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7,700-word short story

A HEALERS OBSESSIONS
By
Dick Croy



















9413 Southgate Dr.
Cincinnati, OH 45241
wordandimage@fuse.net
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A HEALERS OBSESSIONS



When Howard Thrasher was in his early 20s, he experienced a bizarre, inexplicable
event which changed the course of his life. A friend asked him to attend a sance with him in
Long Beach, CA. "Itll be good for kicks," said his buddy, and Thrasher agreed that it
sounded like fun. That night the two of them and their girlfriends arrived at a church which
was in no way unusual except that only fairly elderly people were present, and half a dozen
strange-looking spirit trumpets, aluminum speaking tubes nearly three feet long with bands
of fluorescent paint at each end, were scattered about the room.
Thrasher and his friends were accepted but with little enthusiasm. The lights went
out and people began singing nostalgic tunes like "Bye Bye, Black Bird," creating a mood
that he described as pleasant sadness. For several minutes nothing much happened. Then
the trumpets, made visible in the total darkness by the bands of paint, rose from the floor and
began to float around the room. Thrasher heard whispers that seemed to be coming from the
trumpets. Suddenly one of them floated past his head. There was definitely a voice coming
from it.
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Disconnected conversations broke out in the church, and Thrasher eventually realized
that people in the room believed they were conversing with friends and relatives from the
"spirit world" through these ridiculous instruments. Either these old fogies were being
deluded or they were playing some sort of harmless game or perhaps even trying to
hoodwink the four of them for some reason. He waited patiently for one of the trumpets to
come floating by again. Then, making as little commotion as possible, he swiftly encircled
the instrument with his arms to expose the wire suspending it. But there was no wire. What
was holding it up?
Again he ran his outstretched arms around the trumpet as it floated away from him.
He could find no possible means of support. And where on earth were the voices coming
from that he could hear clearly emanating from the trumpets? There were no miniature
loudspeakers in those days which could have been hidden in them. Yet the voices from the
trumpets droned on and on, and the previously subdued people around him addressed them
with excitement and pleasure. What in Gods name was going on?
This was Thrashers introduction to a trumpet sance. The popular spiritualism of the
times was soon to go underground from charges of fakery, but Thrasher had experienced at
first hand something that logic and his traditional mind were powerless to explain. He had to
learn more.
He went to the Long Beach Public Library, vowing not to leave until he had found a
book which gave him some kind of clue about what he had witnessed. With no idea where to
start, he began to walk slowly through the stacks, as if the right book would somehow jump
out at him. As it turned out, thats just about what happened.
Thrasher had made several complete rounds when he began to sense that the book he
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was looking for was in a particular location on the shelves. He kept circling this area, never
stopping, always moving, until he finally zeroed in on a specific book. But it was locked in a
glass case. He couldnt even read the title.
In excitement, he approached the librarian and asked her to unlock the case for him.
"What is the book youre looking for?" she asked. "I dont know," he said, "but I can see it."
After a brief, rather heated argument he walked out with the book.
Without being consciously aware of it, Thrasher had looked for the book using the
random method which years of experience would eventually convince him is the key to
perceiving an aspect of reality normally hidden from most people. "With everything Ive
learned, I wouldnt do it one bit differently today," Thrasher told me. "But how I came to
stumble onto it then, I dont know."

That book was the first of hundreds he would read in pursuit of knowledge about
what he had glimpsed that night in the church. Written by a man named Guy Ballard, who
had started the "I Am" movement in the 30s, it told of strange people he claimed to have met
at Mt. Shasta in Northern California. Ballard said they told him they were a branch of the
early Essenes from the time of Christ, who had migrated into caves and lived underground
for centuries. Among other things, they had supposedly learned the art of materialization.
He claimed they would eat an apple and another would take its place out of thin air.
Ballard had come to an inglorious end after he rashly predicted that these "Masters"
would reveal themselves to mankind on a particular day in Southern Californias Antelope
Valley. When they didnt appear, the "I Am" movement was over. But now Thrasher knew
what to ask for when he went into an occult or esoteric bookstore. A new career had begun.
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Howard Thrasher, a well-paid aerospace engineer who designed missile guidance
systems, became a healer. He didnt charge those who came to him for help, most of whom
had been branded "medically incurable" after going from doctor to doctor in a desperate
attempt to alleviate chronic excruciating pain.
