It was the beginning of 1976 when a lawyer called Giorgos Kamateros claimed that he had discovered the cure for cancer in the therapeutic waters of a spring located in the town of his birth, on the Greek island of Kos.
The 36-year-old claimed he had discovered a radioactive rock in the spring, which was dissolved in the water and which somehow had acquired healing properties for all incurable diseases — including cancer.
Kamateros quickly assembled a team and began distributing the water which he had supposedly brought from the island by tanker trucks, to neighborhoods in Athens and to other Greek cities. At least the water was free of charge.
Thousands of gullible Greek citizens, desperate to cure themselves or their loved ones of the dreaded disease, rushed to the tankers to get their share of the water. When the tankers inevitably ran dry, they were given small pieces of the supposedly radioactive rock to mix with ordinary tap water.
Perhaps most surprisingly, even most of the Greek media fell for the scam at the time. Despite warnings from the scientific community, Kamateros was portrayed as a savior to thousands.
Meanwhile, the lawyer was unashamedly organizing rallies in Athens and elsewhere, aiming to enter the world of politics.
The most tragic event of that entire period was revealed by Greek daily newspaper Eleftherotypia on February 19, 1976. The parents of eighteen children who were being treated for leukemia and malignant tumors at Athens’ Aglaia Kyriakou Hospital stopped their prescribed treatments and gave the children “Kamatero water” instead.
One of the children died as a result of this practice, and the condition of the others deteriorated.
The results of a scientific analysis, completed after the frenzy had played out for several months, confirmed that the water was not only devoid of any healing properties, but also dangerous for consumption.
On March 30, 1976, any consumption of Kamatero water was officially banned.
At his trial, which took place in October of 1976, Kamateros continued to maintain that his water did in fact have healing powers. He was given an eight-month suspended sentence, despite the death of the young cancer patient.
The fraudster eventually left Greece, only to return after 22 years to his birthplace in Kos, where on May 6, 1998, unable to cope with his financial woes, he committed suicide.