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Dowsing for Everything PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

We've encountered an endless line of dowsers eager to show their "abilities" to dowse for water, people, gold, explosives, graves.. and in one case, the ability to dowse for a circle drawn in chalk. There are number of different techniques, but so far, all of these claims have had one thing in common: they haven't stood up to the Million Dollar Challenge. That is to say, when exposed to the light of a controlled experiment, they fail. 

Despite this, many people and the media continue to think of dowsing as a real phenomenon. A search of Google News shows dozens of hits in the news for dowsing. Most are the same old thing, but this Evansville (Indiana) Courier and Press report about Duane Walker caught my attention. Here are some quotes from the article, written by Garret Mathews:

The dowser poses the problem to himself and then uses his total powers of concentration. You must have a driving force inside you that wants to find the answer to the very specific question.

Isn't that how we solve all problems? If I've lost my keys, I concentrate on where I last saw them, where I'd be likely to put them, etc. And magically.. they're always in the last place I look! Sometimes, they're even in the first! I suppose I should try finding them in the 2nd to last place that I look some day..

At first I was skeptical," Phyllis Walter admits, smiling, "but when he went to two cemeteries, and I watched him find some long-forgotten graves, I became a believer.

He found graves in a cemetery. Ok, that makes sense, but these were "long-forgotten." I wasn't there... I don't know what he did, but if you've ever visited an old graveyard, it's often a simple task to find a grave without a stone. The ground often has a depression due to the collapse of the coffin and settling of the filled-in soil.  Phyllis saw and she believed... but what she saw, wasn't a controlled experiment. It was an anecdote.

There was the project at Evansville's Mater Dei High School when he located some "old wooden-square coffins under a bunch of trees."

I just mention this because I have no idea what "wooden-square" coffins are. And yes, I Googled.

Just don't bring a camcorder to the site.

"Slows down my L-rods."

Umm... gee, how convenient. 

For all I know this guy is the real deal, but articles like this should at least mention that the science community believes dowsing to be a simple matter of self-delusion mainly due to the ideomotor response. (Note the last paragraph in that linked Wikipedia article.)

Also on this article, are comments that support dowsing. Here's an interesting one:

Posted by johnh on December 27, 2008 at 8:16 a.m.

Dowsing for graves? I have never heard of that. Dowsing for underground streams is easy. Use a forked willow branch. When you pass over an underground stream, try to keep the top of the branch from pointing downward. You can't. It will peel the bark off in your hand.

When I decided to put in geothermal devices to heat and cool my house, I drove 4 miles to a family who had a willow tree, and asked for a forked branch. They gave me "my choice" and laughed.

I brought it home and doused the four sites I would drill. The first 3 showed no water, the 4th did. When I had a well driller drill the holes. That hole produced a spring. Now I have FREEE heating and cooling. I have FREE Water.

So dowsing failed 3 out of 4 times. That's some convincing evidence there. Given that there is water under most ground, at varying depths, I'm surprised it took him 4 times to find it.

Posted by maclee4427 on December 27, 2008 at 11:31 a.m.

I have never doused for graves, but I used to work as a Maintenance Supervisor at an apartment complex. I made two L shaped rods from coat hangers, then I used them to find a water line that was not in the area it was supposed to be acording to blue prints. I held the rods loosely in my hands pointing in the direction I was walking low and behold when I was over the water line the two rods crossed, when we dug in that spot there it was the water line directly under the spot where the two rods crossed. I have used this several times and it located the water line every single time. I was astonished that it worked. Ilearned this trick from someone who was younger than I am, and was skeptical until I tried it and got the results. I have never used a wilow branch but I have heard of others using it to find water and it works. Don't ask me to explain how it works but believe me it does work.

And here is the biggest problem with dowsing. Stories like this are common, and there's no way to refute them. Either the man is a liar, he's fooling himself, or he's telling the truth, and though we've only seen the first two possibilities here are the JREF, we have to hold out the possibility that the third is actually what's happening here. Our only response to these stories can be "Apply for the Million Dollar Challenge." Let's do a controlled test of the ability, and see what happens. 

Alas, we know what happens. We get myriad excuses, and the believer keeps on believing. 

And yes, dowsing is harmless... at least that's what I thought until a day two years ago when I saw a utility worker using two L-rods to locate and mark underground electrical lines. 

