I would have loved to have met her! Wouldn’t you?
I would have liked to have observed Lady Wonder, the Mind Reading Mare for myself. Was the horse amazingly gifted? Or was her owner an amazing trainer?
In either event, this mare’s skills were freakish.
Have you read about Lady Wonder the Psychic Horse?
THE BACK STORY.
Lady Wonder was born in 1925. At 2 weeks old, somehow, this tiny filly ended up as a gift to Claudia Fonda (of Richmond, Virginia) from her husband.
Why this tiny filly was available at 2 weeks old – No one seems to know.
But, they do know that Claudia bottle fed her new baby and they had an incredible bond.
Now, here is where the story gets interesting…
The Fonda’s noticed that their filly (now aptly named, Lady Wonder) would come to them when they ‘thought’ about calling her, not when they actually called her.
So, for some reason that I cannot fathom the inspiration or correlation, Claudia decided to teach LW how to communicate via alphabet blocks.
And the horse learned.
This is what astounds me. The horse learned how to use the alphabet! Whether it was trickery or not, that was amazing.
OK, so back to the story…
The story continues that LW was able to talk to her owners through the blocks. For example, early on, the mare spelled out E-N-G-I-N-E and then a few moments later, a tractor ambled by.
So, the mare could spell, communicate and – the most important part that was unveiled shortly thereafter – could read minds and predict the future.
It seems that as LW grew, so did her abilities.
People swear that they would ask the mare questions that she (nor her owner) couldn’t possibly know the answers, yet LW answered correctly.
Was she gifted?
Mrs. Fonda made a healthy business with her partner horse.
She and her husband crafted a portable, tin alphabet board and placed it in her stall.
Visitors would come from miles around to ask LW three questions for one dollar.
Usually, LW was correct.
Lady Wonder made National News because all of her visitors would leave excited and perplexed exclaiming bewilderment on how the horse knew.
Over LW’s lifetime, over 150,000 strangers came to visit her.
She was the most famous non-racehorse in the world at that time.
So famous were her abilities, detectives went to her to solve crimes… and she helped them.
Because LW was such a phenomenon, three authorities, parapsychologists Drs. J.B. Rhine, Louisa Rhine, and William McDougall, met with LW for extensive testing.
All three declared the horse a true psychic.
Now, this they didn’t do lightly… they put the mare through blind testing and all the ‘trick’ tests that one would do with a human.
And, she passed.
All three believed and never recanted.
However, many others believed that LW simply took cues from her trainer/owner…or was sensitive to the body language of the subject in front of her.
But, how did she know the correct answer to questions when her trainer was not in the room and the person asking the question was behind a sheet? How did she solve crimes?
No one is really sure.
I’ve read several articles on Lady Wonder (some of which I’ve pasted below).
My summation is that… I wasn’t there. I have no idea.
I’d like to think that if I was there, I would be able to figure it out either by my questions or my observations – HOWEVER – I have got to think that with 150,000 visitors, a good amount of them would have been horse people. So, some of them had to be able to see the cues…, right?
And if they didn’t, then who is to say?
Except that clearly this horse was a great entertainer and a very patient mare.
Whether she was answering questions for strangers or simply doing what her trainer was cuing, I can tell you that MY HORSES would never be able to do that – ever.
I couldn’t train them and they probably wouldn’t care to learn how to turn over blocks to communicate with me. They would much prefer that I learn how to communicate with them.
Could you imaging if my horses could turn over blocks to make a point? HEL-LO! OMG, the blocks would be flying around dinner time, I’ll tell ya.
So, in my humble opinion… we know nothing for sure other than LW was an excellent entertainer who was well cared for, loved and who lived to the ripe old age of 32.
And heck, she must have been gifted… none of the 150,000 humans who visited her could figure it out so she was gifted about something, for sure!
1) This one is an overview... click here for the original story.
Psychic Lady Wonder
Lady Wonder a mare owned by Claudia Fonda of Richmond, Virginia, allegedly had psychic abilities. When Lady Wonder was two, she astonished everyone by showing how she could count and spell out simple words by moving toy blocks around with her nose and hooves. As they continued to work with her, she progressed in her grasp of both the English language and in her ability to read people’s thoughts. Eventually the wooden blocks were replaced with tin plates with letters, and when people asked Lady Wonder questions, she would respond by using her nose to turn up the letters of a big tin alphabet which hung suspended from an iron bar in the stall. By flipping the letters, she would eventually spell crude simple responses to any questions asked.
Some of Lady Wonders’ alleged abilities:
A spectator took a coin from his pocket. None saw the face of it but he. What was the date on it? The mare nosed over the blocks, “1-9-1-4.” Correct.
