Sam's Castle

Sam's Castle was known as McCloskey Castle in 1915 when a mysterious stranger bought it. 

Mysterious doctor in the house on the hill

Some characters prominent in Pacifica’s history were not all they seemed to be. One such person was the man going by the name of Dr. Galen R. Hickok.

The reality was that his name was Zangwell; his first name was possibly James. He sometimes used his mother’s maiden name, Thompson. He possibly had some medical training and apparently got acquainted with the genuine Dr. Hickok, a Kansas City physician, while the latter was serving in the Army.

Dr. Galen R. Hickok.

The man known as Dr. Galen R. Hickok. Courtesy Pacifica Historical Society.

In any case, Zangwell took the diploma and other certificates off the wall of Dr. Hickok’s office and headed west in 1902 at the age of 32. He made his way to Midas, a little town in north-central Nevada. There he presented Dr. Hickok’s documents and succeeded in getting certified to practice “medicine and surgery.” He also met and married Minerva Graham Paull (her previous married name) who apparently shared Zangwell’s flexible ethics.

In 1909, they moved to Los Angeles where Minerva’s mother lived. Zangwell was then issued a certificate to practice naturopathy. Some or all of his practice was actually performing abortions, which were illegal at the time. To obtain an indictment for illegal medical procedures required notifying the accused at least 30 days prior to a hearing plus a completely accurate record of the location and any partners involved in the crime. Zangwell was skillful at being unavailable during the 30-day period and at changing office location and partners, thus requiring the legal effort to be restarted from the beginning.

The pressure may have been too much after five years in Los Angeles, as Zangwell moved to San Francisco. He prospered and within a few years had an office in San Francisco and a home in the Berkeley Hills. Then in 1915 he bought the McCloskey Castle (now known as Sam’s Castle) on the Coastside to serve as a rehabilitation facility for his patients. The area was sparsely populated, providing a degree of privacy for his activities. Continuing his cagey ways, he placed the title to the property in the name of Minerva Paull, and, over the next 13 years, the title was passed around among Minerva’s family members and close friends.

But finally, in 1920, Zangwell was successfully indicted and tried for performing abortions. The jury took only a few minutes to convict him. Accordingly, he spent the next five years in San Quentin prison. In his absence, his son Max, a certified chiropractor, continued providing abortions and later found his own way to San Quentin.

Astonishingly, when Zangwell was released, he moved his residence to San Francisco and again practiced medicine using the Galen Hickok name even though he had been required to return the real Dr. Hickok’s diploma. He died in 1938, having incurred no further criminal convictions. Coastside

Jerry Crow is a member of the Pacifica Historical Society. To learn more about the organization, visit

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