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Saturday, March 16, 2024

Horsefeathers or: How to Dig a Pony

 "I-I-I-I dig a pony

Well you can celebrate anything you want

Yes, you can celebrate anything you want!"

-The Beatles, "Dig a Pony"

It's important to celebrate the little things. It's easy to forget those small bits of magic that bring us smiles to soften the edge on what can be a trying and exhausting day-to-day existence. A kind word from a stranger or hearing a favorite song by chance can mean all the difference, and if we proceed through life with this in mind we can generate a ripple effect of positivity and radiate everything we are throughout the Cosmos. 

I truly believe this and yet I still forget it, particularly at times when things get hectic and stressful. Such was the case this week, when after several long and irritating days at work I found myself without cell reception to guide my route out of Lincoln, Massachusetts. I idly wondered whether I was near a strange spot in that town, known as Ponyhenge, which holds a special place in my heart. Lo and behold, as I scanned the road ahead for any signs that might direct me to the highway I saw a familiar field beyond an electric fence. Rounding a curve I arrived at that most magical of places.

 There's really not much to know about Ponyhenge. Having been there a handful of times I can definitively say that it exists, and beyond that all there seems to be are vague stories about its origin. It seems agreed upon that one day, a rocking horse was left in a farmer's field. Later, there was another- then another, until eventually dozens of rocking horses of varying kinds occupied the field. The arrangement of the ponies changes frequently, and no one knows who moves them- except, presumably, the person responsible for doing that. I would caution anyone, however, from presuming too much about the ponies. The ponies are there for us to dig, not to understand.

There's not much to know, but there's plenty to feel and say about Ponyhenge. My first visit to this mystical, whimsical place was at the very beginning of 2020. A few inches of snow had fallen the night before, and though a bit of it had piled up on the fence rails none was observed on any of the ponies. No footprints marked the snow on the ground around them, and it felt almost a shame to disrupt the pure icy placidity by trudging into the circle.

Having heard about about the mysterious movement of the toy equines, I found it worth noting that no tracks of any kind marked the snow. Of course, this being my first visit, there was no way for me to tell whether they had been rearranged overnight. It is difficult to ascertain whether a mystery even exists here, which is paradoxically a mystery in itself. One gets the sense the ponies have secrets, and they are most certainly not talking. A horse is a horse, of course, of course, and no one can talk to a horse of course...

In lieu of information, and hard evidence from which to draw conclusions I've found it best to approach situations like this with intuition and a light heart. I was unprepared for the mystical "vibe", for lack of a better term, the location had or the effect it would have on me. What I felt was a kind of elation, a whimsical and wondrous restorative wave of childlike joy that hit as hard as a brisk New England winter breeze. I joked afterwards that I had gone to draw upon the ancient power of the ponies, but I'd be lying if I said there wasn't some truth to that. I felt the same way this week upon entering the rearranged circle of rocking horses. You can indicate everything you see, but what you feel is really important too. 

So much of the paranormal relies heavily on creepiness, and the scare factor. People like their ghost stories in the way they like campfire tales, funhouses and horror movies. This is absolutely fine, and normal, but there is so much more to the weirdosphere to be experienced. Those who only want the scares may be missing out, and doing themselves a disservice by neglecting the wholesome and silly weirdness. Whenever I post things about Ponyhenge, there is invariably comments about how eerie it is, and I can't emphasize enough how opposite that is to my experience of it. In a return visit back in 2021, I even brought my intrepid hound (then just a puppy) Bernie and he loved it. Meanwhile other families with children were there to enjoy a relatively safe pandemic outing amongst the inanimate equine sentinels of Old Sudbury Road. 