Highly respected by Los Angeles physicians and therapists working to explore and
extend the frontiers of healing, Howard was one of thousands of effective unorthodox
healers outside the medical profession whose work has much to teach us about the
phenomena of disease and healing. He estimated that about twenty percent of those who
came to him experienced their pain and symptoms diminish greatly or disappear entirely an
impressive figure when you consider that in most cases these were people whose doctors had
given up on them.

My guess is that most healers have led extraordinarily interesting lives. Howard
Thrasher engineer, mind-explorer and scientist was one of the more fascinating of those I
met while filming The Fourth Dimension, a TV series on paranormal phenomena, in the mid-
'70s. His life story reads like a tale positioned somewhere between science fiction and the
occult, but I never found cause to disbelieve him. It's true that his professional position and
his stature among the reputable, successful people who introduced me to Howard Thrasher
predisposed me to trust him. But what charlatan works his apparent wonders for no financial
gain?
The part of Howards story Im going to tell begins on a ranch in Utah late one
autumn shortly before the Depression. Gypsies have come to horse-trade with his
grandfather. The gypsies are more friendly than he had anticipated, and seven-year-old
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Howard climbs into one of their covered-wagons. A woman gives him some cookies.
Suddenly, his mother screams and clambers from another wagon, hysterical. "Why
did you let them come here?" she shrieks at her father. "Why do you trade with them? Who
cares about your damn horses?"
A fortune-teller has just predicted that her husband is about to die.
Overnight a blizzard sweeps down from Canada. Snow has drifted almost to the
second-floor windows when Howard awakes the next morning to an urgent voice calling for
his mother. He runs to the window and looks out over an Antarctica of snow in which a man
is standing hip-deep where the road must be.
"Its Jim," the man yells. "He had an accident in the blizzard. Dont look like hes
gonna make it."

That was the beginning of a lonely childhood, which Thrasher did not regret. He
believed that the solitude and independence he experienced and grew to love as a boy were
responsible for the paranormal powers he apparently possessed later in life. He learned to
live in what he called "the wordless state" of childhood and indigenous peoples, while his
intellect was developed through a fairly normal classroom education. To Thrasher this
wordless state is the key not just to realizing the full potential of our minds but to mankinds
very survival.
After his fathers death the boy lived for a few years the life of a Western Tom
Sawyer. His mother fed him and that was about all. Not only would neither she nor her
father teach him anything about running a ranch, they refused to let any of the hired hands
teach him anything either. The men would have nothing to do with him. It was almost as if
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his life had been arranged to isolate him from the ordinary as preparation for his lifes work.
At times this apparent arrangement took a distinctly eerie turn.
Once he was walking past a neighbors ranch, one of only half a dozen or so within
several square miles. Suddenly the screen door banged open and the man who lived there
came rushing into the yard toward the astonished boy. Running right up to the fence
separating them, the man leaned over and scooped the youngster into his arms. Neither had
uttered a sound. Only at the last instant did Howard see the mad dog that had been bearing
down silently upon him. Mouth frothing and eyes wild, it snapped at his dangling feet and
ran on without stopping.
Another time, he was about to strike an explosive shell a type used by the railroad
with a hammer. It would have killed him instantly had he actually struck it. The hammer
was poised in the air when one of the ranch hands walking by rushed up and grabbed it
before Howard could follow through with his swing.
These were the only occasions when someone else had to step in to save Thrashers
skin. Most of the time he was able to get himself out of trouble. Sometimes he was just
lucky like the time he fired his rifle at a steel cup and the bullet ricocheted back to lift a
sliver of skin from his cheek. Or when he built a fire in front of a badgers hole, then sat
down in front to wait for the animal to emerge. The enraged animal hit him hard enough in
the chest to knock the wind out of him but, like the mad dog, kept running.
More often than not, Howard used his wits to help himself. Once on his horse, for
example, caught in a blizzard so thick he couldnt see a yard in front of him, the boy finally
gave up trying to follow the trail, having the presence of mind to remove the bridle and give
the animal its head. He reached home safely, when his father hadnt.
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Walking ten miles to school in often savage Utah winters, Thrasher knew enough to
stop at two houses on the way when his feet got so numb he could no longer feel them. He
never suffered so much as frostbite though the chill factor often dropped to more than fifty
below. "I dont think my mother ever realized just how cold I got," he said.
