First featured on the Travel Channel’s show, Mysteries of the Museum, this wonder horse puts Mr. Ed to shame. Of course, Mr. Ed was part of a fictive illusion, but this special mare was not. She lived, breathed, ate hay, and baffled the scientific minds of the day. Read all about her amazing exploits.
The mare was a two-week-old foal in 1925 when Virginian, Mrs. Claudia Fonda (no relation to the family of actors) bought her. Very soon after, the family noticed their new little filly had an amazing and very odd ability. She would trot out to meet her owners in the field whenever they were thinking about calling her.
By the time Lady Wonder was two years old, she could count and spell out short words by using her nose to maneuver toy wooden blocks attached to the front of her stall. To their utter amazement, one day she spelled out engine and a few moments later a tractor quickly passed their house.
Lady Wonder quickly became a sensation and thousands of people from all over the world flocked to the Fonda’s Richmond home to ask the horse their three questions, for which they paid $1. According to the Chicago Tribune, Lady Wonder predicted the election of Franklin Roosevelt before he had even been nominated for the presidency. The mare was also able to accurately predict for 14 out of 17 years the winner of the World Series, at which point Mrs. Fonda stopped allowing these types of questions.
When the horse demonstrated the ability to provide the square root of 64 to a group of visitors, she attracted the attention of Dr. J.B Rhine, famed Duke University specialist in extrasensory perception. He and his team, after several weeks of testing, concluded the horse did have some kind of telepathic powers.
On October 11, 1955 three-year-old Ronnie Weitcamp disappeared from his front yard, inciting one of the most intensive searches in central Indiana history. Police exhausted their resources and soon turned to Lady Wonder for help. The amazing mare had found Danny Mason, a four-year-old who had disappeared in Massachusetts the year before. Mrs. Fonda agreed to assist them and they asked the mare some leading questions, all of which led to the location of the boy’s body.
It was Dr Rhine’s research and conclusions that catapulted Lady Wonder to fame, but was it all true? He tested the mare for 6 days, aided by colleagues from Duke University including his superior, Professor William McDougall. He reported his findings in an article entitled, An investigation of a Mind-Reading Horse in the journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology (Volume 23 (1929), pages 449 to 466).
Professor Scarne, a skeptic from New Jersey, watched the mare and her owner in progress and concluded Mrs. Fonda manipulated her well-trained horse to select certain letters. He said, “Mrs. Fonda carried a small whip in her right hand, and she cued the horse by waving it. I saw her do this every time the horse moved the lettered blocks with the nose. This … 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.”
He went on to add, “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 the 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.”
So we are left with a big question mark. Even if all Scarne has said is absolutely true, one question lingers: How did the horse learn the alphabet and make so many accurate predictions? In only a few instances was she incorrect in her answers. It is estimated that 1,500,000 visitors talked to Lady Wonder since the day Dr. Rhine pronounced her psychic. No matter how you look at it, her track record is positively incredible!