Magical Cures Or Snake Oil?

Posted: Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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“What in the world are you laughing at?” Linda shouted from the other room.
“A commercial,” I hollered back.
“Commercial?…you haven’t watched a commercial since we got the DVR.”
“I know..but this is too hilarious to skip over. It’s an ad for a new piece of exercise equipment called a shake weight that’s supposed to reduce lady’s upper arm fat.
“There’s nothing funny about that I can tell you,” she said.
“Oh no?” “Wait till you see it,” I concluded.
That’s all I’m going to say about this product that is being marketed on the premise of innocence and effectiveness and if you find it blatantly suggestive than it’s time to get your mind out of the gutter, chum.
Even though Linda feels self conscious about..what she perceives as..a little flab below the biceps that didn’t used to be there..I’m not about to order a shake weight if for no other reason than I wouldn’t want the mailman…or mailwoman in our case.. delivering this thing to the house because she’s likely seen the commercial too and wonder how anybody could be so dumb as to  shell out 20 bucks (not including shipping and handling) for this contraption.
But, it’s not like I haven’t been suckered into all sorts of various health related gimmicks in the past. I still have a case of Tahitian Noni juice in the basement fridge. This foul tasting stuff was supposed to cure everything from high blood pressure to bowel irregularities. All it did was make me gag each of the three times a day I was supposed to drink it.
I also have boxes of specialized magnets that, when worn or rubbed on the body, are supposed to make aches and pains disappear. About all that disappeared was 150 bucks a month.
Which brings to mind a South Dakota made product that caused quite a nation-wide stir 30 years ago.
Anybody remember Willard Water? 
It was the creation of Dr. John Willard..a chemistry teacher at the School of Mines in Rapid City. He came up with a way to change the molecular structure of plain water. The resulting solution which he called catalyst altered water was aimed at promoting plant growth but before long, people were using Willard Water for everything from healing burns and sore throats to removing stubborn stains.
Word of this miraculous Willard Water reached the desk of Harry Reasoner at “60 Minutes who decided to come to Rapid City and find out for himself if this guy was selling snake oil or really had come up with a magical potion that would turn science on its ear. Well, what Reasoner discovered is that while there wasn’t any real science to support the amazing claims of Willard Water’s capabilities, nearly everyone who used it from burn victims, to farmers to nuns, believed it worked and had the evidence to prove it. To see the 60 Minutes story click here.
I’m surprised I never ordered any Willard Water in those months following the 60 Minutes broadcast because everybody was sure talking about it.
But before long Dr. Willard and his magic water slipped back into relative obscurity and out of the national limelight.
I got to wondering if it was still around and, sure enough, a couple clicks on the computer reveals that the late Dr. Willard’s family continues to run the business and distribute the product around the world.
I wonder, since I don’t seem to qualify for a vaccination, if Willard Water could keep the swine flu away from our door.

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