Young Thrasher had learned at an early age how to get extremely close to birds and
wild animals by using the same method of "randomness" he would eventually employ in
healing. He approached them slowly in a zigzag pattern, with random movements of his
body, his coaxing voice rising and falling in pitch. In this way, he often got close enough to
touch them. But hed never tried this with a bobcat before and now one glared down from
the tree above him.
For half an hour the boy stayed there, moving around beneath the tree, the bobcat
following him from above, creeping out as far as it could on the lowest limb, its eyes burning
into his. Finally Howard realized hed met his match. He wasnt about to get close enough
to touch it unless the bobcat itself, almost as big as he was, made the first move and that
first move looked less friendly all the time. Howard made it instead cautiously, one
deliberate step at a time, in the other direction.
He himself was the victor in this kind of showdown one morning after spending the
night on a haystack at harvest time. Left there to protect the newly mown wheat, he awoke at
dawn to find himself eyeball to eyeball with half a dozen coyotes. In Utah of the 1920s
coyotes were considerably wilder than the ones in much of the country today. But young
Howard, more curious than afraid, stared them down. They left when the sun came up.
On many occasions he avoided his grandfathers wrath by his ability to get himself
out of scrapes. The first time he tried to drive, he backed a truck right through the wall of the
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shed where it had been parked. He first figured out how to get it back in the shed, then
completely disassembled and rebuilt the wall before his grandfather returned.

Howard had reason to be cautious. Born into a Mormon family, he was heir to the
Mormon code, forbidding children to cry. He said his mother often beat him black and blue
but he didnt dare cry out. When he did, her standard response was, "Okay, now youre
crying Ill give you something to cry about."
The angriest she ever got was the time the prissy old-maid schoolteacher came to
dinner and his mother wanted to make a particularly favorable impression. She reached over
and damn near knocked Howard off his chair for something hed done, ordering him, "Sit up
there and eat right!" Howard couldnt figure out what hed done wrong, but noticing the
mincing way their guest was holding her teacup and silverware, he'd assumed this to be what
his mother wanted him to do as well. "She just exploded," Thrasher recalled, able to laugh at
the incident later.
As a boy he could ride any horse on the ranch and had been kicked a number of
times. But on one occasion he was kicked against a post in a horses stall and knocked
unconscious. The injury was severe enough to leave scar tissue that required surgery 30
years later. After he revived, Howard crawled in pain from the barn, crying. At the door
stood his mother and grandfather. "Whats wrong with you?" they demanded.
"I got kicked by the horse," Howard choked between sobs.
"You know youre not supposed to cry," said his grandfather. Howards mother
began kicking him to make him stop. Fortunately the injured boy was able to crawl under a
nearby wagon to escape the blows, and his assailants resumed their conversation.
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"I dont know what would have happened if the wagon hadnt been there," Thrasher
said.
His grandfather was not in total agreement with the way Howard was being brought
up. One year when he had been looking forward for weeks to the spring drive, when five-
hundred head of cattle on the ranch were moved up to high pasture, the boy was in the saddle
all ready to leave when his mother screamed at him from the house. "You dont hear her,"
said his grandfather. "You dont hear her. You go into that house and youve lost this
drive." But Howard couldnt conceive of ignoring his mother. His heart in his boots, he slid
down off his horse and went in to see what was wrong. She wanted him to beat a rug, a five-
minute job. But the simple chore and his mothers cruel thoughtlessness had cost him the
cattle drive.

One can see why Howard chose to spend his time alone. Besides its hundreds of
acres of rangeland, the ranch had a spring-fed lake that no one had ever been able to find the
bottom of in one spot. The crystalline lake, surrounded by a swamp full of kid-high grass,
was so full of fish that Howard fished with a pitchfork. He would drive it across the opening
of one of the innumerable pools connected to the lake, trapping the fish too big to swim
between the tines. Then he'd catch them in his bare hands, clean them right there and either
cook them or eat them raw.
Howard was an outstanding pupil, with such a good memory that he was a special
attraction at various school functions. But something strange happened to him in the fifth
grade and he began to fail everything. Once his teacher asked him to go to the blackboard to
do a math problem and the boy stood up at his desk and sang a solo instead. "The classroom
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erupted," Thrasher says, "and I didnt have the slightest idea what they were laughing at
and the funny thing is, I didnt really care either."
