I’ve always been a fan of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. Robert Ripley understood that some tales are so bizarre that not everyone is going to accept them as truth. That’s okay . . . you can believe it, or not. Well, today I’ve got a Campfire Chronicle “Believe It Or Not” for you! It’s the story of a famous horse named Lady Wonder, whom many believed had psychic abilities. In her lifetime, she solved two murder investigations for police and she was as famous as Man O’ War! Since it is a little difficult to establish fact from fiction in this story, I’m just going to throw it out there and let you decide what to make of it . . . believe it or not!
Lady Wonder, the offspring of siblings, was born in 1924 and gained fame in 1927. According to legend (believe it or not!), Lady Wonder’s dam died when she was a mere two weeks old. Mrs. C.D. Fonda, of Richmond, Virginia, purchased her and bottle-fed her through those early days. During the months of bottle-feeding, Mrs. Fonda played with Lady Wonder the way she would have played with a child. Mrs. Fonda brought out the alphabet blocks and spent hours building houses and spelling words for the horse. To each his own! It was during this time that Lady Wonder decided to join in on a family game of “hide the thimble.” The kids discovered that the filly was a champion thimble finder!
It wasn’t long before Mrs. Fonda and her husband noticed something special about Lady Wonder. The Fondas claimed that they didn’t have to call the horse’s name when they wanted her. Whenever they so much as thought about calling Lady Wonder, she came trotting up to them. Now, that’s a nice trick, but it’s hardly enough to warrant the reputation of having a psychic horse. Of course, there’s more to the story.
By the time Lady Wonder was a two-year-old, she had reportedly learned to count and spell out small words by positioning alphabet blocks with her nose. Mr. and Mrs. Fonda were so impressed that they created a sort of horse typewriter. A long bar holding a series of tin cards containing letters and numbers was placed in front of Lady Wonder. The horse would lower her muzzle to the appropriate cards, spelling out answers to questions. The questions posed to Lady Wonder weren’t just run of the mill horse questions like, “Would you prefer an apple or a carrot?” Oh, no, these were the type of questions that one might have asked of the Amazing Kreskin or Miss Cleo!
Well, evidently, a spelling, psychic horse could draw quite a crowd and the Fondas decided to capitalize on that. For the sum of $1, Lady Wonder would answer any three questions a person might want to ask. If you have a horse prophet, you might as well turn a profit, right?
In the Cards
In 1928, a group of highly regarded scientists and parapsychologists visited Lady Wonder’s stable to conduct tests on her, using the scientific method. The group included renowned medical researcher, Dr. J.B. Rhine of Duke University, who coined the term, “extrasensory perception,” and invested his entire career into researching the subject. The researchers placed a screen between themselves and the horse and conducted 500 tests over a one-week period.
They asked her a combination of math questions, common knowledge questions and questions a non-psychic horse wouldn’t begin to know. And, for the record, the common knowledge questions weren’t common horse knowledge. They asked things like, “Where can I borrow money?” Lady Wonder spelled, “Bank.” I’ve known a lot of horses in my life and I don’t believe a single one of them would have had the slightest concept of financial institutions! The investigators also wrote words on a piece of paper and didn’t allow Lady Wonder to see the words. But, that didn’t matter. She still managed to “type” the hidden words. In the opinion of the testers, Lady Wonder had genuine telepathic ability.
Wonder of Wonders
In 1950s, police turned to Lady Wonder for help in several missing persons cases. In 1951, when 4-year-old Danny Mason was missing in Massachusetts, friends of the Mason family paid a visit to Lady Wonder. She spelled out, “Pittsfield Water Wheel,” The area was searched, but police did not find a body. Then it was decided that, perhaps, the message had gotten garbled. Perhaps the message was “Pit Field Wilde Water.” When the Field-Wilde quarry was dragged, the body of Danny Mason was recovered. Got goose bumps yet?
Police visited Lady Wonder when three-year-old Ronnie Weitkamp was missing from his home in Indiana, in 1955. Legend has it that the police asked the horse if she knew why they were there and she spelled, “Boy.” When asked if she knew his name, she spelled, “Rone,” meaning “Ronnie.” (Hey, “Rone” is pretty good spelling for a horse!) When asked if Ronnie was dead or alive, she spelled, “Dead.” Further questioning resulted in Lady Wonder “telling” the police that little Ronnie Weitkamp would be found in December, in a hole dug in sandy soil, near an elm tree. The prediction also said that he would be found more than a quarter mile from his home. The body was, in fact, discovered in December, in a hole dug in sandy soil, near an elm tree. The location was a little more than a mile from the Weitkamp home. Now I definitely have goose bumps!
A Horse With 6th Sense
Lady Wonder is said to have predicted everything from Presidential elections to heavyweight boxing champions. She is also credited with correctly predicting the U.S. involvement in WWII. She mistakenly predicted that Thomas Dewey would defeat Truman in the 1948 Presidential election, but we can’t really fault her for that. After all, the Chicago Daily Tribune did have a headline that read, “Dewey Defeats Truman.”
What a Wonderful World
Lady Wonder died on March 19, 1957, at the ripe old age of 32. Even she had predicted that she would die three years prior. The Richmond News Leader ran a front-page headline announcing the death of “Richmond’s famous mind-reading horse.” Of course there have been plenty of people who questioned the actual psychic ability of Lady Wonder. It was said to be everything from deliberate trickery to an innocent matter of the horse picking up cues from the people surrounding her. What are your thoughts? Was Lady Wonder a genuine psychic horse? Do you believe it or not?
Happy Trails, y’all!