The belated discovery in mid-August 2014 of my long-lost copies of two self-published books by Mrs Owen has provided welcome new material about the intriguing but flimsy biography of the famous bee sting lady. I originally bought these books from Mrs Owen in 1978 and they had been mislaid for 22 years. Re-reading them 36 years later reveals much that I ignored at the time, while staying in one of her rented houses with my daughter, Maribel, a very plucky patient who notched up six months worth of bee stings. (Why not check her blog? It’s more uplifting than mine. gatewaytoblindness is the name.)
Apart from their relevance to my family biography, the hitherto mislaid books would have provided interesting background information for my investigative articles in 2008, 2011 and 2012. They had proved unobtainable on the Internet because a mean-minded beekeeper bookseller, with copies of the books for sale, presumably imagined, erroneously, that I am totally opposed to ALL bee venom therapies. As these two projected articles will underline once again, most of Mrs Owen’s career was devoted to successfully treating patients with arthritis, rheumatism and skin diseases. It was only in her final short, desperate period (?1974-) that she resorted to exaggerated claims of curing Retinitis Pigmentosa, which achieved the publicity she craved but which also brought about her spectacular downfall in early 1979 following the BBC TV exposé (detailed in one of my previous blogs).
The second article will attempt to set out those known biographical details about “Julia Owen” and the many other aspects which are still unclear, and for which, perhaps, some readers may be able to furnish vital further clues. (Mrs. Julia Owen’s Biography. 2. The known and the unknown)
1. Clamouring at the Citadel
Self-published by Ms Owen in 1963 in Bromley, Kent, UK. Possibly with the help of a ghost-writer.
The short introduction offers important information and is reproduced here in full.
“For years I dreamed of a medicated bee venom clinic in England, but at the time this book opens I had neither money nor bees to bring this long cherished desire to fruition. Nevertheless, the idea haunted me till the urge to found a clinic became irresistible, and I determined to set forth on the hazardous errand of which I tell.
“I had money and to spare for my project, tied up in valuable treasures and jewellery I left in Austria and Hungary when before the war I came to Britain. If I could get these here, my dream would come true. The odds were heavily weighted against success, but I meant to try, because I wanted this country, the only one where I have been able to treat the sick without interference, to be the first to benefit by my cure, and I had not then encountered the medical profession’s stubborn opposition to learning and adopting my method.
“The task of finding, amassing and transferring my scattered possessions out of one country, into another and finally to England that they might be translated into the cash I needed to achieve my aim, seemed at times, impossible, but thanks to the courageous daring and ingenuity of a band of very noble helpers, culled from nearly every walk of life, but mainly from the Czech and Hungarian peasant population, who never forsook me in my hour of danger and need, even at great risk to themselves, I accomplished the mission, and was able to build bee chambers and establish a clinic in Bromley, Kent, financed by the funds I raised on my treasures, plus the currency I managed to bring in.
“Without my special bees however, chambers and clinic were useless and I was helpless, as I cannot work alone, for bees, extolled by Shakespeare and beloved of thousands, the thousands upon thousands whose health and, happiness they have restored, are the wonder agents of my cures. I do not of course, refer to ordinary garden bees, which are dangerous, as is evidenced by the annual toll of lives from their stings, but to the bees I specially breed, hygienically rear, carefully select, and medicate through their diet according to the disease I intend to treat.
“When I left Austria, fearing the conflagration looming ominously over Europe, I entrusted my precious bees to the tender care of an old professor friend of the family. The journey to recover them will be told in my next book. Suffice it to say here therefore, that some of the stories now set down, that is those which refer to the period after I brought my bees over, are not in strict chronological sequence, but may perhaps provide interesting and amusing reading, since they are true experiences I have had.
“For those who do not even know my name nor my way of treating with medicated bee venom, it would perhaps be expedient to explain there is no hocus pocus about my method. It is as logical as the doctors’ syringe and injection, but for the diseases it can alleviate, much more successful, as is borne out by the number of medical men, their families and their rejects suffering from these ills they cannot cure, who find their way to me, begging for my aid. They come to me themselves but fear of reprisals at the hands of the General Medical Council here and similar bodies in other countries, keeps the doctors from sending patients to me. Sufferers who do come too late, that is before the advanced stage where bone, muscle and tissue have been destroyed by the disease or some of the modern drugs and treatments, go away restored to health and happiness, to the health and happiness which the doctors do not know how to give, can enjoy themselves, but are not allowed to learn to share with others.