A positive figure finally entered the boys life when his mother remarried. Thrasher
says his stepfather gave him more than anyone else in his life. The man had been a
professional fighter who resembled, and had actually sparred with, Jack Dempsey. He was
given a wide berth wherever he went. "He was one of the smartest men I ever knew," said
Thrasher, "and it was all gut feel. He quit school in the third grade."
He left the ring to become a cattle-buyer, and in a few years had become a multi-
millionaire dairyman. Thrasher said his stepfather could see a cow in one part of the country
and recognize it six months later in another state. And he would walk into a herd and buy all
but one, telling the owner that that particular cow had TB, which he had somehow been able
to detect at a glance.
He was a Christian Scientist a denomination which impressed his teenaged stepson
in at least one way: when there was a service going on, there were nothing but Cadillacs
parked outside. One important way this wealthy dairyman cared for his cows was to hire a
Christian Scientist practitioner to pray for them. "Something must have worked," says
Thrasher, "because he came out on top way out on top."
Howards stepfather took him with him to California. His mother stayed in Utah for
two years, perhaps to give her son a chance to escape from her suffocating influence. On his
own he hit the road for a while, along with millions of others during the Depression. One
advantage the 16-year-old boy had was his liking for cold weather. He had grown so
accustomed to severe Utah winters and his need to be outdoors, whatever the weather, that
hed grown a thick layer of hair over his entire body. He was able to hitchhike with nothing
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but the clothes on his back and would lie down to sleep wherever the night found him, often
waking covered with a blanket of frost. "In those days," he said, "if you carried anything
with you on the road, people took you for a bum; otherwise you were a local and theyd give
you a ride."

Flash forward. Now graduated from college, Thrasher's conventional professional
career was about to begin in an unconventional manner. One day as a young draftsman for
Vultee (later part of North American) Aviation, he overheard a group of engineers
exclaiming over a design problem no one was able to solve. The brash new employee said
the problem didnt look so difficult to him. "Okay, you punk kid, you figure it out then,"
someone said, "but on your own time."
Thrasher accepted the challenge and, as he began to get involved, realized he hadnt
even seen the problem at first. But he wrestled with it until his mind became absolutely
saturated, then one night a few days later dreamed a complete and minutely detailed solution.
Voila! He was an engineer.
One of his wartime duties would later cost Thrasher his job, his marriage and very
nearly his life. He was one of three men, two of whom eventually died of metal poisoning,
who made full-scaled blueprints of aircraft parts using giant mirror-image stencils and
fluorescent paint. When photographed in complete darkness, the glowing stencils produced
negatives in which all the lines, numbers and writing were black and read correctly. This
was the quickest way to make the blueprints and because no one knew then that the
fluorescent paint was deadly, the men wore no masks.
When Thrasher began to feel its effects, he quit his job, but it would take almost a
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decade for the poisoning to bring him to his knees and to subject his powers of healing to a
test in which his own survival was at stake. In the meantime, he continued to explore the
new dimension of reality that was opening up to him. Then another serious ailment led him
to a man who was to become a major influence in his life.
Thrasher had begun having severe headaches well before the war, but their cause had
gone undiagnosed. It wasnt until his pre-induction physical that a cranial x-ray revealed a
brain tumor the size of a hens egg. "We dont know why youre still here," the examining
physician told him in amazement.
The very next day his mother, who lived near him now though they seldom saw each
other, told him of a healer who she thought could help him. Skeptical but in almost constant
and excruciating pain, Thrasher went to see him.
"Ooh! My head hurts," the old man said upon greeting him unannounced at the door.
After just one treatment the pain was gone. Two months later, after visits to the healer twice
a week, a second x-ray revealed that the supposedly fatal tumor had vanished.
Thrasher was so impressed by the old man that he continued to visit just to talk to
him. His wife dragged out a scrapbook full of exploits of the "Miracle Man of South Africa,"
who had come to the United States to retire but continued to see a few people a week until
he was nailed by the authorities for practicing medicine without a license. In court the
indignant healer had argued that he should not be kept from his lifes work. To make his
point, he informed the judge that he knew the judge himself had an ailment his physicians
hadnt been able to cure. "But when you come to court tomorrow, it will be gone forever." It
was and the old man went free.
Thrasher started a toy-manufacturing business in rural Orange County, CA, with a
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partner, but his participation in that enterprise was soon over. An old man they had hired
turned out to have one arm that was almost useless. Thrasher tried healing him instead of
letting him go and was so successful that within two weeks he was working on 200 people a
day. He had found his real calling.
