The Bizarre True Story Of The 'Goat Gland Doctor'

"What's that, you've got a cough? I got just the thing: goat testicles. Oh, your knee hurts? I'm so sorry ... How about some primo goat testes? And say what? You're experiencing some erectile issues? Boom: instant cure. Oh, but you were thinking we might grind them up, pestle and mortar-style? Steep them in your tea or apply them like a salve? Mince them into your hamburgers or just pop them like almonds? Mmmmm.... no. We're gonna replace yours with his (*points to goat*). That'll be $750" ($9,000 currently).

Believe it or not, this was indeed the claim to fame of one of the most absurd, unbelievable medical quack-a-moles of all time, John R. Brinkley, who from 1917-1930 made millions off of the "glandular gullibility" of the impotent masses, as History Net puts it. During his life, Brinkley moved from one scam to the next, writing bad checks, joining a traveling medicine show, injecting colored water into people's butts to cure impotence (an early scheme), drinking heavily, getting married and having kids, getting unmarried and ditching kids, failing at med school in Chicago, attending the "Eclectic Medical University of Kansas City," buying $100 fake diplomas, billing himself as an "electro-medic" doctor, founding radio station KFKB to advertise himself, building a loyal following, sponsoring a Little League Team (the Brinkley Goats), getting sued for malpractice, and finally declaring bankruptcy, having three heart attacks and his leg amputated before death in 1942, per the Kansas Historical Society.

Gonad surgeon, radio celebrity, and nearly governor

"Note the difference between the stallion and the gelding," Brinkley said on air. "The former stands erect, neck arched, mane flowing, champing the bit, stamping the ground, seeking the female, while the gelding stands around half-asleep, cowardly, listless."

These were the kinds of statements made on Brinkley's radio talk show, Medical Question Box, as Legends of America relates, where he answered questions from listeners in a scam as ludicrous as it was ... erm ... "ballsy." The goad gonad grift was built from a single, complaining, libido-less farmer, Bill Stittsworth, who admired his goats' virility. Brinkley met Stittsworth after getting out of jail on bail in Memphis. It wasn't long before Brinkley had actual, entire medical clinics — Brinkley Hospitals — across several states. He even got 30 percent of the vote for governor of Kansas in 1930.

This fame and notoriety suited Brinkley just fine, as he grew up wanting to be famous. Orphaned at age 10, he was the only child of physician John Richard Brinkley, and had experienced a "haphazard elementary school education" before getting work as a railroad telegrapher and setting off on his lifelong snake-oil-peddling quest.

In 1938, Brinkley's scams backfired when he sued the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association for libel and $250,000 ($4.25 million currently). During the course of the case, his fake diplomas were discovered, and he was ultimately left penniless. The 2016 documentary Nuts, available online, explores Brinkley's life and exploits in full.