Whomever has ever driven between Los Angeles and Las Vegas has most likely seen “that” exit sign with the weird name out in the middle of nowhere. Zzyzx has been called many names names: Soda Springs, Lake Tuendae, but what makes Zzyzx both intriguing and bizarre is the time period it was known as The Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Healing Center and its con artist founder and his naive clients. Beginning in 1944 when Curtis Howe Springer, a self-proclaimed (but unlicensed) doctor and minister, started the “health center” by convincing people that the springs were a cure all for an assortment of ailments in ways that would make Charles Ponzi look like an amateur. Springer started his dubious plan by falsifying mineral rights to 12,000 acres of surrounding land then driving a bus to Skid Row in Los Angeles and promising the homeless and other vulnerable people hot meals and shelter to help with the construction of his self described utopia. With modern medicine still catching up about whether or not Springer’s claims were conclusively real or not and because of his ability to make his “health center utopia” con to his radio sermon listeners and the general public with strategic advertising campaigns believable, he was able to brainwash those people listening to come out to the middle of one of the most inhospitable places on Earth to be cured of whatever they were suffering from with his snakeoil tonics and presumed benefits of the hot springs. By naming it Zzyzx, other than the fact that it was catchy, he was able to come up with the slogan of “Zzyzx- The Last Word in Health”. However, Zzyzx was just a made up word created by Springer thinking it was the last word in the English language. He was able to finance all of it through donations from his most devote religious followers. Over the years, after Springer’s tonics proved not useful for treating any ailments, he started his next scheme by trying to sell off the surrounding land he fraudulently obtained in the first place. When that con fell through and the lawsuits started to pile up, the government inquiries began. By this time, modern medicine had caught up with Springer as well and was able to prove that he, along with his tonics and elixirs, to be a fraud. Because of this, The American Medical Association outed him and dubbed Springer the “King of Quacks” while others named him the “King of All Snake Oil Salesmen”. Springer, along with his remaining followers, were eventually evicted from the site in 1974. Springer eventually died in obsurcity in Las Vegas in 1985. The only unanswered question about Zzyzx is “what would have happened to Springer and his followers if Springer was not outed and kept his con going?”.
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