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How A Scientific Experiment Led To Sexual Encounters Between A Woman And A Dolphin

Updated February 26, 2020 772.6k views11 items

Margaret Howe Lovatt was a young research assistant when a scientist asked if she would isolate herself and live with a dolphin to see if the creatures could learn to speak in the human language. Sure, that's pretty odd, but it actually gets stranger. The experiment allegedly led to a dolphin developing romantic feelings for Lovatt. Eventually, sexual encounters between the woman and the dolphin took place. While the pair never had actual intercourse, the controversy surrounding the experiment gave rise to uncomfortable questions. Can humans and dolphins have sex? Why was Lovatt giving a dolphin a handjob? 

Dolphins are sexually frisky creatures in almost any setting. They've been known to be sexually aggressive, to the point where dolphins can sexually assault people and are more promiscuous than many other wild creatures. Still, dolphins having sex with humans is virtually unheard of, especially in a scientific setting. This scandalous experiment is one filled with drugs, misplaced romantic feelings, sexual deviance, and tragedy. Be warned: there are sexual interspecies topics below. Read at your own caution. 

  • The Project Was Funded By NASA

    Photo: MrMiscellanious / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    John Lilly was a neuroscientist who had been studying dolphins and other marine mammals for some time. He had a theory that dolphins, who sometimes mimicked human voices, might be able to be taught to speak English. This introduced the possibility of dialogue between humans and another species. It may seem like a far-fetched theory, but Lilly was widely respected at the time, so he was able to secure funding from NASA and opened a lab for dolphins in 1963.

    His idea was to isolate three dolphins in different settings. He wanted to expose them to human language in various ways, so that they could possibly learn to talk and understand mankind. Lilly already knew that the animals had large brains and believed that this meant they had a greater capacity than most creatures to develop interspecies communication skills. 

  • John Lilly Thought Dolphins Could Teach People How To Speak To Aliens

    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Use

    John Lilly may have had deeper, more mystical motivations than just trying to get dolphins to speak. Lilly was, at the time, self-experimenting with LSD and also using it in official research as a neuroscientist. He speculated about the existence of extraterrestrial life. Of course, he wasn't exactly advertising all this when he was seeking out funding. However, LSD research was underway and he was asked to also study its effects on animals during the experiment. Often, he took the drug himself while floating in an isolation tank. This would later prove to be a major factor in the project's downfall.

    According to an article in The Telegraph, Lilly hoped that studying dolphins communication could teach mankind how to contact and speak with aliens!


  • Margaret Howe Lovatt Moved Into A Flooded House

    Video: YouTube

    Lovatt was a research assistant in her early twenties when she signed on for the project in 1964. Right away, she showed a particular flair for working with animals and Lilly took notice. Lilly decided to isolate Lovatt with the young male dolphin, called Peter, because he had not yet received human sound training. He set up a "dolphinarium" or "Dolphin House" by waterproofing the floor of a house and flooding it so that Lovatt and the dolphin could live together under observation. 

    One would think that, as a young research assistant, the prospect of living with a dolphin would be a terrifying one. However, Lovatt was actually up for it and even volunteered to do it! She began living there in isolation with Peter the dolphin, sleeping, eating, playing, and living her daily life with the young creature. 

  • The Dolphins Knew Celebrities

    Photo: Frank Carroll / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The three dolphins used in Lilly's experiment were connected to a dolphin celebrity. As it turns out, the person who first introduced Lilly to LSD was Ivan Tors, the producer of the movie Flipper. And perhaps given this close relation, Lilly was able to get three dolphins from Marine Studios - a kind of early Sea World where dolphins performed. 

    Lilly's dolphins were named Pamela, Sissy, and Peter, and each dolphin had their own unique personality. As Lovatt remembers it: "There were three dolphins... Peter, Pamela, and Sissy. Sissy was the biggest. Pushy, loud, she sort of ran the show. Pamela was very shy and fearful. And Peter was a young guy. He was sexually coming of age and a bit naughty."