The first few times he worked on groups of people instead of individuals Thrasher
became so ill and exhausted he would lie down in a park somewhere and collapse, then
finally stagger to his feet and go on to the next session. But this violent reaction continued
for only a week or so, and before long everyone in town knew him. "I think half of them
thought I was God and the other half, the devil," he said.
Thrasher was using stories told by the man who had healed him as guides in his own
work. The old man would never answer one of Thrasher's questions directly but always with
an example from his own experience. Thrasher said he knows now that this is the only way
the work can be taught. "The ones who have the most to say know the least about it.
Theyre just peddlers."
The old man had told him that a lot of disease is actually outside the body and
attaches itself like a leech. Thrasher said he proved to himself that this is at least partly true
when in one healing session he directed the "disease" in the room to a rose in the center of
the group. It withered in a matter of seconds. "That scared them so bad not a one came
back," he said.
Thrasher turned down a delegation from one of the local churches when they asked
him to work under their auspices because he wouldnt use the biblical language they
demanded. When detectives tried repeatedly to entrap him, he was easily able to see through
their ploys. The D.A. had already told him never to prescribe, diagnose or touch any money
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given directly to him. Thrasher could be compensated for his work by donation only, and all
donations had to be put on a plate. "There were always two of these guys," he said. "One of
them would say something like, Can you tell me whats wrong with my stomach? and Id
tell him I wasnt legally allowed to diagnose illness. Then hed say, Well here, take this
money for your time."
Thrasher finally got so tired of this harassment and of the fact that the people who put
the most money in the plate were those who could least afford it, that he temporarily quit
healing to learn as much as he could about the hidden world which it seemed to be part of
from a man who knew more about it "by a factor of 10" than anyone else he had met.
Paul Wadleigh, the founder of a church, conducted weekly sances. For the next few
years Howard attended three sances a week, seeking instruction from the other side. His
marriage began to go sour as he directed more and more time and energy into his search for
knowledge.
He would go into a half-trance and Wadleigh would ask him metaphysical
questions which Thrasher answered as a medium for the spirit world. Id feel this strange
feeling in my throat, he said, so I suspected it has something to do with the thyroid or
parathyroid glands and the mineral system in the body. But even on the other side, the
beings who would answer the questions didnt know the good stuff. He began to see the
principle of what he called indirectness. You can teach someone how to search but not
what to search for.
A dream from Thrashers childhood came back to haunt him: his mother, stepping
from a curb, is hit by a car. But how could a woman who lived on a ranch and never left the
house be hit by a car on a busy street? As a child, of course, he had not foreseen that his
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mother would one day live in a city, and he had long since forgotten the implausible dream.
He remembered it only after it came true, and his mother was run down. She would never
recover from her injuries.
Thrasher took up the same methodical investigation of palmistry that characterized
his pioneering work in healing. He made prints of the palms of 100 schizophrenics at a state
mental hospital and, as norms, the palm prints of an equal number of people in several other
classifications: 100 members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, 100 engineers at North
American Aviation, 100 artists from Laguna Beach, 50 sets of identical twins, and 100
friends selected at random.
What he found, he said, was a definite correlation between an individuals palms and
his level of success and social adjustment in life. However, the determining factor was not
the lifelines that most palmists claim to read, but the grain structure of the skin. He found
that an individuals palms have as distinctive a print as ones fingers.
Thrasher brought his exhaustive study to Maurice Campbell, of Stanford Universitys
psychology department (the fictitious name and identity of a real person), who was
considered one of the leading statisticians in the country. Campbell was impressed enough to
conduct his own experiment to determine whether Thrashers results could be duplicated.
They could. Campbells curves lay right over the top of mine, said Thrasher. In 1960, the
two of them presented their findings to a major convention of psychologists in Los Angeles.
The big room was packed.
But after Campbells very conservative presentation, the roof fell in on them. Why
are you trying to bring palmistry back into science? demanded the hostile audience, ignoring
the documented results of their studies. Both men could see that the scientific world was not
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ready for a science of palmistry and dropped their work in the field. Campbell feared that
societys reaction to the information would be to persecute those with the wrong kind of
grain structure, rather than trying to rehabilitate their inborn tendency toward social
maladjustment.
