The Fickle finger of quackery in otology: the saga of Curtis H. Muncie, Osteopath

Otol Neurotol. 2010 Jul;31(5):846-55. doi: 10.1097/mao.0b013e3181d8d881.

Abstract

Objective: Throughout history, false and outrageous cures for deafness have been abundant. Most of these false remedies were short lived and did not gain much attention. However, Curtis H. Muncie, a New York osteopathic physician, accrued vast wealth and fame over a half century career (1910-1960) with his proclaimed cure of deafness through reconstruction of the Eustachian tube with his index finger. Through creative marketing, clever manipulation of the press, and outrageous claims of efficacy, he profited handsomely from what was, no doubt, the most egregious and remunerative instance of deafness quackery in 20th century otology.

Data sources: A collection of original pamphlets issued by Curtis H. Muncie between 1921 and 1960 supplemented by articles from the popular press and both osteopathic and medical journals.

Results: The evidence that Dr. Muncie used unscientific methods and unscrupulous business practices is overwhelming. Famously, he fraudulently claimed in 1923 and for years thereafter that he had cured a congenitally deaf Spanish Prince (Don Jaime). At the height of the depression, his magical finger earned him over half a million dollars. Even his 1942 prison sentence for tax evasion did not keep him from resuming his flimflam upon his release.

Conclusion: The story of Curtis H. Muncie is the quintessential example of how desperate patients can be exploited by an unscrupulous practitioner whose goal is satisfying his own avarice rather than curing illness.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Chiropractic / history
  • Crime
  • Deafness / etiology
  • Deafness / surgery*
  • Eustachian Tube / surgery
  • History, 20th Century
  • Income Tax / history
  • Osteopathic Medicine / history*
  • Osteopathic Physicians
  • Otolaryngology / history*
  • Quackery / ethics
  • Quackery / history*
  • Therapeutic Touch / history

Personal name as subject

  • Curtis Muncie