“The title of this book, Clamouring At The Citadel, has been chosen because it aptly depicts the plight of the rheumatics and arthritics everywhere today. They plead for relief and a cure, the cure the doctors do not know, and shout aloud through the press they do not know. Six and a half million of these sufferers in this country alone, not to mention the teeming millions of other lands, clamour at the walls of the impregnable citadel of the medical profession, where safe within its keep the men of medicine are guided by the accusing finger, and quake beneath the threatening fist, of the General Medical Council. They must lie low, shut their eyes and ears, shun my treatment and my patients, and cannot study or use it to help the tortured to whom it could bring new hope and usefulness. I am convinced that were the Lord Jesus Christ to come back to earth again, they would write Him off a quack, and forbid Him to touch their patients or perform His miracles as of yore.
“Medicated bee venom is most successful in the crippling and painful rheumatic and arthritic diseases, some skin and eye complaints closely related to them, and their allied ills of gout, lumbago, sciatica, fibrositis, as well as asthma, neuritis and other nervous disorders. [Bold type added]
“So my beloved bees I had to have, and I went for them.
“When all was ready to commence treating the afflicted, it would have served no purpose whatever to sit peacefully waiting for them to arrive, since the people of this country hardly knew my name. Although my form of treatment had been practised by the medical members of my family for many years in Europe prior to my carrying it on and further perfecting it, I was almost unheard of here, save to the very few who knew of my work on the Continent, and I needed to let the public know I was waiting to cure them. Publicity is an elusive will o’ the wisp very hard to ensnare. It seemed to me therefore, the only way to catch it, and indeed to merit it, would be to treat free some who were prominently before the public eye, in exchange for their chances and efforts in spreading the gospel of medicated bee venom. The poor of compassion I treated frequently gratis, but of the rest, I was compelled to assess their publicity possibilities on occasions, and waive the cost of their cures.
“The idea worked well in many instances, and though I have met and dealt with rogues as well as angels, their living testimony to the work and efficacy of my bees soon set the news arolling, and like a snowball gathering size and weight in rolling, it brought the sick to my door. From one to another hopeless reject of the medical profession it went, till from the far corners of the earth they came seeking alleviation, complete cure, and the return to the normal life they yearned for.
“A small book I recently published, for the benefit and guidance of those whose disease or purse will not permit them to come to Bromley for treatment, entitled, Treat Yourself for Your Rheumatic or Arthritic Disease, has also played its part in alleviating their pain, and has shown that victims of these diseases can do something to help themselves to a happier and less agonising existence.
But the picture could be changed to much brighter hues and so I toil on in the hope, perhaps the vain hope who knows, that there will come a day before it is too late, when someone may hear the cry of crippled and tortured mankind, uncommonly thick though the walls of the citadel be.”
The first chapter of Clamouring at the Citadel, ‘Dodging Dodges’, takes up over half of the book (152 pages) and deals in very great detail with the highly dramatic six months Julia spent in 1947 roaming Austria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia in search of the many valuable possessions she had left behind when she fled the area in 1939. The money was destined to finance her proposed bee venom treatment clinic in London. This is an astonishing narrative, describing ingenuity, danger and many narrow escapes from authorities, each minutely described. The narration rivals the scenario for a 1940s thriller. Between February and August 1947, amid the austerities of post-war Europe, Julia claims to have retrieved countless valuables, including, jewellery, Meissen china, tapestries, and no less than 470 paintings by Hungarian artists “Professor Vidder” and Istvan Nagy, which she had presciently bought up (and hidden) before her 1939 flight to UK. She claims that many of these paintings were sold in Prague, to Americans, and the dollars transferred to her UK bank.
Having failed to discover any of her family in Austria, Julia went round collecting all these valuables from hiding places in Hungary (where she had owned a mountain villa, to which a faithful maid had transferred many of these precious belongings). From here, Julia smuggled them bit by bit across the river into Czechoslovakia (“54 hazardous river crossings”), sold some pieces for cash and, finally, armed with a safe conduct pass from President Eduardo Benes of Czechoslovakia (a friend from the past), took seven huge trunks by rail to Prague, where she was reunited with her anxious husband, “Albert” (?Owen?). She solved his shortage of foreign currency by selling a brooch for 5,500 pounds sterling for their expenses. In the Czech capital, with a 28-day visa achieved with the President’s help, she and her husband were guests of the President and his wife for a few days before Julia set about the daunting solo task of selling as many of her possessions as she could before flying back to the UK unaccompanied, with a large number of dollars concealed very painstakingly in a full length plaster cast on one leg. On arrival in England, she claims to have sought and obtained an interview with the legendary Sir Stafford Cripps, the dour Chancellor of the Exchequer, who refused her request for permission to import currency. So she made other arrangements.