Thrasher came to this conclusion as well after a brief attempt to use palm prints in
marriage counseling. One woman turned to her husband after Thrasher had explained to
them what the mans palm prints indicated in connection with his personal problems and
said, Hell, you cant help it; you were born a son-of-a-bitch! Im going to divorce you.
Thrasher said that Campbell eventually published the results of his palmistry study in
a scientific journal, fully crediting his colleague for his contribution.

Thrashers marriage finally fell apart, and he and another woman hed met in his class
in healing and perception became a research team. They got deeply involved in automatic
writing, using the well-known but little-understood Ouija board. In one night they would fill
a whole notebook with information somehow passed on to them from the other side. They
knew it wasnt from their own minds because the answers to their questions were often given
as poetry with words they not only never used but didnt even know the meaning of.
Surprisingly, they found that the technique worked better when they were drinking
and best if they were actually drunk. She would be passed out with her head on the table,
and her hand would be writing automatically as fast as I could read, he said.
Through the years, Thrasher said he encountered literally thousands of people
afflicted with every ailment known to Western man, and a good many known only to their
sufferers. He had no record of how many of those he helped to recover their health and
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strength remained permanently healed of the condition that had brought them to him in the
first place. Healers outside the medical profession, like most of those within it, have learned
to expect only the seriously ill and those in severe and chronic pain to return and faithfully
report the state of their health. Thats one reason our society knows so much more about
disease than its prevention.
To maximize what he could learn from the people he worked with, Thrasher preferred
to see only so-called incurable cases, people in continuous pain who were no longer being
treated by a physician. An improvement in an individual receiving no other form of
treatment was more obviously the result of something Thrasher had done. And a decrease or
interruption in previously constant pain let him know immediately when some subtle
refinement in his sensory healing technique had been effective.
What was this technique? To watch Thrasher at work was fascinating. His eyes
unfocused, he sat straight-backed and seemingly entranced, weaving slowly and gracefully
from the waist up, elbows bent, palms facing him, his fingers moving like so many serpents
to a snake charmers flute. He called this a meditation; it was his way of losing himself in
the primitive or earliest-evolved of our five senses: taste, touch and smell.
This, he said, was how he tuned in or, to use his term, broadcast to others in the
room, evoking in some way a healing response in some of those present. He asked those who
felt a change of any kind to report it as soon as they were aware of it. When this occurred, he
might have been concentrating on one person in particular when he or she felt a change, or he
might have been concentrating on someone else or on the group as a whole.
Results could be dramatic. One evening after the last group of the day had left, a
woman came in carrying a four-year-old child. She said that he was almost blind and could
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breathe only with great difficulty. Because he was able to sleep only a few minutes a day, his
fatigue was so great that he could neither talk nor understand a word spoken to him. His
mother said he had received the best of medical attention and was now under a nurses care
24 hours a day. But the battle seemed lost. She had nothing to lose by coming to an
unorthodox healer.
Even before Thrasher had begun his meditation, the distraught but resigned woman
noticed that her son was falling asleep. She picked up his arm and dropped it, something she
had never been able to do without causing a spastic reaction. Thrasher went into his
meditation, and the boy was soon deep in sleep and breathing normally.
Because the mother appeared almost as fatigued as her son, the healer offered to carry
him home, about a block away. To his amazement, home was an abandoned chicken coop.
The woman did not apologize. Money spent on her child had driven the family to this state.
The next day at the same hour, the two of then returned. But this time the boy was
walking and could see. After ten treatments he was almost normal. For years, until her son
went into the service, Thrasher received a Christmas card from the grateful mother, reporting
his progress.
Another family reduced to poverty by an illness finally turned in desperation to
Thrasher. He was introduced in their home to a young woman about 25 who was nothing
but skin and bones so weak that to conserve her energy, a blink had become a signal
between her and her mother. Her illness had been diagnosed as multiple sclerosis. She had
been in bed for five years and her once wealthy family was on welfare.
While the girls mother was relating all of this, her doctor walked in, asked about his
patients condition and left. Thrasher went into his meditation at the foot of her bed. The
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girl stirred.
She moved her head and then her arms. Fifteen minutes later she was sitting up and
whispering to her mother, something she hadnt been able to do for years. Thrasher returned
two days later; she was no better than before. Fifteen minutes later she was sitting up again.
When he had repeated this procedure four or five times, Thrasher began to suspect
that malnutrition was in some way responsible for the girls condition. But when he asked
her mother about her diet, the woman became annoyed. If that were part of the problem,
she said, someone would certainly have brought it up by now. But she answered his
question as he sat there listening in stunned disbelief.
