In 1927, early in their career, JB and Louisa had the opportunity to investigate a Psychic Horse. At least, that was how “Lady Wonder” was presented to the public, as being able to do math, read minds, and predict the future. For a fee of $1 you could ask Lady 3 questions, and people by the thousands came to consult with the equine oracle. The Rhines and William McDougall contacted the amazing animal’s owner, a Mrs. Fonda, and ran a number of tests to try to discern what was going on. Reading the letters to Lady’s owners, and to other scientists, you get a good look at the careful way the research was done. The book also does a great job referencing the actual research documents used at the time, and how the reader can learn more.
Here is part of a letter as presented in the book. From this, the case progresses, and we learn the outcome of the investigation. It was fascinating to see how time and testing had an impact on the performance of this test subject, as it did on the human subjects recounted in the book.
“Lady works by touching blocks containing letters or numbers, and spells out words by touching with her shoe. She usually goes into a slight trance or passive state, which is very marked at times.
Mrs. Fonda believes that the horse is telepathic, and also unusually intelligent. She relates incidents that would not come under this category, either one in fact, but I have never seen the horse do anything that was not explainable as telepathy. Our results with Lady are decidedly against any unusual intelligence, too.
We found that we could limit Mrs. F. so that she could not have given the horse [cues] to the blocks desired. We did the same things ourselves, without anyone also knowing our thoughts, and at the same time avoiding unconscious signaling. It certainly looks like telepathy, presumably of a rudimentary kind, consisting in willing the animal to move to a certain place (since blank blocks do as well as any.)
We shall make a preliminary report to a psychological journal, and hope to pursue the study on this or similar animals, if any are to be obtained. To this end, I would appreciate it very much if you would inform me of any other such animal you may hear of, including “thinking” dogs, calculating dogs or horses. (These may have this faculty also). Of course we are hoping some one will purchase Lady who can afford to have her given a prolonged study. The owners are poor. Dr. McDougall and I are ready to make the study, but Duke is hardly ready to go so far as to obtain the horse for us.”