Fifteen minutes of fame. The quip suggests that fame is fleeting, and most of us have our moments. But there are some, clearly, whose fame lasts much longer — any one of us can rattle off a list of celebrities who, by definition, defy the rule. There are others, however, for whom fame is neither fleeting nor wanted. An excellent example of this was a man by the name of Charles Osborne, who hiccuped.
Having the hiccups for fifteen minutes would be a terrible experience, with your body uncontrollably gasping for air for no obvious reason. But it’s not all that rare; many of us have probably had hiccuping attacks that lasted easily that long, if not twice that, and the Mayo Clinic talks about what to do if hiccups last for more than two days. For Mr. Osborne, though, a fifteen or thirty minute case of the hiccups would have been welcome. In 1922, the Iowa-born Osborne, then 29, was attempting to slaughter a 350 pound hog when it fell on him, which, for some unknown reason, caused his hiccups to start. In 1990, they ended. That’s not a typo. That’s a 68-year-long case of the hiccups, easily a world record.
These weren’t just occasional hiccups, either; they were persistent and mostly unshakable. The BBC reported that “during the first few decades [!], he hiccuped up to 40 times a minute, slowing to 20 a minute in later years.” He told People magazine that the hiccups were likely caused by a rupture blood vessel (from the hog accident) the size of a pin, located somewhere in his brain, which controls or inhibits hiccuping. His hiccups were incurable but ceased when he slept, and he was able to maintain a relatively healthy weight despite difficulties eating, especially later in life. As for the sound they make, he worked with doctors at the above-mentioned Mayo Clinic, employing strategies to keep them silent in many cases.
Perhaps strangest of all, though, is that Osborne outlived his hiccuping fit. As noted above, they stopped in 1990 — without explanation. Osborne died on May 1, 1991, due to complications from ulcers, and hiccup-free.
From the Archives: World Record Record Holder: The guy who holds the record for the most world records.
Related: A children’s book where the protagonist can’t stop hiccuping. Her friends try all sorts of remedies, but you have to read the book to see which one, if any, works.