Before her illness the girl had been a professional dancer, always eating on the run.
Gradually her diet had come to consist solely of canned peaches and cottage cheese. She had
had nothing else to eat for seven years.
The mother seemed proud of her daughters sensible, nutritious diet. Thrasher could
only say that, while he was neither a licensed physician nor a nutritionist, the diet seemed
woefully inadequate to him. He recommended that she consult a knowledgeable nutritionist.
Youre just a healer! the woman exclaimed. How could you possibly know more
than all the doctors who have treated my daughter?
Have any of them inquired about her diet? he asked.
No, she said. Youre the first.
Another case illustrates why Thrasher preferred to work with medically-incurables
not under a doctors care. He was asked by a mutual friend to see a woman with scabs and
open sores over her entire body. She had just returned from an international dermatologists
convention, where she had been presented as a challenge to participants to see whether
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anyone could suggest a successful treatment. No one had been able to.
For several years, having exhausted every known medical technique, the wealthy
middle-aged woman had been using a drug which could only retard her disease. She had
attempted suicide because her painful and disfiguring condition had been diagnosed as
incurable. Small blood vessels were breaking not only on the surface of her skin but on the
membranes covering every internal organ as well.
Thrasher could see that she was leery of putting herself in the hands of a healer.
Nevertheless, he said that by the end of the second meditation, her sores had lessened
considerably. When he walked in for the fourth session, her face and arms were completely
clear. Her pain was gone and she was ecstatic.
She had one problem, however. Her doctor had just left, telling her how pleased he
was that the prescription had finally begun to work after all these years. What was she going
to say to this strange healer fellow who just sat there in front of her for half an hour, weaving
around and making funny gestures with his hands? Obviously he couldnt have done
anything for her; he hadnt given her any medication.

By now the debilitating metal poisoning Thrasher had incurred making stencils
during the war had reached the point where he himself was simply trying to survive. He had
tried all the healing techniques he knew, which had worked successfully for so many others,
to no avail. Withering from 200 to 120 lbs., having lost all his teeth, he could barely walk.
He had trouble breathing and was in constant, terrible pain over his entire body. Chest x-rays
administered by a doctor he finally consulted revealed blood vessels and the outlines of his
lungs. What in the world do you have inside you? asked the doctor. Suspecting that the
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cause of his wasting disease was the fluorescent paint he had inhaled, Thrasher inquired
about his colleagues. They were both dead of symptoms exactly like his.
Broke, alone and slowly dying, Thrasher was approaching a time when he would no
longer be able to care for himself and would have to be hospitalized. If a successful form of
treatment hadnt been discovered by then, he would have passed the point of no return.
He decided to visit the mountain home of an elderly friend who had been a healer all
her life. He didnt know why: to him it had always been a gathering place for the biggest
nuts in Southern California. Their bizarre healing methods were under constant attack by
the medical profession, and one of them had often been in Los Angeles newspaper headlines
as an example of how easily the public can be duped. But too weak to argue now, Thrasher
lay back and listened to the silliness of their collection of healing techniques.
One of them had been confined to a wheelchair with arthritis. Then he read that the
Indians cure for many diseases was to bury the individual, nude, up to his neck in sand and
leave him there. He had his family do that for him, over and over. Now his arthritis was
completely gone.
Another was a woman who ran a health ranch in the mountains that was always
booked solid. She put her patients in bathing suits and had them lie on a bed of pine needles,
then covered them with more needles. She claimed miraculous cures. What nuts!
Thrasher growled to himself. But still he listened.
It got even more preposterous. One man stood in the middle of the room and had
others wrap bare copper wire around his body from feet to shoulders. Then it was unwound
and the procedure repeated. He thought his technique had something to do with the principle
of the electric motor.
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These people didnt argue whether or not their methods worked. They accepted that
as fact and Thrasher was aware that many of the successes they claimed were apparently
genuine. What they argued far into the night about, and what galled him the most, was the
why of their success. Should the pine needles be wet or dry? Was God more in the
needles than the copper wire? Should a man be buried in sand at the instant of sunrise?
In the two weeks that Thrasher had been listening to all this, a strange thing began to
occur inside of him. He said it was like an earthquake, beginning with a low rumble that
gradually got louder and louder. He began to ask himself some penetrating questions.
