World’s Strangest Spa: The story of Zzyzx

Spas are meant to relax, soothe and center. A treatment to help us combat the rigors of everyday life, combating stress has dozens of health benefits, from keeping your hair color to retaining those precious extra years of life. However, what happens when a huckster looks to pervert that process? Not all spa experiences are stress-freeRick maack, and this one certainly takes the cake as “The Worst Spa in History.”

Curtis Howe Springer, a con-man and leading expert of get-rich-quick schemes, set his sights on the spa business, and the result is something for the history books. His foray into the business of relaxation and stress-management was so horrendous, the American Medical Association named him “King of the Quacks,” a title of serious condemnation from a panel of the most brilliant medical minds in America. This dubious award was given to him for his lasting testament to half-hearted scheming and unsubstantiated lies nestled in the California desert, Zzyzx.

First and foremost, Springer was a conman. Touring the country dispensing words of wisdom with falsified credentials, Springer often made up degrees from schools he never attended, and events he’s said to have attended that never occurred. Going so far as to give himself a phony degree from the “Springer School of Humanism,” a completely fake institution under his own name, Springer spoke to whichever crowd would be willing to pay for whatever topic.

After amassing a great deal of wealth and an equal number of threats against his character, Springer acquired a massive plot of land in the Mojave desert. The 12,800 acres of land was to be used for mining purposes, but Springer has no intention of using it for the legal purposes. Finding an oasis tucked away in the desert, Springer set up shop and began hocking health. Zzyzx, his temple to falsehood touted miracle cures and poultices of Springer’s own design. Building his hotel around a body of water and claiming it to be a natural hot spring, customers had no knowledge of the system of heat pumps working overtime to simulate the heat of his “hot spring.”

Conning his desperate clientele into spending big bucks on “foot crystals” and “essence of youth,” Springer pursued every drop of money in the name of healing and wellness. In 1974, the United States Government got wise to his scam. Convicted of squatting on the land he did not own, and selling chemicals as cures with no substantial proof of potency, Springer was tried and convicted of false advertising.

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