“Who in the group has on a pink dress?” the mare was asked. “As I live!” exclaimed the woman in pink as the mare thrust her head emphatically in the visitor’s direction.
A spectator picked up the clock and turned the dial to ten minutes past six. Nobody saw the figures but he, and he thrust the clock face against his body.
“What time is it by this clock?” the mare was asked. “Six-one-naught,” replied Lady.
Mrs. Fonda stands near the mare, but holds no halter. There is no physical contact. Any how, Mrs. Fonda does not know the answers. “What is the sum of eight and seven?” asks a spectator. And the mare answers lackadaisically: “Fifteen.”
A visitor holds a pocket knife in his hand. He inquires: “What have I here?” And the mare spells out “K-n-i-f-e.”
“What is the name of this boy at my side?” is the question. And the mare replies: “Leroy.”
When she noses among the blocks, spelling out the answers, she appears to be going to sleep. Her eyelids droop heavily, and her head is sagging indolently. Only when the experiments are over does she resume her character as a tense, nervous offspring of a race horse.
In Dec 1928 parapsychologists Drs. J.B. Rhine, Louisa Rhine, and William McDougall, came to the stable owned by Mrs. Fonda and conducted several hundred tests with Lady Wonder. For example, Dr Rhine wrote on a paper the words Mesopotamia, Hindustan and Carolina and, keeping the words out of sight, said “What are the words I have written Lady?” The horse immediately ‘nose-picked’ them with out an error. Several baffled scientists and psychologists of the time studied Lady Wonder, convinced that the whole thing just had to be a hoax. Or if not a deliberate hoax, then surely either Mrs. Fonda or the people who asked the mare to answer questions must be giving her visual cues that she picked up on.
It must be said that Dr. Rhine, a botanist heavily influenced by the spiritualist author of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, investigated the abilities of Lady Wonder concluding that there was strong evidence for telepathy between human and horse. Rhine is known fpr founding the Parapsychology Lab at Duke Univeristy and the Journal of Parapsychology, but is probably best known as the originator of the phenomenon he coined; Extra Sensory Perception (ESP).
Dr. Maclachlan, who had studied psychic phenomena for years, asserted promptly that he considered the mare super-normal, and thought there might be some subconscious connection between the mind of the human being and the mind of the animal. As he said: “Now, I am no spiritist, mind you,” he suggested, “I am merely interested from a scientific point of view. It seems to me that the mare has super-normal powers. It appears that there may be a subconscious connection between the mind of man and the mind of an animal.”
Dr. Gayle laughed and shook his head when asked what he thought of the mare’s achievements. “I am perfectly willing to admit that I have no idea how she arrives at the correct answers to our questions,” he said. “There is no conscious trickery here, I am convinced. But I am not converted to the mind-reading theory. What’s the solution of the puzzle? I don’t know!” (Richmond Times-Dispatch, July 18, 1927)
Dr. Johnson talked very fully about his experiments; “”In my opinion, the horse knows the answers by the movements of the questioners or by the inflection of their voices; or she is affected by a purely mental influence,” he asserted. “And we must remember that when the questioner stands where she cannot see him, she replies accurately. What are we to conclude.?”
The prominent illusionist Milbourne Christopher attributed the phenomenon to ideomotor reactions, which are those motions that are made unconsciously. Christopher’s view was quite contrary to the para-psychological explanation and was able to determine that that Lady Wonder only answered questions correctly when her trainer was aware of the answer, much like in the case of the Clever Hans. Although Christopher had pointed at ideomotor reactions, similar to those which guided Hans to answer his questions, Mrs. Fonda continued charging a dollar for three answers for the abilities of Lady Wonder.
2) This is my favorite article… first hand account of how Lady Wonder was correct about a missing child. Click this link for the original story.
The Mare Solved the Mystery
By Frank Edwards
Three-year-old Ronnie Weitcamp left his three small playmates in the front yard and ran around the house. It was a few minutes before noon on October 11th, 1955. Two hours later Ronnie was the object of one of the most intensive searches central Indiana ever saw, a search that led into many states and, finally, to a horse that had the answer.
When little Ronnie failed to come in for lunch on that fateful day, his mother inquired of his three small playmates, who told her, ‘Ronnie went into the woods and he wouldn’t come out!’ Frantic, the mother spread the alarm, for the ‘woods’ to which the children referred constituted thousands of acres of scrub timber that spread over the hilly south-central Indiana landscape around the Crane Navel Depot where Ronnie’s father worked. If Ronnie was lost in there, finding him quickly was imperitive.
Sheriff’s deputies and Indiana States Police lined up shoulder to shoulder with an estimated fifteen hundred employees of the Naval Depot. Ronnie had been missing for only a couple of hours when the first search parties were formed; by late afternoon, when the October chill began to settle over the scene, long lines of men were scanning the bushes and ravines for some trace of the youngster. They were working against time, for without shelter it was highly improbable that Ronnie could live through the night.