Hadnt he already learned that healers usually cured in spite of their extravagant
methods rather than because of them? And didnt he know personally of cases in which
healers with remarkable records of success had been hounded out of practicing by authorities
who could see only the bizarre trappings of their techniques?
The mistake that most healers made, said Thrasher, was in trying to explain the
healing power they had somehow tapped into. From individuals with little formal education,
these explanations, clothed in a jargon of metaphysics and scientific terminology, infuriated
scientists. If they had simply said, We dont know why it works; it just does you explain
it, the tremendous animosity between healers and the medical and scientific communities
might never have developed in the first place.
At the end of the second week in the mountains, Thrashers earthquake finally
struck. At last he was able to see beyond the craziness of the healers explanations, to
something far more significant that he had always overlooked before. These people, all of
them in excellent health, were fighters, unafraid to take on anyone. Some of them had had
problems with the law because of their quackery, but all of them were willing to fight for
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what they believed in.
Thrasher saw that all this time in his desperate attempt to get well, he had been
deceiving himself. He had been acting not like a fighter, determined to cure himself at all
costs, but like a loser, a victim, locked into the idea of looking to others for help. He would
become a fighter...or die trying.
He remembered a recurrent dream hed had as a child, in which a voice had told him
that his life would be given back to him in the desert. This is where he went now, to
Saratoga Springs at the south end of Death Valley to weather out his critical illness.
He found a shallow lake with a sandy beach on one side and cattails and vegetation
on the other. A spring at one end of the lake was shaded by a large tree, which was balanced
at the opposite end by two smaller ones. Mountains rose in the east and bleak open desert
stretched away to the west. In this oasis, for six weeks, he immersed himself in the senses,
learning again to see nature through the eyes of a child, and to experience it through the
primitive senses of touch, taste and smell. For the first time in many years he was actually
participating in nature. He would rock for hours in the sand, sifting it through his fingers;
birds gathered around him inches away. When he stopped rocking, they flew away; when he
resumed, they returned.
Thrasher was learning what he called zero coercion, in which one neither wills nor
judges but slips instead into natures rhythm, where, he came to believe, true healing takes
place. He began to pull himself back together. He had become a fighter as well as a healer.
He had saved a life and vindicated a lifes work. He would not swerve from the
monumental task that lay ahead.
Thrasher spent the next years of his life healing, teaching and learning in two worlds:
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the tangible and visible one we call the real world and the hidden one which mystics, and
many healers, say underlies it which may, in fact, govern it.
Why is so little known about this purported hidden world when extraordinary
individuals from disparate cultures all over the world have spoken of its existence for
thousands of years? Perhaps because, as Thrasher said, information about it cannot be
communicated directly. It is supposedly a world where the wordless state and the principle
of indirectness prevail. When a man asks for water and you tell him, Go get an apple
from that tree, knowing he must cross a stream to get there, and he comes back with an
apple...you know he didnt get the message, said Thrasher.
But he believed that when mankind finally does get the message about his real
potential when his actions arise from a non-judgmental participation in the world of nature
of which he is a part he will realize that, his hand is on the main switch of the universe.
It is toward this realization that Howard Thrashers remarkable work was directed.

EPILOGUE
One example of the collaborative work in which Howard was involved in the mid to
late 70s was an experiment conducted by a successful Los Angeles psychiatrist and a highly-
regarded inventor and physicist, both deeply involved in expanding our understanding of
healing and consciousness. Thrasher and an individual with whom he was conducting his
sensory technique were each connected to alpha brainwave machines, their separate
brainwaves recorded on tape for analysis. As Thrasher worked, his effect on his subjects
brainwaves was dramatic and readily apparent.
This experiment, which I witnessed, illustrates the tentative steps then being taken to
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validate scientifically areas of the so-called paranormal that have been mankinds
mysterious legacy from the beginning of history.
One of my last meetings with Howard was to interview him for this abbreviated
biography, which I hoped at the time to interest a producer or production company in turning
into a movie. Nothing came of that, and several years after the airing of our television series,
long after Id lost touch with him in the day-to-day struggle to make a living, I returned to
my home town in the Midwest to take over the family business, which was struggling as
well. Since then I have tried to learn what became of Howard and his work, to no avail.
I know, though, that his magnificent obsessions were a lifes work of the utmost
significance for our or any time: the healing of disease, the extending of knowledge into the
still unexplored frontiers of human consciousness.

THE END