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Bill McDannell on The White Horse Cure

Dear Mr. Malinowski:

I discovered your website today after finally doing a search on the "white horse" cure for hiccups. I thought you might appreciate a little background information.

This particular cure has been in my family for generations and is the single most effective cure I know. I can't claim 100% effectiveness, but will assure you that the effective rate through a lifetime of experience has been well over 90%. Perhaps the most startling thing about this remedy is that it doesn't matter at all whether the recipient of the question knows about the cure or not - it works anyway. By the way, the specific phrase used by my family has been "Think of the last time you saw a white horse." A few anecdotal examples:

Years ago I was teaching computer classes. The students were writing a simple program in BASIC while I wandered through the classroom, monitoring their progress. One woman was being frustrated by a quiet but persistent bout of hiccups. I walked up behind her and whispered over her shoulder, "Think of the last time you saw a white horse." She turned and looked at me quizzically, but I just smiled and walked on. She returned to her program and I noticed that her hiccups stopped immediately. I came back to her and said, "Your hiccups are gone, aren't they?" She was startled, because she hadn't yet even realized that they were gone.

Two years ago, shortly after midnight on New Year's Eve, I got a phone call from my daughter, who had obviously had more than a little bit to drink while celebrating with friends at her home:

"Hi, dad *hic*. Happy New Year! *hic*
"Hi, babe. Happy New Year to you, too."
"Dad *hic*, I have a terrible case of the *hic* hiccups."
"You do? I'm sorry to hear that. Well, think of the last time you saw a white horse."
A pause. I could hear the celebration in the background. Then she began laughing.
"Dad, I hate you! Dad, I love you. Thanks."
"You're welcome, babe. Anything else you needed?"
"Nope, that was it."
"OK. Have a good time."
"Thanks, dad. Bye!"

Just last week my wife called me from work:

"Hi, hon. How's it going?"
"We're not too busy right now, but I've had a terrible case of hiccups and I just can't shake them."
I knew right away what she wanted, but that little sadistic streak in me caused me to remain silent for a few seconds.
"Oh, okay. Think of the last time you saw a white horse."
Another few seconds of silence.
"This is absurd."
"Are they gone?"
(Aggravated/amused) "Yes, they're gone."
"Good. Is that why you called?"
"Anything else?"
"No. I'll see you soon. I love you."
"Love you, too. Bye."

I guess I should mention that the only person I know who is less superstitious than myself is my wife and it rankles her no end that this cure works, while it simply mystifies and delights me. The only circumstance we've discovered in which this cure is ineffective is if you try to ask the question of yourself. I suppose it's something like trying to tickle yourself. However, it will even work if you are bold enough to ask someone else - even a complete stranger - to ask you, as in, "Ask me to think of the last time I saw a white horse." I would normally surmise that it is the non sequitur nature of the question that effects the cure - the diversion of attention that more or less resets the body's systems. But the fact that it will work even on those who know of the cure and are expecting to hear the phrase argues against this. It is a fascinating and - in my experience - unparalleled phenomenon.

Unfortunately, I've found no further background on this cure. I did find two other websites besides yours where it is mentioned, but have come to a dead end on searching for any history or origins. If you have any additional background information regarding where you heard of this cure I would be interested in learning whatever you may know. Thanks, and


Bill McDannell