IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in this world, David Ellis says that one of America’s worst-ever cancer quacks was an-already millionaire from a range of highly successful business ventures, and who would seemingly have had no reason to seek the millions more he was after from fake cancer “cures.”
Norman G. Baker owned radio stations in Muscatine, Iowa and Nuevo Laredo in Mexico, a magazine and newspaper publishing house, and had invented the calliaphone, a small and easily transportable fairground and circus organ that was snapped-up in place of the-then bulky steam organ.
In the late 1920s Baker suddenly styled himself as a doctor, without actually saying he was one, and with a convicted medical swindler, Harry Hoxsey opened a 100-bed “cancer-curing” clinic in Muscatine – treating “patients” with injections of nothing more than corn silk, watermelon seeds, clover, water, alcohol and carbolic acid.
They also held huge Woodstock-style open-air “curings” that attracted thousands of desperate cancer victims at a time, victims who also bought tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of “cures.” And when the legitimate medical industry attacked the duo for their perceived quackery – they were reportedly making US$100,000 a month in the late 1920s – Baker vehemently railed personally against his opponents on his Muscatine radio station.
And when a warrant was issued against him for practicing medicine without a licence, Baker fled to Mexico where he stayed for seven years.
Eventually returning to Muscatine, he was arrested, jailed for just one day and fined $50 for contempt of court, and in the late 1930s was charged with mail fraud and imprisoned for four years.
He died in Miami in 1958 from cirrhosis… coupled, ironically, with cancer.