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written by ConTester, January 05, 2009
I think a “wooden-square” coffin is the just a simple long box with a uniform square cross-section, i.e. a cheap and purely functional coffin as opposed to the more modern ornamented type. It was designed mostly to keep those darn pesky dowsers from interrupting one’s eternal slumber.

Obviously, the design was flawed.
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written by Willy K, January 05, 2009
How about a new variant of the JREF M.D.C.?

Bury the million dollars deep in the Sahara Desert.
Give the dowser ten minutes to find it, if they don't find it, leave them in the desert and tell them to find themselves some water. smilies/wink.gif

Oooooo..... isn't that such a evil thing to do! smilies/tongue.gif

Willy K

P.S. I recently talked to one of my sisters who I hadn't spoken to in a few years. Some how the subject of dowsers came up, and how she had seen someone do it and she was convinced. All I could say was "You are a fool for believing in that nonsense!" smilies/cry.gif

P.P.S. Arthur C. Clark said "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." It boggles my mind knowing that lots of people can take cell phones, an extremely advanced technology, for granted and still be fooled by simple tricks and gimmicks that have used for thousands of years!
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written by cwniles, January 06, 2009
Regarding "john" and his post supporting dowsing...so he dowsed all 4 drill sites and only one showed water yet he had the driller come and drill at all four sites anyways? If dowsing was so foolproof, why didn't he just have the driller set up and drill at the one spot he "knew" water to be?
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written by BillyJoe, January 06, 2009
..to prove he was correct about the other three sites being duds. smilies/wink.gif

Oh well, at least you didn't make James Randi's mistake:

So dowsing failed 3 out of 4 times.


BJ
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my 2 bits
written by Bill Henry, January 06, 2009
I had a contractor using dowsing rods find a water line on my job. he didn't get it exactly but he was in the right area. Another example of deluding yourself that you had the right answer. Then again my telling him what i really thought didn;t help the situation much.

This is the endless problem that skeptics have ... we are preaching to the converted and the morons who believe stupid crap will never hear the truth no matter how obvious it is.
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written by BillyJoe, January 06, 2009
This is the endless problem that skeptics have ...
The other problem we sceptics have is believing without question everything that a few prominent sceptics say.
And those that do question them get voted down.

Oh well...
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The most dangerous dowsing rods?
written by Ricsuth, January 07, 2009
Some of you may recall Randi challenging the ADE 651 a while back. Since then some of us have been campaigning against this and other so called explosives detectors e.g. GT 200, Alpha 6 etc.

You can help. Please go to this forum thread: http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=128253

Post 31 asks you to link to various blogs to help get their Google rankings up and help stop the scum behind these scam radio aerials on swivels. They are just dowsing rods dressed up as advanced technology!
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written by latsot, January 07, 2009
Jeff said:
"So dowsing failed 3 out of 4 times. That's some convincing evidence there. Given that there is water under most ground, at varying depths, I'm surprised it took him 4 times to find it."

Actually, I read this differently. I thought it was saying that he had four candidate drilling points, he dowsed them, only one dowsing indicated water, he dug that place and hey presto, water!

Equally deserving of ridicule as Jeff's interpretation. Did he drill the other points?

It's ambigious. His use of 'holes' rather than 'hole' argues for Jeff's interpretation. But who cares? Bullshit either way.
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Why is this so difficult to understand.
written by BillyJoe, January 07, 2009
Here is what the dowser said:

I brought it home and doused the four sites I would drill. The first 3 showed no water, the 4th did. When I had a well driller drill the holes. That hole produced a spring.

Let's take it one at a time:

"I brought it home and doused the four sites I would drill."
Clearly, he is saying that he used his dowsing rod at 4 sites and that he intended to drill all 4 sites regardless of what his dowsing rod indicated.

"The first 3 showed no water, the 4th did."
Again clearly, he is saying that the dowsing rod showed water at only 1 of these 4 sites.

"When I had a well driller drill the holes. That hole produced a spring."
Again clearly, he is saying that all 4 holes were drilled; that only 1 of the 4 holes produced water; that the hole that produced water was the same one that his dowsing rod
indicated had water.