In the remaining seven short chapters (pp 153-247), Julia gives an account of some of her experiences in treating patients for arthritis, etc. She gives monotonously detailed and very angry accounts of her difficult patients, especially whose who tried to deceive or cheat her. There is, unfortunately, nothing positive in these pages to add to her biography.
2. Doctors without Shame, 1965 (self-published)
This is basically a boring over-detailed chronicle of Julia’s frequent bad experiences with medical practitioners and organisations.
As with the previous volume there are few dates, places or names mentioned.
Of most interest for biographers:
“I have devoted much of my life, and the whole of the past sixteen years, to the development and application of a unique form of treatment which, as my readers will learn. is mainly for the various forms of arthritis and many types of skin diseases which so far have defeated orthodox medicine.
My object has never been profit or honours for myself. Indeed, as a result of the expenses involved in research and in much treatment which I have given for nothing, I am, financially, considerably poorer than I was.
Similarly, my primary purpose in writing this book is neither to pillory individual members of the medical profession nor to receive public acclaim for myself.
I desire public awareness of my work and the benefits which it can bring: and, through that, relief and new hope to an ever increasing number of sufferers from those complaints which are within my particular province.
These stories which follow are about doctors who, often despite my every discouragement, have sought – and often obtained – my medicated bee venom treatment. They should prove more than anything else can, the truth of my claims. The doctors would not come to me for treatment for their arthritis, skin diseases and other ailments if the remedies were in their own hands. Equally, they would not come to me unless they knew, in advance, by reason of their own specialist knowledge, that I could help.
Whatever profits there may be from the sale of this book are of no concern to me except in so far as they may assist to alleviate the suffering of those whom my method alone an help and also to ensure that my work is continued after my retirement or death.
I hope to achieve this purpose in the following way. All proceeds from the sale of this book will go into a special account. I shall deduct only my publishing and administrative expenses.
The net profits, if sufficient, will be devoted to the acquisition of a suitable property which I shall convert into a clinic. There I will treat, for a period of two years, completely free of charge, as many patients as possible – depending upon the funds available from the sale of this book. The more books sold the greater the number of patients who can be treated. I am hoping that the clinic will be staffed by nurses who need my treatment for themselves or their relatives or valued friends.
During this period of two years, my private residence, ” Sunkist Vienna “, would be open to receive doctors, of any nationality, who wish to study my methods. Up to fourteen rooms can be put at their disposal. I would ask only that they acknowledge that they have come to learn from me, and that they learn in order to help others. In this way, it could be ensured that my knowledge and methods would survive to the inestimable benefit of countless thousands.
At the end of two years, my intention is to retire. I shall then present the clinic to the nation. If there is no one able and willing to continue its use as a bee venom clinic, the Government may devote it to whatever purpose they deem fit.
I should, perhaps, make clear that this is not intended as an appeal for subscriptions or gifts. On no account will either be welcome or accepted. My proposal concerns the use of the profits from the sale of this book at its published price.
This is my last throw. I have laboured long on behalf of the sick. I have done all in my power to bring my medicated bee venom treatment to the notice and within the means of those whose only hope is in my treatment. This cause is surely worthy of your support.
I began writing this book in January, 1964. Since then I have many times anxiously re-read and revised the stories which follow. While so doing, the thought often crossed my mind: will my readers believe what I have written? Will they not think it too fantastic to be true? They may reflect that, if these stories are untrue, I take a very serious risk in publishing them so widely. And yet, that may still not be sufficient to carry conviction. After all, the medical profession has always stood very high in the public estimation. Its members have been assumed to have been actuated primarily by a sense of vocation; the relief of others’ suffering was their concern, and not the furtherance of their own material rewards. Furthermore, their standards of conduct were believed to be in accordance with these high ideals; not for them the cynical pursuit of self-interest, in disregard of the national interest, which is alleged to characterise certain manual workers’ organisations.”
Also: The Foreword (pp. 9-12), and this advertisement on the last pages of the book:
THE JULIA OWEN CLINIC
1, Westbury Road, (Near Widmore Green), BROMLEY, KENT. RAVENSBOURNE 2313.
THE JULIA OWEN CLINIC is the only MEDICATED BEE VENOM CLINIC in the world.
“Medicated bee venom whilst primarily sought after for the cure and alleviation of the rheumatic and arthritic diseases, particularly the very painful ones known as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, has proved singularly successful in curing several other diseases as well.
