TRIAD — Upon further review, it turns out the Amazing Dr. X wasn’t so amazing after all.
If you’ve never heard of the Amazing Dr. X — or simply Dr. X, as he sometimes called himself — we’ll forgive you. The not-so-amazing one received his 15 minutes of fame more than 60 years ago, and he has long since disappeared from the public consciousness, thanks in part to a High Point woman who bravely called his bluff.
The year was 1959, and the mystical Dr. X had created quite a buzz in the Triad with his popular radio program, “The Amazing Dr. X,” broadcast daily on Winston-Salem radio station WAAA.
Representing himself as an all-knowing, all-seeing guru of immense knowledge — “an authority on everything,” according to one newspaper account — Dr. X told his many listeners he could answer any question and solve any problem, whether it be personal, physical, marital, financial, legal or spiritual. He claimed to be a physician, a psychiatrist and a marital counselor, although — see if this surprises you — he had no actual training in any of those professions.
What Dr. X did have, apparently, was a silver tongue perfectly suited for radio, where he could persuade unwitting listeners to send him their problems — along with a sum of money, of course — and he would resolve them.
While many of Dr. X’s “treatments” required a mere $5 payment, some called for much heftier investments — and, ironically, a much heftier belief in the doctor’s ability to do what he said he could do.
For example, Dr. X told one elderly woman a deadly spell had been cast on her, and he would need $100 to remove the spell.
“For $100, the woman got a little box of powder that she was to sprinkle under her bed at night,” a newspaper reported. “She was also told to drink warm milk.”
Likewise, a local man paid $40 for a box of powder he was told to sprinkle into each letter he mailed to his sick mother in South Carolina. The powder — which was actually just plain ol’ talcum — would heal the woman, according to Dr. X.
Another woman paid $5 for a box of powder which, when sprinkled in a shoebox, was supposed to resolve her marital troubles.
Other listeners paid the pseudo-doctor $25 apiece for suspiciously unlabeled bottles of medicine — bottles Dr. X had bought at a drugstore for $1.50 apiece.
Dr. X’s grand scheme began to unravel in the summer of 1959, when a High Point woman named Georgia Huntley asked if he could help her figure out a way to get her brother out of the state penitentiary in Virginia.
Sure, he replied — for $200.
Huntley paid up, but when Dr. X’s legal prowess failed to get the woman’s brother out of prison, the doc suddenly had legal problems of his own. Huntley filed a complaint with Winston-Salem police, and Dr. X became a target of both local and federal authorities.
On Aug. 24, Dr. X — aka William Lloyd Waddell, 59, of Winston-Salem — was arrested on federal charges of using the mail to defraud the public. He was placed in the Forsyth County Jail under a $10,000 bond.
Newspapers across the state found the story too titillating to resist. One paper published the story with the headline, “Authorities Put the Hex On Doctor X.” The High Point Enterprise headline read, “Doctor X Proves Not So Amazing.”
Less than two weeks later, a federal grand jury indicted Waddell, and a federal spokesman mocked Dr. X’s alleged knowledge of “everything from hangnails to marital problems.”
Waddell requested a jury trial, but at the last minute he changed his mind and pleaded guilty, perhaps realizing a jury would see right through his bogus Dr. X persona. The judge sentenced Waddell to three years in federal prison, with eligibility for parole after only four months.
For once, Dr. X had come up with the right answer — and he didn’t have to sprinkle any magic powder to do it.
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