But apologies to James Randi.
It was, in fact, Jeff Wagg who had the misunderstanding with his statement:

So dowsing failed 3 out of 4 times. That's some convincing evidence there. Given that there is water under most ground, at varying depths, I'm surprised it took him 4 times to find it.
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written by nelson650, January 07, 2009
Being that the dowser is 70 per cent water, why doesn't he or she become the dowsee? Are willow branches tuned to eliminate the human body as opposed to walnut that flies of the tree as one walks by? Lastly, what happens with the branches aboard a cruise ship? HHHMMMMMM????
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written by BillyJoe, January 07, 2009
Because it must be a body of water.
And what branches aboard a cruise ship?
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A suggestion
written by Christophe Thill, January 09, 2009
I have a suggestion for dowsers. Why don't they use their "talent" to find Bigfoot?
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Watch the master in action
written by Richard, January 09, 2009
James Randi in Australia. After almost 30 years, one of the best water dowsing videos.
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7461912885649996034
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written by Steve29, January 09, 2009
I work for a small family-owned waterwell drilling company in west central IN. We deal with witchers almost daily. New customers want to know if it works, old timers are convinced. The geology in this part of Indiana is wildly varied. We have drilled sand and gravel wells anywhere from 40' to 240'. Several rock formations are found in our area. Rock wells can be anywhere from 50' to 400' with the yield between 10gal./hr. to 100+/ min. Let me assure you, no witcher has ever been any more than chance. As Randi has reported, any failure is written off. We have been told many times "You missed the water by 20' feet. Most well drillers will drill where a witcher picks. Most of the time it doesn't matter. The drillers knowledge is still the best bet.
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written by BillyJoe, January 09, 2009
Excellent video showing how certain people can be about what they believe and how confident they can remain about their belief despite convincing evidence to the contrary.

The scary part is how they confidently pick the pipe with the running water in it with absolutely no doubt in their minds that they have picked the correct one.

The question that arises for me is: When and how do they decide (or what decides) which pipe their dowsing rods will confidently react to when actually they could have absolutely no idea which pipe has the running water in it?

BJ
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written by monstrmac1, January 09, 2009
According to the person who made the comment, dowsing was 100% successful. He dowsed 4 sites and 1 site showed water and then was proven to have water. Mr. Wagg needs to read and understand what he's commenting on before making statements. The point still stands that dowsing is fake but making erroneous statements won't help the cause.
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written by BillyJoe, January 09, 2009
To make this clearer could I just rephrase that:

According to the person who made the comment, dowsing was 100% successful:
He dowsed 4 sites and only the 4th site indicated the presence of water.
All 4 sites were then drilled and only the 4th site produced water.

And I agree completely with your last two sentences.

BJ
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written by Fontwell, January 10, 2009
Watch the master in action
written by Richard, January 09, 2009
James Randi in Australia. After almost 30 years, one of the best water dowsing videos.
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7461912885649996034


Thanks for the link Richard - I've read about this trial and similar ones here at JRef but I'd never seen the video before.

It is a great video but it reminds me of something Paul Daniels (UK Magician) said about this kind of 'debunking' program. He pointed out that film makers want to have a story with a narrative structure, and the obvious one here is - some guys think they can dowse, some others guys think not, big testing session, oooOOoooh what will the mystery outcome be? And then right near the end we get the shock result.

So the problem is this; loads of regular, open minded people watch the first ten minutes and get bored, or watch a bit in the middle as they channel hop, and what do they see on TV? A load of guys doing dowsing.
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written by nelson650, January 10, 2009
Because it must be a body of water.
And what branches aboard a cruise ship?

Human body aint a body?
Willow branches, like the ones used for dowsing rods, on a cruise ship floatong on the largest body of water there is on earth! Duh!
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written by BillyJoe, January 10, 2009
Human body aint a body?

No, it aint a BODY OF WATER. smilies/wink.gif

Willow branches, like the ones used for dowsing rods, on a cruise ship floatong on the largest body of water there is on earth! Duh!

The dowsers use Y shaped twigs of a willow tree through which they channel their own power to make it detect water, or metal, or just about anything else they set their mind to.
(Hey, I'm not defending it, it's what they say they do!)

So...based on that explanation, what do you think those planks of willow in a cruise ship would so, if anything, when that cruise ship is floating on a body of water?

BJ
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