Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Zzyzx (Part Final)

One gentleman used the elixir extensively, but still grew no hair. Frustrated, he sued. Dr. Springer didn’t seem at all upset. He merely paid the fine, peeling off the stipulated $2500 “as casually as if he was taking care of a $2 traffic ticket.”

Dr. Springer preached mightily against the evils of alcohol and the destructive power of arguing. Demon rum “dragged men down to the dark pit of Hell.” Complaining, according to the good doctor, was toxic to mental and spiritual health.

“The Lord can’t work His miracles in a carping heart,” he often said.

Never one to let an opportunity pass, Dr. Springer started selling lots for houses on his property. That way those of his followers who had been financially blessed by God – because of Dr. Springer’s ministry – could have uninterrupted access to the healing waters of Zzyzx.

Many people took advantage of the opportunity. Soon the wooden skeletons of luxury homes being built dotted the landscape. Dr. Springer owned the construction company that purchased wood from his lumber company to build the houses.

Then things started to go to hell.

Dr. Springer was not – as he claimed – either a physician or a Methodist minister. He was a fake. The newspapers picked up on the story and the government took notice. An investigation began. As a result, the Bureau of Land Management realized that Dr. Springer did not own the land that Zzyzx sat on.

He was a squatter.

Then the American Medical Association joined in the fray. They called Dr. Springer the “King of Quacks.” The AMA accused him of fraud. A lawsuit was filed against him.

Undismayed, Dr. Springer hired an attorney. And not just any attorney. He wanted only the best. Gladys Towles Root, the famous criminal attorney, represented him. Gladys was a consummate performer. She wowed juries as she pranced about the courtrooms of America in outlandish outfits and hats like Cruella De Vil.

The trial took place and received vast media coverage. In the end, Dr. Springer was convicted of false advertising. Gladys Root filed an appeal. After two years of hearings and counter-motions, Dr. Springer’s appeal was denied.

Dr. Springer went to jail, serving 49 days of a 60-day sentence.

Informed by the BLM that he could not legally sell property he did not own, Dr. Springer wanted to pay back-rent on the property. He tried to buy the BLM off with $34,187.

The BLM said no, and evicted him off 12,800 acres that was not his in the first place. Shocked and dismayed, his followers left. The houses that were being built were leveled by the feds. When people asked about refunds, they were told to talk to Dr. Springer. But he wasn’t around. He’d vamoosed while the leaving was good. And he took his money with him.

Curtis Howe Springer died in Las Vegas in 1986. He was 90 years old when he died. While squatting on public property for more than 30 years, he made more than $20 million dollars by selling salvation and snake-oil.

The energy and audacity of Curtis Howe Springer were the biggest miracle of all.

No comments:

Post a Comment