To what do I attribute this mystical elation, this balm for a weary soul? Searching my mind for horse-related ideas to write about, and experiences in my life that I could have associated with these rocking horses to inspire such wonder I considered writing one of my more characteristic posts, where I connect a bunch of disparate ideas and attempt to synthesize them in some form of coherent thought. I thought about Lady Wonder, the allegedly psychic horse investigated by J. B. and Louisa Rhine, which has long been a favorite paranormal case. It is also a great example of wholesome and inspiring paranormalia that is conspicuously free of scares. Lady Wonder would be an accomplished psychic by human standards, so as a horse she was unparalleled. She predicted outcomes of boxing matches and Presidential elections, and even aided criminal investigations. Rhine thought that she and her handler, Mrs. Fonda, had a telepathic link. Magician Milbourne Christopher claimed that Fonda was using subtle cues to direct the horse, as she "typed" her predictions using a specially customized contraption for letter selection. Ricky Jay, in his book Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women, gives examples of how this trick was done going all the way back to the colonial period in American history. Animals such as Toby the Learned Pig showcased similar abilities, albeit without the acute prognostication that Lady Wonder exhibited. If Mrs. Fonda was "cheating" through subtle cues, and her predictions were still accurate, then a case can still be made for the presence of psi ability. Where the ponies of Lincoln are tight-lipped, Lady Wonder was a fount of information- but a psychic horse is almost as absurd as a mystical toy one.

I thought also about horses used in reincarnation gags, which I had written about before in my esoteric Three Stooges post. In a kind of coincidence that happens all too commonly for me, the horse that appeared with the Besser-era Stooges in Hoofs and Goofs was called Tony the Wonder Horse, who had appeared with Tom Mix in a number of old westerns. It's not clear if he and Lady were related, but one does wonder. Tony was notable for his use in these westerns as a character who seemed to understand English and the context of what was going on, in spite of the fact that he was just a horse in every other respect. The Stooges weren't the only ones to use a human reincarnation into a horse in a film either- Laurel and Hardy, who often played alongside equine co-stars, used it as a punchline in their feature film The Flying Deuces.  Ollie expresses his wish to come back as horse, should he find himself reincarnated; and of course, he gets his wish. "Here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!", he says to Stan. Everything has got to be just like you want it to, because...

I also thought about my own, minimal interactions with horses. I've done a little bit of horseback riding and used to help a friend with her horses, years ago. One of the horses was so fond of me, she would grab me by my coat with her teeth and pull me back to her when I tried to leave the stable. The other one nearly killed me by bolting suddenly while I was saddled up on him. They called him Turbo for a reason, and after being spooked by the sound of loon he almost threw me completely off of him, and it was all I could do to climb back into the right position, and to pull the reigns before the dumb panicked animal ran itself over the edge of a small cliff. 

Much later in life I decided to take my son horseback riding for his birthday with a group of other paying people. Midway through the guided jaunt through a woodland trail, the instructor halted everyone and shushed us. We had interrupted a procession of deer; half were on one side of the trail and half on the other, quizzically observing our party. It seemed every direction around us, the deer were watching, cautious but peaceful, awaiting their opportunity to rejoin each other. Seated on a large beast of burden and surrounded by wild animals, seeing the wonder in my son's eyes reflecting the wonder in mine was a surreal and magical experience. There were strict rules against fumbling for one's phone during a ride there, for plenty of good reasons, so I didn't get a picture or anything like that- but it is as it should be. Pictures rarely capture the magic, the feeling, the wonder- some experiences are meant to be personal and profound in their totality. You can imitate everyone you know, but you can only ever be you. A snapshot on a smartphone will only ever be a pale approximation of the numinous, even when it manifests as more mundane and lacking in any paranormal significance.


I had nearly forgotten, as well, about the time I went to visit the reportedly haunted Looff Carousel at Crescent Park, in Providence, Rhode Island. It's a fully restored and operational carousel. Being the goofball that I am, I suppose I should have anticipated that feeling of joy and childlike excitement at the prospect of riding the horsies and playing the ring toss game. I found it hard to believe there was any kind of spooky haunting in such a place; carousels and carnivals have a long association with weirdness and ghost stories, to be certain, but my intuitive read was bereft of the sinister. Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes springs to mind, and perhaps, fool that I am, I was just taken in by the glamor of Mr. Dark's circus. Maybe, like in the book, the carousel had the power to move people backwards or forwards in time. Or perhaps horses make me happy, whether they are the living, breathing kind or made of porcelain; whether they are predicting future events or nearly maiming me. They are something to celebrate, something to dig. Can you dig it?

