Paranormal? Some think so, but perhaps one of the earliest used detection devices are dowsing rods. Dowsing rods are usually Y-shaped and made of a willow branch. Typically dowsing rods or divining rods are used to find something hidden; water, minerals, people, even oil. Dowsing rods are occasionally used in paranormal investigations to find spirit activity. Metal L-shaped rods are often used instead of the wooden rods by modern dowsers.
Dowsing rods are OLD! Don Nolan said there were cave paintings in Spain – 40 to 50,000 years old showing people holding dowsing rods. 8,000 years ago some human hand drew a picture in the Tassili Caves of North Africa showing members of a tribe surrounding a man holding a forked stick. On 4,000 year old temple walls in Egypt are carvings of Pharaohs holding things in their hands that look like dowsing rods. The Cairo Museum has several ceramic pendulums in its possession which may be another form of a dowsing rod. Dowsing rods were found in King Tut’s pyramid tomb.
The Bible may mention dowsing rods too – although not by name. But think about it – when Moses and his son Aaron were wandering the desert during the Exodus and used the ‘rod’ to locate much needed water for the people. The prophet Ezekiel mentions that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon asked his dowsers or diviners to select the best city to attack Jerusalem (Judah) or Rebath (Ammonite). The diviners chose Jerusalem and lead to the long Babylonian captivity of Judah.
There are 2500 year old Chinese etchings depicting an Emperor holding what could be dowsing rods in his hands. Greek history says that dowsing was used on the island of Crete as early as 400 BCE. And some researchers say that the Oracle of Delphi, a priestess with precognitive power used a pendulum to answer questions posed by her visitors.
Albert Einstein believed in dowsing too. He thought that it showed a reaction to the human nervous system by unknown factors.
Even General Patton (WWII) used dowsing rods. Don Nolan wrote an article called a Brief History of Dowsing where he said Patton had a whole willow tree flown to Europe so dowsers could fashion rods to search for water to replace the wells the German Army blew up during their retreat back to Germany. The British Army used dowsing rods in the Falkland Islands to locate hidden mines.
Troy Taylor mentions in his Ghost Hunting Guidebook, that dowsing rods are one of the earliest tools for ghost-hunting. It is thought a dowser can divine electromagnetic activity by using dowsing rods, and as we all know high EMF’s are considered to be signs of spirit activity.
Even Baby Showers use dowsing; have you even been to a baby shower where a needle and string are held over the mother’s baby bump? Maybe it doesn’t happen so often now, with ultrasounds and early gender identification so prevalent these days, but think about how we used to do it; hold the needle over the bump – if it spins in circles it’s a boy, side to side it’s a girl
No one is really sure how dowsing rods work – although there are many theories out there.
In the middle ages, dowsers were considered water witches and persecuted by the Holy Roman Church.
Some of the dowsers had certain rituals which had to be followed. For example the rod had to be cut from a certain tree (Witch Hazel or Willow) on a certain day, and the branch had to be facing a specific direction. It had to be soaked in salt water and could only be used once.
Is dowsing a divine gift? Is it inherited? Or can anyone learn how to dowse? No one really knows for sure exactly how dowsers gain their ability or how dowsing rods work. Some say it is a psychic connection between the dowser and the hidden object – as if the dowser is picking up the vibes and the dowsing rods react. Perhaps the dowsing rod is just amplifying unseen energy waves. It could be a form of bio-mechanics where dowsing rods are reacting to tiny muscle movements…..but what causes them to move in the first place?
I’ve not seen a dowser in action but basically the dowser walks around until the rods make a movement … a ‘hit’. Some dowsers have been known to use maps and a pendulum to locate specific items (oil and water for example).
The James Randi Educational Foundation’s famous million dollar challenge gets the most claims from dowsers. According to the RANDI Foundation, then most common dowsers are water dowsers. Most claim 100% accuracy, but hardly ever less than 90% accuracy. (Most fail the RANDI test).
But I’m not really here to just talk about dowsing rods for finding water or ghosts or even the gender of a baby. Dowsing rods have been used to find the lost, and they have been used to investigate crime scenes, even in recent times, although not always with beneficial results.
Jacques Aymar-Vernay was a 17th century French dowser who used his talents to locate criminals and murders. He was a bit of a celebrity in his day, but there is some evidence he admitted to being a fraud at the end of his career
In 2008, Cesar Laurean was accused of killing fellow marine Maria Lauterbach. Onslow County (FL) Sherriff Ed Brown took a clothes hanger and made a divining rod to search for the buried corpse. The State Special Investigator said that Brown ‘obscured’ the crime scene by the sheer number of shoe prints the sheriff left behind while dowsing…so be careful where you walk if you are investigating a crime…eh? These are just two cases
How accurate is dowsing statistically?
Well Professor Hans Dieter Betz (professor of physics, Munich University) did a study over the course of 10 years and published by the Journal of Scientific Exploration in 1995 (offices at Stanford University) to ‘test and apply dowsing methods to locate water in arid regions’. The study involved over 2,000 drilling sites and several countries. It was the largest water dowsing study ever.
http://www.water-diviner.com/articles3.htm The Results? Impressive – overall a 96% success rate for drilling viable wells. Geohydrologists were given the same task yet only had a 21% success rate. This was only a study about water dowsing.
I am still searching for studies and statistics on other types of dowsing.