These include certain forms of blindness, deafness and skin disorders arising from and with these illnesses, such as weeping eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis and urticaria. It is also extremely efficacious with retinitis pigmentosa, diabetes in patients who have not received insulin, muscular dystrophy, asthma and thyroid deficiency. [a very early mention of RP]
Members of Julia Owen’s family were among the earliest medical men to evolve, improve and use medicated bee venom therapy, which has long interested research workers on the Continent of Europe. Having studied and assimilated the findings of her forebears, she decided at a very early age to devote her entire life to the practice of this treatment, till today her clinic at Bromley, Kent, is the result of the forty odd years of further research she has carried out. To her come patients from all parts of the globe, often cases abandoned as hopelessly incurable, weary of being wheeled from hospital to spa, and from spa to costlier clinics elsewhere, till in a quiet suburban street in Bromley, they find relief from painful torment and a cure for their ills.
Medicated bee venom treatment is not obtainable under the National Health Service. Its fame and reputation bring people from every walk of life, Members of Parliament, barristers, businessmen, scientists, artisans and even arthritic and rheumatic doctors and nurses often from thousands of miles away. Case histories are meticulously recorded and testify to the amazing cures of the clinic.
Briefly, bee venom therapy is the application of medicated stings, but not those of ordinary garden bees, for they are dangerous and account for a number of deaths each year. The bees used in the JULIA OWEN CLINIC are of special strains, hygienically bred, carefully selected and medicated via their diet to the medical requirements of each patient an–d disease. Furthermore, they are perfectly safe.
Those who visit the clinic whose complaints are considered curable by medicated bee venom must first have radiological examination, then blood and urine tests are made to determine the kind of medication necessary, and only after this, the standard routine of any scientifically run clinic, is the precise medicated bee venom treatment prescribed.”
There is little else of new biographical importance in this second volume, except:
‘Full Circle’, pp. 13-26, about Julia’s medical studies in Vienna and her dislike for her disapproving mother, “a glorified medical snob” and her intention to abandon her studies to do further research on bee venom therapy, particularly relating to arthritis.
‘The Airborne Char’ (pp. 225-240), which gives her version of an aborted 1960 deal over treatment clinics in Canada with a Canadian doctor, Dr Joseph Staine. (There are also two independent Canadian newspaper reports of this fiasco, which I shall list in the Bibliography accompanying the second of these 2 biographical articles.)
One further source
During my 3-month stay in Bromley in 1978, Mrs Owen asked me to read part of a draft manuscript of a new biographical book which she was preparing.
From my written notes, these points may be of interest.
From the Foreword:
“For 52 years I have been treating successfully ailments for which doctors can do little or nothing – among them arthritis, asthma, skin diseases and certain types of deafness and blindness, although from pressure of work, I am now concentrating only on deaf and blind cases. One of my greatest successes is with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a form of blindness which top eye specialists the world over have categorically pronounced untreatable.”
“Medicated bee venom, a form of therapy which the medical members of my Austrian family evolved and developed over 6 [sic] generations and which I, in turn, greatly improved and now use with miraculous effect.”
She studied medicine in Vienna but gave up 5 months before qualifying [c 1925?] because she “disagreed with the treatment of arthritis i.e. with gold injections and injecting freshly boiled milk, which nearly sent the patient insane. I had no desire to belong to such a profession.”
“No harm is done by the bee treatment. Stings are absolutely safe. The bees are of special strains, hygienically bred, carefully selected and medically dieted to suit each person’s ailment. After feeding the bees with necessary medicaments, I pinch them behind the head so they are not quite dead but not suffering. I then apply them to the patient.”
“I must explain that I have to test new patients for several weeks, sometimes months, before I know which glands need feeding and how many different medicaments will be necessary and how long it is likely to take.”
“Many incurable illnesses are caused by malfunctioning glands and hard drugs (cortisone, steroids, butozolodene, etc.) damage the glands and induce new diseases.”
In reply to a suggestion that she publish her formula:
“… Bee stings which are herbally medicated definitely have excellent therapeutic effects with horrnonal and glandular systems of the body. Pituitary and adrenal glands are affected and I assess the effect of my treatment day to day by testing the urine, observing temperature reaction, appearance of oedema, change in colour of the skin and swelling, which all point to glandular effect. In other words, it points to the way the glands are working: slow, medium or fast. It is, in fact, a very finely controlled and sensitive therapy.”
“I do have the most rewarding successes with Retinitis Pigmentosa in all cases where the doctors have not tried to inject at the back of the eyes or carried out tissue insertions.”
“When will they realise that Retinitis Pigmentosa is nothing to do with the eyes? In fact, I find that most eye complaints I can treat so successfully are caused by different gland behaviour because the body is sick.”
(Part 2 is to follow soon.)