In the spring of 2013, Kate Gallagher Leong called Anthony William. She was desperate for help. Forty-eight days later, her son, Gavin, was dead.
Prior to what would be their first — and last — phone call, Leong had opened up on her parenting blog about Gavin and his seemingly incurable illness. Gavin suffered from hearing and respiratory issues, in addition to other mysterious symptoms. Despite taking him to specialists, Leong’s search for a diagnosis turned up fruitless. When she got an email from a blog reader suggesting she reach out to a man named Anthony William, she didn’t hesitate.
“When you’re a mom of a special-needs child, especially with a mystery like Gavin was, I would have done anything,” Leong tells Inverse.
A cursory search on YouTube gives us our only glimpse into William in his element, in a place where he can address the internet at large. With his brunette ponytail and small-framed glasses, it’s clear that he’s not a face from Hollywood, or a persona painstakingly crafted in a PR meeting. His delivery is raw yet relatable, with a voice that vibrates like that of a megachurch pastor — but only a bit. Just enough.
When Gavin died from a febrile seizure those 48 days after her consultation with William, Leong felt responsible for her son’s death. After all, William told her she had passed along EBV to her son, Gavin, which was supposedly the source of all his illness. According to Leong, he died undiagnosed. Doctors didn’t know what happened.
“All I could think was, ‘Oh my god, I did this to him,’” she says. “This was me.”
Though he published his first book, Medical Medium, back in 2015, William claims to have used his “gift” throughout most of his life, healing family, friends, and more. He’s not the first person to claim a connection to the divine — the annals of history are full of people who’ve called themselves psychic healers, perhaps most notably Edgar Cayce, aka the “father of holistic medicine.”
But unlike Cayce and others, William markets himself with a modern, exclusive flair. In addition to allegedly charging $500 for a half-hour telephone reading — several sources confirmed the dollar amount with Inverse, along with customer reviewers on Amazon — he is a “trusted expert” for Goop, where he’s dispensed some seriously dubious advice over the course of several blog posts. We can’t confirm how much William is currently charging for consultations like the one he gave Leong, because the information isn’t available on his website.
In a recent Goop article about thyroid cancer, William claims that “real, malignant cancer” is a modern phenomenon that started after the Industrial Revolution, and that the extremely common Epstein-Barr virus is the source of almost all cancers.
So although it’s not off-brand for Goop to repeatedly host the Medical Medium on their website, it’s unnerving considering the brand’s growing influence, despite its many critics. Goop had a terrific autumn traffic-wise, skyrocketing from 1,400,000 visitors in September 2017 to more than 2 million in December, according to analytics site SimilarWeb. In September, the lifestyle company launched its quarterly magazine in a partnership with Condé Naste, which also publishes Vogue, The New Yorker, and GQ.
There’s no shortage of coverage around some of Goop’s controversial suggestions, like the body stickers or “yoni eggs.” But William seems to have been overlooked. There’s almost no media skepticism surrounding his work, even though he flatly denies on Goop that genetics have anything to do with disease, which in this case is cancer:
“While of course facial features and vocal chords [sic] are genetic, disease isn’t,” he declares, with no evidence.
“Apart from the wasted money on a book, I think that his advice could lead people to believe that they don’t need to think about genetics for their thyroid cancer,” Gunter says. “This just makes doctors’ jobs harder.”
Of Goop as an enterprise, Gunter offered this statement to Inverse:
Promoting the Medical Medium is no different than promoting anti-vaccine views or cleanses or coffee enemas. The minimum is that people waste money, but there is great potential for harm with many of the therapies that are recommended and delays in diagnosis. Every day someone tweets to me or messages me on Facebook about a friend of family member who delayed real therapy that could help them to give snake oil a go. How anyone can publish that drivel and think, “I have done a good thing today” is beyond me.
Much like the spirit with which he claims to communicate, William appears to be a ghost — at least according to Google. Publicly available documents obtained by Inverse show William’s business is registered in Naples, Florida, and that he’s 47 years old, according to online white page directories.
For someone so ostensibly renowned and well-connected (3 million fans on Facebook), there’s almost no information about him online — not even a Wikipedia page.
There’s no shortage of Amazon links to his books, however, and those are overwhelmingly full of glowing reviews:
“Anthony William’s ‘Medical Medium’ breathes freshness, clarity, and deep understanding into an often hot and misunderstood topic: mystery illness,” one Amazon user, CK, writes. “I have suffered for over two decades with an undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, and over-diagnosed illness. And I know I am not alone. Upon just finishing this book, I feel heard, understood, and in congruence with the simple yet also deceivingly complex wisdom in these pages.”
While it’s clear that many people feel helped by William, what’s surprising — and on some level, troubling — is that his social media pages have zero questions of him or his books, despite these astounding, superlative claims he’s made about his own book:
“This book is unlike anything you’ve read. You won’t find citation after citation, references to study after study, because this is fresh, ahead-of-its-time information that comes from the heavens.”
“This book unveils many of Spirit’s most precious medical secrets. It’s the answer for anyone who’s suffering from a chronic condition or a mystery illness that doctors haven’t been able to resolve.”
And most unnervingly, this:
“… the secrets this book contains will eventually be recognized by the scientific community.”
Inverse obtained what appears to be a copy of that call-out, originally on William’s website, later pasted to Phoenix Rising — a forum for people suffering from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome:
In November, Inverse reached out to Hay House, William’s publisher, which also publishes books written by other mediums and self-proclaimed healers. When we asked about William’s contest that he and Hay House seem to have created in order to garner positive reviews about his 2015 book, we received the following ambiguous response via email:
About two years after Williams published Medical Medium, he came out with his third book, Thyroid Healing. As of January 2018, it’s already an Amazon bestseller, with 730 reviews on the site. Ninety-five percent of them are five-star reviews.
It’s unclear what role Amazon plays in all this, or how much it can actually tell about who is being incentivized to write glowing reviews. While it’s common for publishers to give out free copies of books for fans to review, it appears that the monetary incentives allegedly used by William and Hay House fall into a different category.
When Inverse asked Amazon about the accusations of positive book reviews for compensation, a spokesperson confirmed the e-commerce site would be investigating the claims.
“We work hard to make sure customers can trust Amazon reviews and take allegations of reviews abuse very seriously,” an Amazon spokesperson tells Inverse. “We updated our community guidelines in October of 2016 to prohibit compensation of any kind in exchange for a review unless through an Amazon program. We investigate each report and will take action against those that violate our guidelines.”
When Inverse reached out to Hay House for comment on the Amazon investigation, representatives told us our message had been forwarded to the “appropriate department for further review,” but that the status of it could not be tracked.
Inverse has emailed and called William multiple times over the last few months, asking for comment on so many of the claims brought against him. As of this writing, he has not responded. The Better Business Bureau of West Florida tells Inverse there’s no record of complaints against Anthony William, Inc., but that it would be conducting an investigation.
Perhaps William carefully curates the criticism around him because on some level he doesn’t even believe his own gimmick. His website features a lengthy disclaimer, clearing him of any legal responsibility for his advice.
Anthony William, Inc. dba Anthony William, Medical Medium (“Anthony William, Medical Medium”) is not a licensed medical doctor, chiropractor, osteopathic physician, naturopathic doctor, nutritionist, pharmacist, psychologist, psychotherapist, or other formally licensed healthcare professional, practitioner or provider of any kind. Anthony William, Medical Medium does not render medical, psychological, or other professional advice or treatment, nor does it provide or prescribe any medical diagnosis, treatment, medication, or remedy.
So then what does he “render,” exactly?
“None of it really makes sense,” Leong says. “It’s all just a big smokescreen.”
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