the unconscious mind and the physical body, and that everything could be brought back to harmony with something he called colorpuncture, or acu-light therapy.

Colorpuncture is exactly what it sounds like. The therapy uses all the points of acupuncture, but applies different lights with different color frequencies to those points. According to Mandel, the application of color to the right places on the body helps to fix the relationship between the soul and the body, easing the stress between the two that is ultimately making the person ill. Light is applied to the skin using an “acu-light wand,” which not only applies the light but focuses it as well.

And, in order to ensure other parts of the body are in harmony with the treatment, practitioners also use things like healing crystals and sound therapy along with the colorpuncture. Mandel’s US Esogetic Colorpuncture Institute claims success in treating migraines, sleep disorders, respiratory disorders, and learning disorders in children.

6 Charles Baunscheidt And Baunscheidtism

Scary Needle
On page 33 of his book on Baunscheidtism, 1800s doctor Charles Baunscheidt tells his reader that they’re on the cusp of numerous medical breakthroughs, all stemming from the realization that bloodletting probably isn’t the way to go about curing disease and illness. He hopes that soon, the world will stop the practice altogether, because he has something much, much better in mind—the Lebenswecker.

Also called the Resuscitator, Baunscheidt’s medical tools are needles—very, very sharp needles. Poking the skin with the needles allows the bad stuff that’s making a person sick to drain away in a method that is much safer than bloodletting, according to Baunscheidt. Baunscheidt’s methods were incredibly popular, beginning with his first designs of the tool that he perfected in 1865. It was so popular, in fact, that the company that continued to produce the Lebensweckers only stopped doing so when it was bombed by Allied forces in 1944.

Later, Baunscheidt would go on to add the use of oils to his practice, saying that application of his secret concoction to the skin would help draw out the toxins faster. The more irritated the skin was in this secondary source of trauma, the more distracted the body would get by it and the faster the original illness would drain away. He had quite the list of illnesses and troubles it was supposed to cure, ranging from baldness to whooping cough to a variety of mental illnesses.

5 James Morison And The Vegetable Universal Pills

When it comes to the world of medicine, James Morison is an incredibly interesting and rather two-sided character. On one hand, he was pretty revolutionary in his thinking. He believed that illnesses in the body were ultimately caused by something in the blood, and that the mind and body were linked in both health and sickness. On the other hand, he derided doctors, saying that prescribing too much medication to their patients was nothing short of a criminal act. He also thought that he had found the perfect cure for everything—his miracle Vegetable Universal Pills.

Originally a businessman, he started his campaign in 1825. He was so interested in just helping people that he originally gave his pills away; when no one was taking it seriously, he decided to charge for them. Five years later, he was making what today would be approximately $4 million a year; he eventually built the British College of Health to sell the pills from.

Throughout the decade, Morison wasn’t without his problems. He was confronted a few times with lawsuits claiming that overdosing on his pills had caused more than a few deaths, but it wasn’t long before he was over that little setback, with his pills clearly advertised and labeled as only the real thing. According to the claims, they were good for curing anything from cholera to jaundice to liver ailments. They could even relieve limb and joint pain and treat snakebites.

Morison died in 1840, and his son was content at that point to just let the company run itself. The pills themselves went through a few different variations, and by the 1900s it was found that they actually contained ingredients like myrrh, aloe, and rhubarb.

4 William Bates And Sun Gazing

Sun Gazing
When it comes to remembering little bits of knowledge that we first learn when we’re young, one of those is invariably something about not staring at the Sun because it’ll hurt your eyes. That’s the exact opposite of the instructions of ophthalmologist William Bates.

According to Bates’s turn-of-the-century techniques, looking directly at the Sun was precisely how you kept your eyes healthy and your vision sharp. He recommended regular sun gazing, and specified some eye exercises that you could do while you were staring at the Sun. He suggested circling the Sun with your eyes, then moving them in a figure eight pattern in order to strengthen your eye muscles and your vision. The point was that the light waves from the sun were necessary to keep your body and your eyes functioning at a healthy level, and they needed to be exposed to the full spectrum of light to keep vision from getting weak.

The Bates Method is still around, too—although now, the suggested technique is called “sunning,” and it involves keeping your eyes closed.