When the searchers came in empty handed, long after dark, the case took a different twist. Ronnie was a very pretty little fellow and very friendly. Had he taken up with some stranger and been abducted? The searchers felt certain that they had not overlooked him. They had tramped through thickets and creeks and gullies for hours, covering far more ground than a three-year-old boy could conceivably encompass in the same period of time. Had he been kidnapped, after all?
Once the story hit the front pages of the newspapers and the broadcast services, tips poured in from all sides. Ronnie was seen in a bus station; he was seen with a young man dressed in a hunting costume walking along a street in an Illinois town about a hundred miles from Crane, Indiana. Authorities were overlooking no bets. With the aid of the F.B.I. they ran down every ‘clue’ and each fruitless tip. Among others, the newspapers played up the yarn of a drunken veterinarian in New Jersey who blabbed that the missing child was buried in the backyard of the Weitcamp home.
As a news director of television station WTTV at Bloomington, I was one of the first to be contacted by the authorities in this case, since our Bloomington studios were only about twenty-five miles from the scene of the search. We flashed the picture of Ronnie Weitcamp at two-hour intervals, in the hope that someone might recognize him and give the authorities the lead that would return the child to his grief-stricken parents and his brothers and sisters. I televised an interview with the parents in the faint hope that if the child had been abducted the guilty party might realize the enormity of the crime and return the child. All our efforts were in vain; Ronnie Weitcamp had vanished without a trace.
Eleven days dragged by and still no trace of little Ronnie. Even the ‘tips’ and ‘leads’ from persons who thought they had seen him petered out. The story dropped to the inside pages of the Indiana newspapers, to be replaced in the headlines with newer and fresher matters.
On the night of October 22nd, after the search for Ronnie Weitcamp had come to a halt for lack of any further leads, my wife and I were discussing the matter and she recalled the strange case of a few years before in which authorities in a New England city had credited a most unusual source with helping them solve the mystery of a missing child.
The authorities in that case said they had found the child with information supplied by a talking horse!
When my wife reminded me of the incident, I could recall that I had seen it on the news wires, but I was understandably vague on details. Yet it took only a few minutes’ searching through the files of my broadcast scripts to come up with the details:
In Richmond, Virginia, there was a most unusual horse known as Lady Wonder. In response to questions, the horse would use her nose to flip up large tin letters which hung from a bar across her stall. By flipping up these letters she spelled out words in answer to questions put to her.
When the police authorities of Norfolk County, Massachusetts, had to admit failure in their months-long search for four-year-old Danny Matson, they turned in desperation to Lady Wonder. According to the District Attorney of Quincy, the horse directed them to a water-filled stone quarry which had already been searched without result. But this time, with misgivings, they searched the quarry again and found the body of Danny Matson, exactly as the horse had indicated.
The so-called ‘talking horse’ had apparently been able to direct the authorities to the missing Danny Matson. Could the same animal do as much in the case of Ronnie Weitcamp?
Since I could not get away to make the trip to Richmond, Virginia, myself, I immediately got in touch by long-distance telephone with a close personal friend in Washington, D.C., about a hundred and seventy-five miles from Richmond. It took considerable persuasion on my part to induce my friend and a companion to make the trip; after all, who wants to drive a hundred and seventy-five miles to talk to a horse?
They went reluctantly, They returned bewildered.
Mrs. Fonda, the owner of the horse, was ill, and Lady Wonder was more than thirty years old, a veritable Methuselah of her species. After convincing Mrs. Fonda that their case was an emergency, my friends were finally permitted to enter the stable to question the horse.
The first question they put to her was, ‘Do you know why we are here?’
Without hesitation the horse spelled out ‘B-O-Y.’
‘Do you know the boy’s name?’
Lady Wonder flipped up the letters ‘R-O-N-E.’ (Was she trying to spell ‘Ronnie’?)
‘Is he dead or alive?’
‘Was he kidnapped?’
‘Will he be found?’
‘Is he more than a quarter of a mile from where he was last seen?’
‘More than a mile?’
‘What is near him?’
‘What kind of soil?’
‘When will he be found?’
With that the ancient mare turned and shuffled unsteadily out of the stable, the interview at an end. My friends hastened to the nearest telephone to recount their unusual experience to me.
It was a strange performance, indeed, but to Lady Wonder it was an old, old story.
Mrs. Fonda purchased her in 1925, when she was a two-week-old colt. Shortly thereafter Mrs. Fonda and her husband noticed a most peculiar trait that the colt had developed–she did not wait to be called but came trotting out of the field when either of the Fondas thought of calling her. By the time she was two years old Lady Wonder had learned to count and to spell out short words by tumbling children’s blocks around with her nose. One day she spelled out the word ‘engine’ and a moment later a huge tractor came chugging past the house.