In my exhaustion this week, and knowing that there was still much to do after arriving home and that sleep would still be a distant proposition, the auspicious and restorative effects of Ponyhenge were not only welcome, but sorely needed. Despite my frustrations, anger, and stress during the week, despite having been up and running since 4:30 a.m., there was time enough to stop and absorb some ancient power from the ponies. In preparing to write about this I learned a bit about the town of Lincoln, how it had been formed from parts of Lexington and Concord. It had been one of the places involved in the first battles of the Revolutionary War, and the place where Paul Revere's midnight horseback ride had terminated in his capture.  Revere, and his historic ride, are also something I've written about before. I read about the history of rocking horses, and the first ones seemed to appear around the time Lincoln was first settled by colonizers. Mass production of rocking horses began after the Revolutionary War ended. Lincoln was named after Lincolnshire in the U.K., which has its legends of little people called Tiddy Mun. Maybe the colonial inhabitants brought their folkloric friends with them, and the Tiddy Mun are reportedly about the right size to enjoy a rocking horse built for children. The original Nipmuc inhabitants of the area, forcibly removed from their homes by the early settlers, probably had their own nature spirits who were displaced by the Tiddy Mun. Perhaps these things all come full circle in their own ways, like rocking horses rearranged by unseen hands. Perhaps it's not important.

The mystery, and in fact the mystery of whether there's even a mystery at all associated with this roadside oddity must at all costs be preserved. As my wife Pam, my muse, said to me earlier: "Knowing why the ponies move would ruin it. It would take all the magic away." I absolutely agree. All I know for sure is how I feel when I'm there, and it's the feeling a child has when about to climb onto a carousel or pet an exotic animal. Upon leaving the sacred circle of ponies, I looked down to see a runic symbol in the grass. You might say that it's just an arrow from a sign that had fallen apart, and if you say that then I'm afraid you haven't learned how to dig a pony. That is the Elder Futhark rune known as Tiwaz, which represents the Norse god Tyr, who, incidentally, I've also written about before. Tyr represents justice, self-sacrifice, and balance. Unfortunately in modern times, the symbol has been co opted by Nazis. One has to tread lightly with mysticism out in the world, and be very clear in one's intent and communication. Inside the pony circle, I choose to interpret the rune as a good omen. 

Balance can be difficult to achieve, but like horseback riding it takes practice. I preach about positivity fairly often, and sometimes feel like a fraud when I fall into the trap of depression or let stress dictate a foul mood that perpetuates itself. The negative moods need to find expression, but all should be tempered and balanced. I would highly recommend injecting magic into your life, wherever you can- and acknowledging it when magic finds you. Don't let fear dominate, and face what's coming with the cool determination of this particular pony:

Absorb the ancient pony power and proceed. Can you dig it now???



  1. Not sure this will show up. I’m told I’m unable to sign in and should check my browser configurations (huh?) to allow sign-in. So, testing.

  2. So this is weird. I have a lengthy comment and I fear typing it all out only to have it disappear into the ether. But what the hell.

    This post made me think about so many things I’ve disregarded for too long. I used to believe firmly that there is a strong connection of “magic” (however you want to define it) running through life. My belief has sort of eroded with age, much to my dismay. But Ponyhenge is reviving it. I can completely understand most of the points you were making because I’ve felt the exact same things in different situations. I wish so much I’d known about Ponyhenge when I was living in Massachusetts, damn it. But maybe it hadn’t even appeared yet. I’m thinking I may have to make a rare pilgrimage to Lincoln this summer because I need to see it for myself!

