In the 1920s a horse named Lady Wonder became famous for supposedly being able to read minds, providing information about her “readings” via a special typewriter with oversized keys that she pushed with her nose. For a fee of one dollar per adult and fifty cents per child, people could visit Lady Wonder’s stall to see whether the horse could guess what they were thinking or to ask her questions about the future, which Lady Wonder was said to be able to predict. Indeed, the horse routinely made predictions about the outcome of various events, such as elections and horse races, and was often right.
In 1927 parapsychologist J.B. Rhine tested Lady Wonder’s psychic gifts, and at first he was convinced that her ESP talents were genuine. Eventually, however, he suspected that the horse was actually exhibiting what is known as the Clever Hans phenomenon, whereby she was basing her answers on subtle, unintentional clues provided by her owner, Claudia Fonda. Another person who tested Lady Wonder, stage magician Milbourne Christopher, subsequently agreed with this assessment. Moreover, Christopher noted that since Fonda was well versed in world events and trends, she would have been good at making predictions based on educated guesses.
But despite public dismissals of her talents by Rhine, Christopher, and others, Lady Wonder continued to demonstrate her talents until shortly before her death, typing answers to questions for more than twenty-five years.
- Clever Hans Phenomenon
- J.B. Rhine
The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning