Some dowsing statistics

Reading the BSD journals it is possible to find some authors who share their opinion on how many people can actually dowse. I thought it might be interesring to collect these entries together. Here are some numbers appearing in the journals from 1933 to 2000.

No4, 1934 – “The theory and practice of water finding” by B. Tompkins

B. Tompkins was one of the most famous dowsers of his day.

“I have tested hundreds of persons of various ages and positions on life, but only in two instances have I found any one outside my own family who possessed the gift with sufficient confidence to be able to utilize it with any degree of success. “ “One of my sons was equally as successful as myself” the other could, but had “too strong a nature” and got fatigued too easily.

“Water finders are born, not made. It is a gift that cannot be acquired, or a profession that cannot be taught, although it may be developed by a person conscious of having the gift by practice and coaching through expert tuition.”

No68, 1950, p66 – “notes for beginners” by Colonel K. W. Merrylees (former BSD President)

“It is my experience that while perhaps one in twenty persons is sufficiently sensitive naturally to get a recognisable reaction over a good, well-defined indication, not more than one per cent. of these are naturally so sensitive that they can expect to receive and distinguish all the important indications without a long and laborious development of sensitivity. This does not mean that this ‘supersensitive’ one per cent. are already capable dowsers. They are as far from it as the schoolboy finding himself gifted with a good ‘eye’ for games is from becoming a Wimbledon class tennis player. I believe it is possible for almost anyone with a small initial sensitivity to develop this gift, but there seems to be a minimum receptivity without which certain essential indications are not received, and therefore full and reliable, results cannot be obtained.”

No150, 1977, p97 – letter from Colonel K. W. Merrylees

Describes a 2 year study conducted at the Royal School of Military Engineering, Chattenden, to find out what percentage of young officers and N.C.O.s were sensitive to dowsing. “Of  344 candidates  tested 10% were ‘naturals,’ 36% able to develop their basic sensitivity to a useful degree, and the remainder had little or no ability.”

No232, 1991, p249 – “dowsing for beginners” by Maj-Gen. J. Scott Elliot. (former BSD President)

“From experience in testing and trying to help people, I think about 10%. could be good dowsers 10%. Haven’t a hope, because their sensitivity is too much atrophied. Of the remaining 80% I am sure that many could be reasonably good dowsers if they wanted to be, and if they found a use they could practice and train upon. These two factors are essential.”

no259, 1998, p22 “The patterns under our feet” by Patrick D. O’Sullivan

The article describes a museum in south Devon devoted to Brunel’s Atmospheric Railway. Water for the boilers was provided by good underground streams, of which only one was left,  at place named Starcross. It was now a capped over well. The Man running the museum kept a stock of dowsing angle rods and tested the visitors he found that – 40% women, 60% men dowsed the well, first time.

No265, 1999, p308 – “discovering dowsing” by John Ralphs

He estimated 20-30% who had a go to detect a water supply under a tarmac road, produced some kind of reaction at their first attempt.

No266, 1999, p367 – (reprint of newspaper article) – “Dowsing could divine more Cressing secrets”

Archaeologist Barry Crouch doing an experiment for his thesis for a post grad diploma in field archaeology, employed local volunteers to assist him dowse a site. Of 62 people only 3 could not dowse.

No30, 1940, p212  -“Experiments at Eastbourne College” By A. Y. Cole

Experiments with 10 or 12 boys. “There were, however, two or three who were unable to feel anything. These were from both the sceptics and the ones interested.” Two did not need any instruments, just used their hands.

“.. in the case of those who were quite unable to detect any influences, that contact with one much practised in dowsing made the rod turn in the other’s hands.”

No22, 1938, p263 – “Notes by a dowser” – author’s name not given.

Test of young R.E. officers using rods over “a little stream in the chalk”. “Of the 24 only six could feel nothing, 12 could feel quote well, and two promised to be good”

It is quite a range of results and the numbers are too small to draw definite conclusions. The consensus amongst these authors is that not everyone can dowse, or at least obtain a reaction in the chosen test scenario, and a minority have good sensitivity. ….

Prob 1% are v sensitive.

<10% are good

<20% find it difficult, or impossible.

And the “in-betweeners” can improve with practice, an encouraging environment, and perhaps even the presence of a 1 percenter!

Perhaps this shows that dowsing ability may be at least approximately normally distributed, like many traits. There may of course be other factors at work here, and these have been explored in the parapsychology literature.