    Among the many things that your Ponyhenge post made me think of, synchronicity is the major theme. I have a horse story I don’t think I’ve ever written down, but it’s a vivid memory that got revived by your post. Apologies for the length. I moved back to Vermont in 1988, and was living out in the country with my rescue greyhound Basil and my Irish werewolf from a mixed family in South Middleboro. I was working in Burlington, and the dogs got regular long walks on my dirt lane at least twice a day. In the mornings we usually went north, down a long hill towards a creek. To the left was a large field with a lone horse. I felt bad for it, and started bringing apples and carrots to it, and dubbed it Ralph/Raoul. It learned very quickly to recognize us and would come to the fence line for its treats. The dogs and the horse had very passive interaction. They were kind of interested in each other, but not that much.

    Friday, December 8, 1989 (I know this because on my most recent trip downstairs for tea the book with the purchase date was for some reason sticking out at the bottom of one of the many stacks of mass-market paperbacks that fill one side of the stairs), it must have been a payday because instead of going home immediately, I went up street to Burlington’s best bookstore (remember those?). I remember pawing through the thin section of “Occult” or whatever they were calling the weird stuff then, and finding nothing but this sort of stupid-looking mass-market paperback bySkan Vaughn, “Incredible Coincidence: The Baffling World of Synchronicity.” I was not elated, but there was nothing else so I took it home, fed and walked myself and the dogs, and then went to bed and tried to read my new book. I went through at least 7 or 8 short chapters, and then in disgust I threw the book to the floor because it was SO boring, turned off the light and went to sleep.

    I absolutely swear all the following is true.

    That night I had a very vivid dream about walking the dogs down the hill, and Raoul the horse going mad when Basil darted into his field. The dream ended before anyone got injured, but I woke up with my heart pounding.

    So, at daylight, we did our usual trip down the hill. Upon seeing us, Raoul did not do his usual leisurely stroll to the fence. Instead, he started running (galloping?) about and scared me so much I grabbed Basil’s collar, not that Basil had any intention of going into the field with a crazed horse. It was all very strange. We continued on to the bridge and hung out there for a bit. When we went back, Raoul was completely calm and ate his carrots calmly.

    I don’t know what was going on, but I can tell you when I got home I picked the book up off the floor and read the whole thing that day.

    One thing I’ve learned over the years is that if you think about synchronicity, and talk about it with others, a flood of it arrives. LOf course this may be simply a matter of a change in attentiveness. But, I dunno.

    I got really off-track from Ponyhenge here. Sorry, but that place and your observations were so -evocative?

    Anyway, I must read more of your posts. Sign me up to the fan club, but I will try to avoid this kind of logorrhea.

    1. Thank you so much for the lovely comment and story!
      I believe that synchronicity, psi events and the like are sometimes just a way for the phenomena to say "wake up!" or to alert you that you are on the correct path. Perhaps you were meant to finish that book, and if it hadn't been for the precognitive dream you wouldn't have.
      Synchronicity is tricky because it includes psi phenomena and other paranormal experiences, but not always- even everyday objects and the very mundane are part and parcel of the causal machinery behind what creates these coincidences and their meaningfulness to us personally. Experiencing the magic of it is really no more complicated than having a willingness to recognize it that way.
      It can be easy to forget, to become stonefaced and dulled to the mystical. So many people are that it takes a leap of faith to even express the emotive value of allowing the magical in, for fear of mockery and disdain.
      It's not for everybody, and in fact this ideation can be very destabilizing to some. But for those who have synchronistically arrived at a place in their lives where openness to it is amenable, it becomes very much a Sacred Thing.
      I am immensely grateful that you found value and connection to my words here. I wish you all the best in the future!

  3. Life was much more enjoyable with faith in mystery and magic. Anything that helps me get back to what used to be my normal state (i.e. your Ponyhenge post) is pure gold.

  4. Also, I meant to mention that as fascinated as I am by Ponyhenge, I am in total agreement with your wife Pam that knowing how the horses move would ruin it all. If you ever find out, don’t tell me!