Featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not!
Not much is known about Curtis Howe Springer’s early life. We know he was born in 1896, but whether he ever attended college, taught boxing in World War I, or underwent medical training of any kind is up in the air.
Springer gave himself whatever degree seemed appropriate depending on who he was talking to—or what he was selling. M.D., Ph.D., N.D., he claimed to have them all, despite no record anywhere confirming he had graduated.
He eventually landed a radio gig, pontificating a brand of vaguely Christian pseudo-science, complete with testimonials for his self-made “medicines”.
Springer claimed his cures didn’t just cure you medically, but spiritually as well. This led to him building a health spa in the Mojave Desert.
Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa
Though he filed for mining rights to an area dubbed Soda Springs, he had no intentions of mining the 12,800 acres he asked for. He also never got those rights.
Instead, he installed massive heat-pump systems under the natural springs there, creating his own hot springs. He built a hotel, and proclaimed his newfound desert oasis “Zzyzx,” marketing it as the “last word in health.” The cross-shaped pools were advertised to have special healing properties for the mind and body. He also sold a number of rejuvenating concoctions for ridiculous prices.
The names and descriptions were suspect at best, with products like F-W-O described as “Food delightfully pleasing to women.” Mo-hair was obviously for you to grow more hair, but products like antideluvian crystals were anyone’s guess.
Zy-crystals, salt from the oasis, had very specific instructions:
“To hasten results, breathe deeply, get at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep in twenty-four, exercise in moderation and think only clean and constructive thoughts. Also, drink one pint of water one hour before each meal, none at mealtime or for two hours thereafter; none before retiring.”
All of which is great advice for getting a good night’s sleep, but really doesn’t require huffing some over-priced salt.
Eventually, the government caught wind of the squatter who had built a healing facility in the desert. He was removed and convicted of false advertising, serving a 49-day sentence in jail.
The remnants of his spa remained in the desert, however, and can be seen by tourists off Interstate 15.
The land is now controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, and the crazy antics of Springer may have had one positive consequence. He had stocked his springs with the Mohave tui chub—a rare desert fish. The species has died out in most other places, making the site a protected sanctuary for their conservation.