3 Royal Rife And His Cancer Zapper

There are two different points of view when it comes to the work of Royal Rife. Some people insist that he’s an absolute and outright fraud, while others insist that he was unfairly targeted by major medical organizations and his works shut down, because they didn’t really want the cure to cancer to get out.

Working in the 1930s, Royal Raymond Rife (alternately an optics engineer, a chauffeur, and a mechanic) created a microscope with a massive rate of magnification. (He also claimed he had a degree from Georgia Tech, but Georgia Tech has denied that.) The microscope allowed him to see all the germs and bacteria that he said were responsible for human illness, and because it’s no good having that knowledge if you can’t do something about it, he built a beam ray that he claimed could target and destroy the microbes that were causing illness. He started using the ray on patients in exchange for donations to his work, but his inventions were ultimately confiscated by the FDA.

Rife claimed that while he had been conducting his trials, he had successfully cured 15 cancer patients that had otherwise been told their cancers were untreatable. After 60 days with his beam therapy, they were cured.

The dismissal of his findings and the ultimate suppression of his work was the stuff that conspiracy theorists love. Even today, there are plenty of theories about how and why Rife’s work was shut down by the so-called “medical mafia,” who orchestrated a downfall steeped in bribes and betrayals, ultimately leading to the end of his medical career, even though there are still a handful of his devoted followers trying to resurrect his methods.

2 Ryke Geerd Hamer And German New Medicine

No one can deny that Dr. Ryke Geerd Hamer suffered a terrible tragedy when his 17-year-old son was shot and murdered while on holiday. That moment was the turning point not only in Hamer’s life, but also in his career; it wasn’t long after his son’s death that he was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

And he realized that the two were invariably linked.

Hamer claims to have examined the lives of thousands and thousands of cancer patients, and he kept finding the same thing over and over—that their cancer diagnosis came after an incredibly traumatic event. He concluded that shock and surprise were the main causes of cancer, and that the development of the disease was the body’s response to the situation.

He calls this response the Meaningful Special Biological Program(MSBP), and the event that causes is it is the Dirk Hamer Syndrome (DHS), after his son. From the moment of the DHS, it’s possible that the outcome is eventually cancer. Oftentimes, the part of the body impacted will have something to do with what the crisis was—a mother worrying about her child will develop breast cancer, for instance.

In response, he developed something he called German New Medicine, and he says that not only is it based on common sense, but it’s pretty much the exact opposite of what regular doctors will have you doing. Instead of the traditional things like chemotherapy and radiation, the first step in recovery is therapy that reduces the original stress that started the process, thereby reversing it.

1 Norman Baker And The Crescent Hotel

Crescent Hotel

Photo via Wikipedia

Norman Baker was pretty prolific in his endeavors. He ran for the US Senate and for governor of Iowa, he was a popular radio host, organizer of a vaudeville troupe and magic show, a machinist, a high school dropout and, if his claims were to be believed, the man who discovered a cure for cancer.

Baker had the ear of an incredible portion of the country, as his anti-Catholic, anti-Semite, Republican, and small-town supporter radio show could often be heard across the country. When Herbert Hoover was elected president, Baker even got an invitation to meet with him. It was in 1929, though, that he slammed the American Medical Association and declared that he was the one that could cure cancer. Along the way, he took on a whole host of subjects that he said were causing health problems for people, including fluoride in the water and aluminum pots.

In 1930, his vaudeville showmanship came in handy when he staged a massive show in front of 17,000 people to demonstrate that he could, in fact, cure cancer. In front of the witnesses, his assisting medical team removed part of a patient’s skull, performed the magical cure, and declared him cancer-free. Two years later, he was on trial for peddling a cancer cure that was nothing more than a concoction of water, watermelon seeds, clover, and corn silk.

Eventually shut down by the Federal Radio Commission, Baker made his way to the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas and promptly painted the entire Victorian mansion purple, black, orange, yellow, and red, turning it into a sort of holistic healing retreat. It was while he was selling his miracle cures at the Crescent Hotel that he got in trouble for mail fraud and was eventually shut down for good.

fact checked by Jamie Frater
Debra Kelly

After having a number of odd jobs from shed-painter to grave-digger, Debra loves writing about the things no history class will teach. She spends much of her time distracted by her two cattle dogs.

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