The fame of the fabulous mare spread rapidly. Thousands of people came from all parts of the continent to seek answers to their questions. Mrs. Fonda placed a charge of fifty cents per question on their queries. Patiently, Lady Wonder nuzzled the tin letters into position to spell out words and sentences. According to the Chicago Tribune, the mare predicted that Franklin D. Roosevelt would be the next President of the United States, making the prediction even before F.D.R. had been nominated. She correctly predicted the winners of races (until Mrs. Fonda refused to accept any more questions of that type) and in fourteen out of seventeen years she correctly predicted the winner of the World Series. Lady Wonder sometimes ventured into the field of mathematics, as for instance the time when she quickly gave the cube root of 64 to a group of visiting students. Dr. J. B. Rhine, the famed Duke University specialist in extrasensory perception, spent about two weeks studying and testing Lady Wonder. He and his assistants came away convinced, so they reported, that she had some sort of genuine telepathic powers.
Admittedly, Lady Wonder was a most unusual horse. She had unhesitatingly spelled out answers in reply to the questions my friends had put to her. Did I dare use such material on my television news programme? What would happen if I did use it?
It was a difficult decision for me to make, but I finally decided to broadcast the replies just as Lady Wonder had given them . . . for what they might be worth, if anything. All other avenues which might have led to the missing Ronnie Weitcamp had dwindled to nothing. Anything that might lead to his recovery was worth trying at that stage of the search.
On the night of October 24, 1955, I broadcast the strange story of Lady Wonder and her replies to questions about Ronnie Weitcamp.
I was the target for editorial ridicule from various newspapers in central Indiana. There was some very pointed criticism, tinged with sneers, from one of the Naval Depot officials who insisted that the missing child was still alive and had been kidnapped.
The weeks dragged along without a trace of little Ronnie.
Then, on the afternoon of Sunday, December 4, two teen-age boys found Ronnie’s body. Authorities determined that Ronnie had been dead when Lady Wonder said he was dead; that he had not been kidnapped; that he had died of exposure shortly after he disappeared. The child’s body was found in a thicket in a brushy gully or ravine, in sandy soil, a little more than a mile from where he was last seen. There were a few saplings in the vacinity; the nearest tree was an elm about thirty feet from the body. And the child was found in December, just as Lady Wonder had predicted many weeks before.
To those who were familiar with this unusual mare and her past performances, the case of Ronnie Weitcamp was an old, old story. To me, it was by all odds the strangest story that I had ever reported in my thirty-one years of news broadcasting
3) This article chronicles the debunking…
“The animal, subject of the experiment herein described, is a three-year-old filly, Lady Wonder, owned by Mrs. C.D. Fonda of Richmond, Virginia. According to reports which led to our enquiry, the horse could make predictions, solve simple arithmetic problems, answer questions aptly and intelligently, and do all these without verbal commands. All what was needed was that the question be written down and shown to Mrs. Fonda. In Mrs. Fonda’s opinion these accomplishments of the horse were due to a combination of unusual intelligence and the capacity for mind-reading”.
“Our Experiments were begun on December 3rd, 1927, and ended on January 15th 1928, covering In this period a total of six days. The tests were made at the residence of Mrs. Fonda in a demonstration tent 9 x 12 feet.“Professor William McDougall was present and participated in the experiments on two days and the Assistant Superintendent of District Schools Mr. John F. Thomas on one day. Others present were Mrs. C.D. Fonda, Dr. J.B. Rhine, and Dr. Lousia Rhine”.
“There is left only the telepathic explanation, the transference of mental influence by an unknown process. Nothing was discovered that failed to accord with it, and no other hypothesis seems tenable in view of the results”.
“Mrs. Fonda carried a small whip in her right hand, and she cued the horse by waving It. I detected Mrs. Fonda doing it every time the horse moved the lettered blocks with the nose. This method of doing the trick might have puzzled me if I hadn’t known that the placement of horse’s eyes on ‘either side of the head gave them wide backward range of peripheral vision. Therefore it offered no problem for me to detect.
“Mrs. Fonda, when cueing Lady Wonder, stood about two-and-a-half feet behind, and approximately at a 60-degree angle to Lady’s head. The shaking of the whip first time was the signal for Lady to bend her head within a couple of inches to the blocks. A second shake of the whip was the cue for Lady to continuously move her head in a bent position back and forth over the blocks. When Lady Wonder’s head was just above the desired block Mrs. Fonda made the horse touch the block with her nose by shaking the whip a third time. It was as simple as that”. (The Amazing World, pp. 247-53).