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World Of Advice, But Still No Cure, For Famous Hiccup-Sufferer

March 16, 1988

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ A 94-year-old man’s offer of $10,000 to anyone who can end his 65 years of hiccuping has drawn some exotic nostrums - dill seed, magnesium phosphate, holy water, Indian hemp, among them - but the man hiccups on.

″Unbelievable,″ Lucretia Peterson of rural Aitkin said as she sifted through some of the more than 5,000 letters, cassettes, and parcels that have poured into her home from Europe and North America since her father, Charlie Osborne, offered the reward in January.

″People really care. Even though the $10,000 is a big deal to some of them, a lot say keep the money and spend it in good health. It’s unbelievable for that many people to write in this day and age,″ she said.

Suggested remedies have ranged from homespun concoctions involving sugar and vinegar to scientific nerve-treatment regimens complete with detailed diagrams. Others endorse the healing powers of the mind.

A Santa Monica, Calif., massage therapist explained how she cured a 75- year-old woman of a life-long burping problem and offered to work similar magic on Osborne.

A man from Italy sent a brown dust, explaining it is ″vegetable powder″ that will cure hiccups if inserted in the nostrils. A German suggests pressing the right thumb against the little finger, while a Canadian swears that finger pressure applied to the bottom of the nose just right will expel the demon.

Many of the would-be healers have the utmost confidence in their cures.

One writer from Germany advised Osborne that a money order was the preferred means of payment, while a Minnesota man pleaded: ″Please don’t tell anyone who cured you. I don’t want to go on TV and I don’t want the IRS taking a big cut of a gift between friends.″

Osborne, who recently returned to his longtime home of Anthon, Iowa, after spending six months in Aitkin, 100 miles northwest of Minneapolis, has seen only a few hundred of the letters, and his family won’t permit him to try the various elixirs.

The messages that have been forwarded to Osborne have lifted his spirits, though not his hopes for a cure, said another daughter, Melissa Smith, who lives in Anthon and takes care of him. Osborne suffers from a gall bladder condition and other ailments, Ms. Peterson has said.

The letter that meant the most to him, said Mrs. Smith, came from a 17- year-old boy who describes his recent conversion to Christianity and suggests faith might be Osborne’s best hope for relief.

″He thought it was just a real touching letter,″ Mrs. Smith said.

The outpouring began after Osborne told Ken Hanson, a reporter for the Brainerd Daily Dispatch, that he would pay a $10,000 reward for a cure. An Associated Press report on the offer appeared in newspapers throughout Europe and North America.

Osborne, who has yet to get a phone connected in his new home, could not be reached for comment.

The international interest ″is exciting to him,″ Mrs. Smith said. ″He doesn’t know what to think of it sometimes. He gets all this stuff in the mail, but I won’t let him have any (of the potions) because you never know.″

A cure would still be most welcome, his family said. A case that has stumped scores of doctors, Osborne’s hiccups are constant, painful and disruptive. They make eating solid food impossible and cause frequent vomiting, his family said.

Osborne himself theorizes that his malady is the result of nerve damage suffered 66 years ago when he over-exerted himself lifting a hog on his farm. He said he has hiccuped ever since.

The Guinness Book of World Records estimates he has hiccuped 430,000,000 times, calling it the longest-ever recorded attack of the hiccups.

After all the years of failed advice from doctors, quacks, philanthropists and opportunists, Osborne is pretty much resigned to hiccuping the rest of his life, said Ms. Peterson.

″He’s tried so many thousands of things,″ she said.


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