Dowsing Stories That Are True

I have a lot of dowsing stories. I remember as a small child in Shutesbury Massachusetts watching this old man (he was probably not old at all of course) wandering the field next to our little house with a stick in his hand. My dad explained he was a dowser, there to find water. The well drilling company had struck three “dry holes” and so they’d called in a dowser. He found the place to drill in ten minutes. Now, I know this. Some of you will nod, recalling similar stories yourself, and the rest of you, probably most, will roll your eyes, thinking the whole dowsing thing is a primitive myth. What I love about it is there is no explanation (yet) for why it works. It works with me. I can cut a stick from a living tree and hold it and when I pass over buried water, or something, the stick turns down so strongly it will tear the bark away from the wood.

I first discovered this when I was 19 and spending a summer defoliating a power line right of way in the high hills of Western Massachusetts. We’d spray the brush with a chemical, later known as Agent Orange, and once between spells out on the line spraying the brush we played around with sticks and dowsing. One guy on the crew seemed to have the knack, and I saw the bark come off in his hands, and when I tried it the same happened to me.

Since then I’ve had way too much fun with dowsing. Most people don’t believe it, and for sure I know the chances are that whoever might be reading this is shaking their head and and muttering, but for me it works, and it works for others, too. There is no revenge so sweet as listening to abuse from a “denier” and watching him or her walk with the stick and nothing happens, and then walking before that person while touching the ends of the stick with my fingertips and seeing the stick pull, pull, pull while the “denier” goes white and gets all weird.

You can dowse for water. You can dowse for like metals, too. My dad had a friend, now long dead, he was a uranium prospector, and he said to me, very quietly, once, that most uranium is found with dowsing rods. Bob Goode, an engineer with the Port Authority, told me in 1985 that they’d take bent pieces of round rod and hold them in their hands, one in each hand, and walk until the rods turned parallel, which showed where a buried pipe lay.

Still with me, here? In 1983, I think it was, Sten, my fishing skipper, and his mate Bill Crockett undertook an effort to find Sam Bellamy’s ship the Whydah, the same year that Barry Clifford was seeking the ship. Barry found it, became famous, and became rich, and nobody ever knew about us, but we were out there first and might have found the gold had Sten followed my direction. Instead, he acted toward me like you, dear reader, must now be reacting as you read. I told him, back then, “Forget these magnetometers, give me a gold coin and I’ll stand on the stern of the boat while you range the shore and when the stick goes down, that’s where the gold and ship is.” Of course, Sten did not do this, because he did not believe me and running a boat costs money.



3 thoughts on “Dowsing Stories That Are True”

  1. Hello- It is very cool to find your blog. I am originally from Vashon Island, and currently live in Western Mass, so I made the opposite journey. I was just googling dowsing stories to use in an activity about unsolved mysteries with high school students…and found this.

    1. Tesia – you read an old post, and actually I have a couple others also about dowsing, under the “real of folk tale” category. My son and his family live on Vashon, I go over there all the time, he’s on he western side about a third of the way down. Dowsing is a wonderful thing because, as of yet, nobody has been able to explain the “why” of it, and many if not most think it is a myth, a fantasy. A couple of times I was with someone who could not make the stick turn down, he or she would walk ahead holding the Y-shaped stick, single end vertical, the “arms of the Y, one in each hand, pointing toward the ground, and the ends of each arm of the stick sticking out past the edge of the hand a half inch. Then I would have them hold the stick again, and I would walk backwards ahead of them, with a fingertip against each end of the held stick’s protrusion from his or her hand, such that I had direct contact with the dowsing stick but no way at all to exert any pressure. And, sure enough, that stick would turn down, HARD, relentless. At this moment the person holding the stick would either look at me as if I were a ghost or, more commonly, mutter something and throw away the stick and never speak of the subject again….it is, I believe, important there remain real mysteries among us, else we become too swell-headed with our beliefs and certain knowledge. Interestingly, also, it struck me back then, when I did this sort of thing, now 40 years ago and more, that more than half of my “subjects”, even seeing before their own eyes what was happening, and feeling it in their tightly grasped hands, nevertheless refused to believe it was happening, showing the power of certain belief over obvious fact, a tendency that has now, it seems, spread broadly into our body politic….

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