Locating – Divine Intervention

In November of 2017, NPR picked up an unusual story out of the United Kingdom. It seems that a scientist, Dr. Sally Le Page, learned about a water company technician using two bent tent pegs while working in front of her parents’ home. Incredulous, Le Page began an informal survey of a dozen regional water and sewer utilities, ten of whom confirmed that although they have modern equipment, they sometimes resort to using divining rods (or witching sticks) to help find underground structures and voids. South West Water, which services some two-million Brits, noted that although they do use the process for locating their water mains, it’s “not accurate 100% of the time,” while Anglian Water (“love every drop”), initially offered to take Dr. Le Page out to give her an on-camera demonstration and then backtracked, claiming that they were actually aiming to prove that witching doesn’t work.

A quick online search turns up multiple YouTube tutorials including one that demonstrates how to locate a variety of residential facilities using a couple of old metal hangers. In another, the narrator demonstrates not only how to locate with a couple of L-shaped wires, but also how to find the depth of what you’re locating (“to make it even weirder… start stomping really hard”). Before you roll your eyes, that foot-stomper isn’t alone. A September 2017 profile of a local dowser from The Kansan also features someone who measures depth by stomping his feet and then counting how many seconds it takes for his dowsing rods to react with every second that passes equaling one foot of cover.

Apparently not only can water, water leaks, water lines, and a variety of utility structures be located using dowsing – regardless of their composition, it’s also good for finding precious metals, unmarked graves (including the sex of the occupant), and even old game trails. Bizarrely, psychics and mediums have gotten in on the act, using the familiar L-shaped rods to communicate with the dead. There are multiple You- Tube videos on that theme as well, including one on how to calibrate your dowsing rods (Step One: Take a shower).

It’s all sort of good-natured fun… up until it isn’t. In 2010, the UK government banned the export of the ADE-651, a plastic-handled dowsing device with a telescoping rod whose manufacturer sold thousands to Iraqi security forces as a bomb detection tool. While you can get a pair of dowsing rods on Amazon.com for less than $20, the ADE-651 sold for up to $60,000, its manufacturer fleecing the Iraqi government for tens of millions of dollars on a worthless device before the company’s founder was convicted on three counts of fraud and sentenced to ten years in prison.

As Dr. Le Page points out, “there is no scientifically rigorous, double blind evidence that divining rods work.” Instead, most scientists credit the rod’s movement to something called the ideomotor effect (the same subconscious manipulation behind Ouija boards) and note that in controlled settings, practitioners fare no better than random chance.

That won’t stop people from believing in them though. As one commenter on an engineering forum said, “I’ve seen utility company locators find underground utilities with their dowsing sticks, where their expensive electronic equipment couldn’t.” Fair enough. As for me, I’ll stick to electromagnetic induction. I won’t always be able to find everything I want, but at least I won’t accidentally open a portal to the spirit realm.

Christopher Koch is a training consultant and President of ZoneOne Locating. He is past president of Nulca and worked on both the 2009 and 2015 revisions to the Nulca Professional Competency Standard. He can be reached by email at Christopherkoch@live.com or on Twitter @kochauthor.


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin