Electronic dowsing

“A beginner in electronic dowsing”, by Daniel Wilson.


The late Dan Wilson was one of the more gifted of dowsers of his day, and for a long time, he was an active member of the BSD. His main interest was applying dowsing to the field of healing. But his day job was working as an electronics engineer, testing electronic circuits. It was perhaps natural therefore, that he used dowsing to aid his work (though perhaps not in on vert way). In this article, he describes what he learned about dowsing from this particular application of the art. 

I have summarized his main observations:

To assist dowsing to work well, it is best to “turn off” one’s logical thinking, that is approach it as if one knows very little. But this can in itself hinder the process, because one can then look in the wrong place if knowledge is not used to guide the search.

When dowsing, there is always time to take into consideration. Basically, the answer to a question about a particular system, will simultaneously include the system’s past, present and future states. Therefore, when dowsing through time, one must choose the starting time carefully, depending on the problem. He also adds the option of what is often caled the “idiot response”, when the dowsing response is unable to establish itself, becuase the answer lies outside of the range of answers considered possible. Also, he says that one can dowse to get a future prediction, but he seems to suggest that such a prediction is probabilistic, since it is based on current knowledge.

When searching, sometimes one has to be very precise with the terms used. Perhaps this is one reason why he considered dowsing to work best for really simple problems.

Map dowsing can be applied to schematic diagrams (we have seen this in earlier posts).

One of his more extraordinary uses of dowsing is as private computer. For exmple he calculates logarithms and values for components in circuits.

He considered the dowsing response to be affected by, or reflect, how one perceives reality. This made him sceptical about all dowsing theories, since preconceived ideas could affect the dowsing results.

The considered there to be a connection between healing and dowsing. I think he is referring to effect of one’s mental states and their effect on dowsing.

He simply accepts that dowsing never gives all the answers and that there is no need to form theories about its limitations.

I suspect, although they may not be aware of it, that many talented dowsers exhibit profound psychokinesis (PK) like abilities (perhaps these are present to some extent in all people). He recounts a personal experience.. Perhaps his ability, as well as healing people, could also heal circuits.

Dowsing for the lost Library of Iona

“The Lost Library of Iona”, by Reverand P. B. Willmot.


This is a dowsing detective story. The author was interested in finding out what became of the library originally beonging to the monastery on the Scottish island of Iona, following the monastry’s dissolution in 1561. The legend was that it had been buried on a nearby but remote island. With a vague idea that dowsing might be helpful, he enlisted the help of BSD members, and had offers of help from amongst the best dowsers of the day. Along the way, he was also introduced to people with extraordinarily psychic sensitivities.

Unfortunately, no great discovery was made, but it is interesting to read how, bit by bit, the adventure unfolds, guided by the dowsing results, which were all obtained remotely by map dowsing. However, the story at least demonstrates what is possible through dowsing.

Dowsing one man’s way

Letter from a Mrs Edna Connolly, who had read the book “Dowsing: One Man’s Way” by the former president of the BSD, Major-General Jim Scott Elliot. A very readable book concentrating on the applications of dowsing, including many descriptions of his own experiences.

In the book, Scott Elliot relates how he located missing jewellery, by dowsing a sketched map. This seems to have inspired the Mrs Connolly’s husband to do something similar to locate his wife’s lost wedding ring, with remarkable results. This seems to have encouraged the writer to trust more here intuitive feelings.


A novel way to catch a thief

In the early years of the BSD Journal, there were reviews of several European journals on the subject of dowsing, which were published at that time, but sadly no more. One of these was  “Cespara”. In BSD Journal, No85, 1954, p45, the following brief review appeared of an article in Vol. 9, No. 2, March-April, 1954, of the Italian journal.

“The Magic Pendulum” is an extract from a review of a book by an Italian police officer who began to use the pendulum in 1938 and to use it afterwards in his work. A Danish professor called on him one day to report that he had been robbed at his hotel of 100,000 lire und valuable documents. They both went to the hotel and made enquiries which were fruitless. The professor was annoyed and asked if Radiesthesia had been used. The officer said no; that his department did not favour recourse to such means.  “Then you are many years behind the times,” said the professor. With its aid, in my country, no crime goes unpunished. Now the thief stole the portfolios from the back pocket of my pants and left my pendulum below. Please get me a plan of the hotel quarters, and give me a piece of lead pencil.” From this he took a piece of the graphite and glued it on to the base of the pendulum. Slowly, in his hand, the pendulum traced out on a white paper the design of a human face. The hotel chief was summoned and he at once recognised and named the thief, who was caught with the goods.

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.

Some dowsing mistakes and some applications.

Here is a talk given by Sir Charles Jessel, Baronet, farmer and dowser, “At home and abroad with the pendulum”,


He splits his talk into two parts. The first part deals with his experiences dowsing in the UK. He mentions many practical applications of dowsing, particularly related to his work as a farmer. He also mentions his observations on Earth energies, having been influenced by the work of the classic dowser Guy Underwood. During this part of the talk, he highlights six mistakes he made while dowsing and what he learned from them. In the second part talks about his experiences dowsing while travelling in Greece and Turkey.

Amongst the applications he mentions, (many being farming related) are the following:.

Dating (archaeological) objects.

Selecting job applicants.

Locating leaking pipes.

Using a proxy to dowse for items about which the dowser has insufficient knowledge.

Making optimal settings on farming machinery.

Determining a price to sell something.

Finding lost (garden) tools.

How and where to plant trees.

Sexing shrubs and trees.

Finding mushrooms

He relates six dowsing mistakes he has made, which subsequently improved his dowsing:

1/ His dowsing question was poorly formed leading to the wrong answer. Here he refers to what is known as a ‘witness ray’, or a line connecting two objects that share some similarity, over which the dowser will obtain a reaction. This line he believes can be mis-interptrted for a physical object.

2/ This onw was specific to his interest in dating buildings. When dating a building, date the mortar rather than the stone (which would be formed in another age). It seems that this approach could be generalised to dating other composite objects.

3/ When depthing underground water. It is important to go down carefully from the ground surface though each layer.

4/ When dowsing to pick out a suitable employee. The application letter might not be written by the actual applicant, so care should be taken if using it as a witness.

5/ Dowsing answers might appear to be wrong, but this might be because one has forgotten to specify the time when the answer should apply, ie generally this is ‘now’. Otherwise the answer might be correct but applies to the past, or future.

6/ When searching for objects, be accurate in formulating clearly the object sought and where you seek it.

In addition to these mistakes, he makes an interesting comment about the need for the dowser to know something about the subject they are dowsing. But if this knowledge is not present, then it is possible to use another person’s knowledge, or gain the required know how from books etc. He gives the example of formulating a particular pottery glaze with his son, who could provide the necessary information.

The second part of the talk refers to his experiences dowsing ancient temples Greece and Turkey. This work refers back to the work of Underwood on Earth energies. The results seem highly personal and the reader must make of this what they will. However, I particularly like his concluding remark about dowsers working under Hermes, and to be aware of the latter as a trickster figure. The seventh mistake would then be to mix intellect with intuition!

Australian Diviners

“Australian Diviners” by Noel Raddatz.


This is light-hearted account of dowsing in Australia back in the 1940s. It seemed that back then, Australians were particularlt keen dowsers, what with the need to find water for farming and the deisre to find the abundance of precious minerals. This article concentates on divining for water and gold.

Some diviners have spectacular results, but as the author describes, not all that take up dowsing (perhaps the majority) can provide reliable results. Whether this is due to lack of practice and experience, or lack of innate dowsing ability is not clear. But as he points out to become a good diviner, requires “patience and tenacity”. He ends with an unusual dowsing pendulum incorpotating a sample of the object sought – searching for gold using a gold nugget suspended from a string!

The Super-Sensor dowsing rod.

This article entitled “The Super-Sensor dowsing rod”, has an unknown author. But it is likely to have been written by Frank Jordan, a very experienced American dowser, who appears to have developed and until recently, sold the rod.


The Super-Sensor rod was a rather elegant version of the traditional L rod. It was manufactured from brass, and comprised Teflon bearings giving it enhanced sensitivity, which may or may not be an advantage, depending on the environment one is dowsing in.

The article describes the author’s varied dowsing experiences, from hunting to prospecting. Then mentions uses of the divining rod. However, the main content of the article is that is outlines in some detail, how to begin dowsing.

He begins with how to form and express the search question for the object being sought. The question should be quite specific, being clear in one’s mind what is sought, avoiding ambiguity. But to get started, ask broad, general questions first, then narrow down the questions.

He also suggests before beginning to dowse, to ask whether it is OK to get the information sought, whether you are permitted to, whether you should ask the particular question, and whether you can get the information you want. This is often summed up as “Can I? May I? Am I ready?”, (see post 12-05-2020) and is a more recent development in dowsing practice. He says that asking these questions helps to clear the conscious mind, so that it does not interfere with information from the unconscious mind. The big problem is that preconception and reasoning will cause mistakes, and it is necessary to shut off the conscious mind.

He then mentions certain techniques, such as dowsing maps and using charts or diagrams to get quantitative or subjective values and use of samples He concludes with some very helpful dos and don’ts when dowsing. He stresses the need for confidence that one can dowse, and trust in the results obtained; one should accept the response obtained the first time a question is asked, and not repeat the same question. This is all done through practice and learning from mistakes. He asserts that “… the only limitations in dowsing are the ones you place on yourself. Be inventive”. When one reads the accounts of dowsers in the BSD journals, one can see this inventiveness at play, for as we have seen in previous posts, the information one seeks can be made to manifest itself in a variety of ways, all dependent on the dowser’s imagination.

Experiments at Eastbourne College

Here is a nice short article describing some dowsing experiments undertaken by a group of 10-12 school children, who were attending a boy’s school in Eastbourne, England. The author had taught himself to dowse and led the investigation. Though a short account, it highlights a number of features of dowsing.


First point of note was that the boy’s interests ranged across the spectrum from interested to sceptical, but this had no bearing on whether an individual could obtain a dowsing reaction, a result which is a little counter-intuitive.  Furthermore, the sensitivity of dowsing reaction seemed to depend on the choice of dowsing instrument, so they were allowed to choose the device best suited to them. In fact, a couple of boys could dowse naturally with no instrument.

They began with water detection and depthing. The two depthing methods used were interesting, one involved them imagining they were descending down a shaft, until a reaction was obtained. The depth at which this occurred was the depth of the water and interestingly, this could be doner using any unit of measurement. Another method (inspired by Cryke’s method, see post “Another approach to water divining” on 04-04-2020) involved tracing a circle of dowsing reaction around a metal object placed in the ground immediately above stream, the radius of the circle represented the depth of water. This observation seems to suggest that the conscious mind can impose rules on the unconscious mind concerning how to process information.

Another example of the mind’s filtering ability was also observed when searching for objects on or near the surface of the ground. Here they noticed that to detect objects close to the surface, one had to think “shallow”, but for deeper objects, one had to think “deep”, or the object could be missed.  Similarly, when searching for water, thinking too much of water would miss iron pipes carrying water.

Finally, they observed the effect of other people disturbing their dowsing results. In fact, it was possible for onlookers to “plant” a dowsing reaction in another dowser. It is interesting to speculate, whether this effect was also related to the observation that contact between an experienced dowser and one who has otherwise great difficulty dowsing, can produce results in the latter. This observation has often been reported in the BSD journals.  

Dowsing for vitality

Here is a short account in the BSD Journal illustrates one important application of dowsing, that of dowsing for health.  

“Dowsing by the pendulum”, by Amy Goldwin.


The author uses her dowsing pendulum to determine the “vitality” of her subject in a very simple manner. She holds the pendulum over the subject, to obtain first that she refers to as the subject’s “vibrations” (a reference to the idea in her time, that the dowsing reaction was some sort of radiation). This initial step she could also perform from photographs (akin to map dowsing), or even handwriting. Next, she held it over a protractor, and the line of swing of the pendulum coincided with a number, from 0 to 180 degrees; the lower the number, the poorer the overall health of the subject. She could also identify further insight into the prevailing ailment, by repeating the exercise, but this time holding the pendulum over the protractor, while pointing to organs on an anatomical chart. She could also simply hold her pendulum over the person or their proxy and obtain an insight into the subject’s state of health from one of four response.

This is another example showing that, as has been noted previously, the dowsing reaction can be programmed, and furthermore the response can be calibrated against an arbitrary tool.  (Another instance is the use of a coloured chart when water divining to deduce the purity of the water, eg black might indicate brackish, blue perhaps fresh water). Here a protractor is used, with the advantage that the response can be converted into a (relative) numerical value.

In addition to testing, she dowsed for remedies. She apparently had a range of these, each of which she would dowse over until the pendulum showed the largest swing. How the chosen remedy related to the ailment is not clear, but since some of the remedies were homeopathic, and perhaps her observation that the a remedy did not always correct the same issue, then maybe the healing effect (as determined by her pendulum), might relate more to her intention to heal.

Dowsing with a coconut

Here the author has a short, but particularly interesting account to tell of the time he watched an Indian water diviner at work. But it is water divining in the most extraordinary manner.

“Water-divining in Malabar” by M. K. Krishnaswami, M.A.


As the author points out, in England at this time, the forked stick was perhaps the most common divining device for outdoors work and he comments how forcibly the rod could move for some diviners, “… the intensity of the “spin” is so great that a strong man cannot keep the twig moving; occasionally it flies clean out of the “dowser’s “ hands.” This is suggestive of an additional force at work, beyond that of the dowser tensing the rod to put it into a state of unstable equilibrium. There are other accounts in the BSD journals too, in which extraordinary forces appear to be operating for certain dowsers, and this might be evidence for a macro-psychokinesis (PK). If this explanation seems too incredible, then read the account of how the Indian diviner worked. Taken at face value, this is an extraordinary example of PK at work.

Civil Engineering

Dowsing has a host of practical applications. One profession which has often embraced it is that of Civil Engineering. Presumably Civil Engineers are practical people and if any method is found to get the necessary results in an efficient manner, then they will adopt it. This was particularly so in the age before reliable underground surveying instruments became widely available.

Here is one application from the 1940s. In which the Engineer used dowsing to successfully locate the position of a leak in a reservoir, a finding later verified by visual inspection.

“Water divining and its relation to civil engineering”, by I. Hopkins.


Being an Engineer, he puts forward some ideas, current at the tie, as to the mechanism behind dowsing. But also concludes that there was a definite role for the subconscious mind.   

A very personal dowsing response

Here is a very short, but interesting letter to the BSD from Mr John Browne.


It contains a survey of the pendulum responses of nine dowsers. For those unaccustomed to the use of the pendulum in dowsing, there are typically three actions it will demonstrate. The first is the neutral response, when the dower is posing the question. In many accounts that aim to teach how to use the pendulum, it is suggested to let it swing to and fro along a line. In response to the question, the pendulum will give either a yes or no response. Again, it is commonly suggested, when learning to use the device, to specify two differing movements that can be easily distinguished. For instance, gyration to the left, or to the right are often suggested, the operator being free to assign meanings to either. In addition to the three basic movements, there can also be a fourth action, distinguishable from the others, here it is referred to as the idiot response, because it occurs when the question is not well posed, and neither a yes, or no answer is appropriate. 

In the table, it is interesting to observe that each of the dowsers exhibits a unique set of the four responses, with no two dowsers having the same set. Perhaps another interesting observation is that for some, the neutral position is a stationary pendulum, but none of the remaining three actions has this stationary signature, ie the response to the questioning is always an active one.

As alluded to above, when setting out, the novice dowser may specify the meaning of the pendulum’s movement, or alternatively they might just accept any movement the pendulum exhibits to their request to demonstrate the response to the four situations.  Given the personal nature of the reaction, it seems again that the dowsing reaction is mediated by (unconscious) mental processes, which as has been commented on previously, is subject to a type of mental programming.

Making dowsing central to life

This is the remarkable account of the experiences of one dowser when they put dowsing firmly at the centre of their life as a guide.

“The high prairie adventure” by John Living,


It seems to exemplify what is possible when one fully trusts the dowsing response (with the proviso that one is careful to ask the right question of course). The author recounts a number of incidents in which dowsing successfully guided him, including interestingly some future encounters. This success, further increased his faith in dowsing and through the virtuous circle, apparent synchronicities emerged.

There is an audio version of this article available here:


Several other talks and articles have been converted into speech and are available from the “Talks” section of www.dowsing-research.net

Dowsing with a keyboard

This post concerns a short note taken in translation from the French dowsing journal, La Radiesthesie Pour Tous (L.R.P.T.) of December 1936, page 335 (now sadly a publication no more).  It appears that the dowser was using her pendulum with something simiar to a Ouija board. It is a dowsing practice which I have not found reference to previously, at least in the BSD journals. Here is the summary of the account (tanslated from the original French).

“Last year some Canadian readers visited  the L.R.P.T. office, among whom was a Mme. Sergerie. This lady demonstrated a semi-circular diagram in which letters and figures are inscribed. It is claimed that answers to any questions can be obtained with the help of the pendulum from this diagram, providing that the operator has the necessary aptitude …. Some operators find it better to orientate the diagram before using it, but for others this is not necessary. ” [the original article contained  a reproduction of the figure].

Dowsing along the psi-track

“Dowsing along the psi-track. Have Swedish psi-researchers done something really important – a repeatable experiment?” by J. Tellefsen and S. Magnusson


This is a short account of a remarkable discovery, the ability of a dowser to detect an apparent “line of thought” between an object and a person thinking about that object. This connection which was named the “psi-track”.  The method involved a person (“the sender”), imagining the object hidden at some distant. The dowser would then walk in ever wider circles around the sender, and when they passed over the supposed line connecting the sender with the object, they obtained a dowsing reaction. From these reactions, it was possible to deduce the direction in which the object lay.

The Swedish researchers appear to have conducted their experiments with some care, using double-blind protocols and reported very good results. The article appeared in the BSD journal, but it is a shorter version of one that can be downloaded from the Articles section of dowsing-reacerch.net, entitled: “Dowsing along the psi track – a novel procedure for studying unusual perception” by the same authors.

The implication was that the act of thinking about the object, created some influence that existed independently of the sender. Now although, the psi-track is presented as a novel discovery, it seems similar to suggestions made by certain members of the BSD, in relation to the origin of supposed “Earth Energies”, in which they challenged this orthodoxy, suggesting instead that the energies were really “mind constructs”. For instance, see the following posts:

19-06-2020 – The Beadon Cube controversy.

21-06-2020 – We find what we believe.

However, the method of using the psi-track to locate a lost object (animate or inanimate) does seem to be new. A lone dowser would presumably find the direction in which an object lies directly from their dowsing device. But perhaps, in the case were the dowser is not particularly familiar with the object sought, or maybe their dowsing abilities are not so well developed, errors might occur. In such cases, the psi-track method might offer some advantages. First, the sub-title of the article suggests that the tracks can be can be made by anyone. We might speculate that if there is a deep connection between the sender and the object, it might create a more reliable (perhaps even a stronger) line of connection?

Early map dowsing

Here is a short account by a former British Army officer who learned to dowse for water in the Sinai desert during the first World war:

“Initiation into dowsing” by J.S. Millar.


What was interesting to me was that the episode the author described followed the Gallipoli campaign, which was a time when the army desperately needed water and dowsing came to the fore, (as mentioned in earlier posts). This obviously left quiet an impression on many officers, since some went on to found the British Society of Dowsers.  

The author was taught to dowse by his father, a Lieutenant-Colonel of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, who it one must suppose used dowsing in his former life as a Water Engineer. But one thing that stands out is that the Colonel was actually map dowsing, to locate promising areas, prior to searching for water on the ground. This makes it the earliest reference to map dowsing that I have so far come across, around 1917 for this account, I would say.

Some notes and news

Another wonderful source of dowsing anecdotes in the early BSD journals was to be found in the “Notes and News” section. Here was a collection of short notable news reports and letters recounting the diverse dowsing activities undertaken by members of the society.

Here is an example of two such items. The first deals with finding water in support of the building of a railway in northern Sudan at the end of the 19th Century. It includes a short account of a local man who had a very particular method of dowsing for the presence of water. Also there is an account of the British army using a the dowsing abilities of one of its own soldiers to find water in an otherwise unpromising desert location, challenging the sceptical response to water dowsing, in which the dowser is unconsciously using some in-depth knowledge of the land to find a bore hole.

The second anecdote refers to the hunting of moles and of the location of blocked drains. Interestingly, to assist in finding the moles, the dowser used a handful of soil thrown up by the moles, before moving to the use of the pelt of the first trapped mole, which seemed to provide better results, despite the fact that it did not belong to the next mole sought.


Some dowsing experiences

Here is an example of perhaps my favourite style of article in the Journal of the British Society of Dowsers. A simple account of dowsing practices, devoid of much interpretation. “Some dowsing experiences” by Helen Wedderburn-Maxwell:


The lady, who does not appear to be a dowser herself, describes the abilities of a local dowser, before giving an account of several “experiments” made by her husband, after he had discovered he had an innate dowsing talent.

We see as in the last blog post, that the dowser uses a sample of the object sought, using the motto “Like to like”, and we learn how effective this method appeared to be at differentiating between similar objects. In fact, even a sample was unnecessary, the dowsing instrument only had to be “initialised” for the search, by being placed in the vicinity of where the object (in this case a fox) had been. (She even mentions the use of dowsing in central Germany, to track down criminals, but that this was not always as straight forward as it might seem). This all possibly suggests that there is a mental aspect to the initialisation. More evidence for this comes from the manner in which the diviner sought the depth of underground water.  As we have seen in other posts, the depthing method is personal to the dowser, rather than apparently being a property of the water; the Bishop’s rule did not work for this man.

We are told that her husband appeared to have a natural dowsing ability and set about experimenting with his newly discovered ability. He seemed particularly sensitive to water and the accounts suggest that this was neither self-delusion, nor (in one case at least) possible ESP transfer from spectators, who might have knowledge of the presence of water. An observation of particular interest, is when her friends formed a human chain beginning at one end of the dowsing rod, held by her husband, and ending at the other end, held by a  non-dowser. If there was any beak in the chain, the rod would not move over water. I think that this is the only account of such a phenomenon in the BSD journals. However, we might speculate that it was caused unconsciously by her husband’s intention, or maybe even by her own. We have seen that a person new to dowser may have their ability apparently “initiated” by a dowser, when both hold either ends of same dowsing rod, or even if the dowser uses their dowsing rod to touch the novice. The intention to assist the latter is often reported to be effective. And just to add to the mind over matter conjecture, she ends with a description of a man with obvious dowsing ability, who tried to prevent his dowsing rod from turning, only to have it break in his hands. This is another story recounted often in the BSD journals. Is it due to psychokinesis?

Searching for lost property

Here is a short article about a simple, but still profound, application of dowsing – that of finding lost objects. It was entitled “Lost Property” and describes the experiences of an experienced dowser named Mrs G. Barraclough. It was published in one of the early journals of the British Society of Dowsers and makes an easy read and interesting read.


In those days dowsers often held a sample of the object sought while searching. She refers to the effect of the sample as having an amplifying effect. Some dowsers attributed the dowsing ability to supposed “emanations”, or “radiations” given off by the object, and the sample somehow helped attract these to the dowser. In fact, she makes a reference to a current  dowsing theory attributed to a M. Lakhovsky (M. Georges Lakhovsky, who wrote much about the effect of unknown energies, on the human body and proposed devices to mitigate their effects), in which he suggested the dowsing response is in the ear.

Despite this however, she observed that when searching for the lost property of others, it was not possible to use a sample, but since the ability remained, she concluded that “… all foundational dowsing ability must be psychic.” In which case, one presumes that the effect of the sample was that it helped focus the mind of the dowser. She also remarks that dowsing success was due to “… mentally excluding other radiations without at the same time undue concentration on the objective.” This seems to imply a mental action, in which it is important to free the unconscious mind of conscious ideas. It is a technique often referred to in other articles, (see previous postings).

The finding of other’s lost property, she compares with map dowsing (ability to remotely locate an object on a map and a relatively novel technique at that time), there having been no contact between herself and the object sought. (She also refers to a written description of the object sought, but this has subsequently been verified by many other dowsers.)

She recounts some incidents when searching for her own and other’s lost items. She used a pendulum for her searches. The method she used would have been to ask the pendulum to indicate the direction in which the object now lay. The line of to and fro oscillation of the pendulum, would then change until it swung along a line, the direction of which pointed to the object. Of course, the line indicates two directions, but by moving to another position and repeating the exercise, the pendulum would indicate another line directed towards the object. Therefore, the point of intersection of the two lines should coincide with the position of the object. In the accounts she gives, this indeed happens, but it was not always as easy as it sounds and shows how important faith is when interpreting dowsing results.

The problem of locating one’s own lost items, is that one might have preconceived ideas about where they are, and this can confound the dowsing response. So, searching for the items of others is perhaps easier, if one can maintain the belief that this is indeed possible. Her account of children dowsing is interesting here, in which we might presume that they experienced less inhibitions than adults might.

Interestingly, she notes that when items were deliberately hidden as a means of testing her dowsing abilities, her success was not so good. This she attributed either to her (conscious) need to succeed, which presumably interfered with the working of her unconscious mind, or to the spectator’s consciousness. In the latter case, we might speculate that she is finding the position of the item through ESP from the person who hid the item, or perhaps the intention of any spectators somehow interfered with her abilities. Similar action might account for the reported failure of dowsers when tested in experimental setups. A good example is “A controlled Test of Dowsing Abilities”, by the skeptic James Randi, available in the Articles section of dowsing-research.net. And indeed, dowsers profess that their results are better when working on “real-life” problems, rather than contrived ones. I might then argue that demonstrating thar dowsing works is not a particularly constructive enterprise and that it is better to examine their accounts.

Reducing the complexity

Dowsers ae perhaps famed for their ability to discover underground water, but there are a number of articles in the BSD journals that describe another ability – that of diverting the flow of underground water, without any apparent physical interaction. This ability was reported in the early days of the Society’s existence, when the work of dowsers was largely focussed on divining for underground water, or minerals. Note that a dowser walking along the ground experiences one or more a dowsing reactions above an underground stream. The idea in the early days, was  that water gave out some sort of “emanation”, or radiation, which was picked up by the dowser. From these actions and using their experience, they can deduce where to drill for water and how deep to drill. From the beginning there was uncertainty about whether it was the dowsing reaction that was being diverted, or the actual “stream” of underground water.

There is another aspect to this. As time has progressed, water divining has become a fringe activity in dowsing, replaced by concerns for health. The notion arose that underground streams could be deleterious to one’s health, if they passed under homes or places of work.  For instance, there was the idea of the “black stream” that was particularly nasty. So much attention in recent times has been paid to the detection of these streams and how they could be diverted away from the places they supposedly flow under.

I have outlined the discussion below, based on articles in the BSD journal.  This whole area of dowsing is confusing and opinionated. Apologies for the length of the post, but I think it is possible to tease out some interesting conclusions related to dowsing process.

In the first article,  “Dowsing experiences in Australia”, the transcript of a talk given by a Mr Hawker to the BSD in December 1938.


The article is an interesting account of one diviner’s 20 year, during which he helped to find 300 successful boreholes. In the article, he mentions another dowser (probably the renowned dowser,  Mr H. Busby), who demonstrated an extraordinary ability. It seemed that he could apparently divert the flow of an underground stream, by placing a flat stone on the ground immediately above the centre of the stream, and then striking this stone with a hammer for several minutes. In fact, what was actually observed was a divergence in the dowsing reaction felt at the surface, indicating the path of the stream. After the hammering was stopped, the stream appeared to take up its original course again.

Several months later, this observation was taken up by one of the greatest diviners of the 20th Century – Evelyn Penrose (the life of whom has already been descried in the blog posts of 31-12-2020 and 01-01-2021). She penned an article “An experience and a difficulty”.


In this, she described repeating the hammer and stone test over an underground stream, with two other diviners. After several minutes there was no effect. But after an hour, she recounts that despite the bedrock being granite, the water signal had diverted into a semicircle around her of 9 feet radius, and the water depth had risen by 70 feet. However, she was still unsure whether she had actually diverted the water, or only the dowsing reaction. Therefore, she suggested that it was necessary to repeat the test on an underground stream that clearly issued from the side of a bank or cliff. Any effect on the water might then be observed.

In his article, in issue No26, p65, “The Radial Track”, Mr A. Cook took up the report of Miss Penrose and performed some experiments of his own. He concluded that, “The water is not affected with the striking of a stone above any stream, but the radiations from the stream are.” Here the “radiations” refer to what he considered gave rise to the dowsing reaction at the surface. He also concluded, “It is not necessary to have a stone to strike – just beat the earth with a hammer or stick, or even stamp heavily with the foot.” And in one instance the hooves of cattle had diverted the path of a stream which he had earlier surveyed.

Over time, other dowsers became interested in the observation.

In a letter to the editor (issue No36, p83), a Mr Morton claimed to have diverted two streams using the hammering method.

J. Wheeler wrote a letter to the journal, about “displaced radiations”.


He had dowsed the line of an underground stream and a borehole was being put down, but for various reasons, it was not positioned on the dowsed streamline, but 10 feet to one side. He noticed that during the drilling the course of his dowsing reactions over the stream had moved to lie along a path directly over the bore hole, but when the drilling stopped, the reactions relocated to the original path of the stream. Later, by banging on the ground to one side of the streamline, he was able to reproduce the movement of the line of reaction.   

It was sometime before a dowser found a convenient stream to test miss Penrose’s ideas. R. Erlank, wrote to the BSD (issue No49, p231), about their test on an underground stream, with a reasonable flow, that emerged from underground. It seems that this dowser successfully displaced the path of the stream by several feet, but this had no obvious influence on the issuing flow. It appeared to them that the movement was only the stream indication at the surface and not the water.

Several months later, Miss Penrose wrote another article “Unblocking wells”.


It tells of her experiences using the hammering technique to unblock a well, in which the previously good supply of water flowing into the well, was now only a “trickle”. By dowsing, the blockage appeared to be 10 feet from the well. She used the hammer/stone technique to draw the water back to the blockage point and beyond, at which point no water was seen entering the well. From this she concluded “… it was an absolute proof that water could be stopped from running in the ground.” She then drove the water a further 16 feet away from the blockage, before ceasing the hammering action and allowing the water to return towards the well. She monitored the return journey by dowsing. The water passed the blockage and entered the well, but this time water entered the well as a stream. She had successfully unblocked the well.

In issues No81 and No103, p30 are reports by the dowser Countess Anka Von Knoblauch.


She appeared to specialise in diverting underground streams. Such streams, she considered harmful, if they flowed under homes or places of work. This was an idea that had been introduced into European dowsing in the 1930s. She seems to have heard about “..an Australian dowser who found he could shift underground streams by beating two stones against each other..”.  For her, hammering a piece of iron seemed to work faster, so she used a hammer and specially made steel hand anvil. She never appears to test for the actual presence of water through drilling and seems to have relied solely on using her dowsing reactions. One has to ask, was the dowsing effect really due to the actual presence of water?

Michael Guest submitted an interesting review article “Through dowser’s eyes. A survey of Deraying Techniques” (see also the blog entry – 16-06-2020 – Clearing energy lines)


In which he reviewed the new interests amongst British dowsers  from the late sixties /early 1970s, where the search for underground streams was increasingly replaced with the notion that underground streams are somehow deleterious to health, especially if they flow under homes or places of work. Their  “intent is to nullify or divert the influence : later it becomes to divert the streams themselves, in a literal physical sense.” Interestingly as we saw above, he comments that early methods used “sonic means”, such as “striking the ground with an iron rod”. This was later superseded by a host of less violent/physical methods and the introduction of more passive “devices”, such as crystals and coils.  

What to conclude from all of this? Well, it is not a huge body of evidence, but I would like to posit the following conclusions.

Considering for the moment just underground water, it seems that the dowsing reaction is not caused directly by some physical influence arising from the water, eg radiation effect. Rather, it appears to be more a manifestation created by the mind of the given dowser, as if the dowser is interpreting the information about what they are seeking and reducing this to some sort of  “guide”. Incidentally, rather than treating the dowsing reaction along a line as a metaphor for the water flow, it is more often taken literally, to represent an actual stream flowing underground. This often incites criticism from hydrologists who ague that water does not flow this way.  In the post of 30-09-2020 – The Single-handed rod, there was a discussion of the reaction bands on each side of a streamline, and how these may be used to obtain the depth of the stream (The Bishop’s rule). But for some dowsers, eg the former BSD chairman, Dr Arthur Bailey, the side-bands represent only half the stream depth, ie the true depth is double the distance of the first reaction band from the central stream line. This fits better with the idea that the dowsing reaction arises from the dowser’s unconscious, based on their presumptions about the significance of the reaction (either conscious or unconscious). If we are dealing with a fundamentally mental phenomenon, then the intention of diverting the dowsing reaction is perhaps more understandable. The banging process is simply some ritual behaviour to reinforce the intent, and could be replaced with any ritual which has the appropriate significance for the dowser.

The idea that the dowsing reaction to underground water appears to be mentally derived is quite intriguing. It is not only locating the water, another aspect is estimating the depth of the water using dowsing, for which many methods have been used. For instance, simply standing over the stream and counting down in some unit of length, until a reaction is obtained, to the more elaborate “The point depth method”, see the post of 02-09-2020 – How long is a piece of string? All the depthing methods utilise an anticipated dowsing reaction when the correct depth has been reached. The complexity of the depthing exercise collapses into a single action. It’s the same mechanism as that of locating the water.

And then we might ask, is there any real difference between water and any other object a dowser may seek? We might extend this idea of reducing the complexity of the problem to any dowsing problem. And then we have to consider the so-called Earth energy lines, or whatever term is used for these lines or patterns that span the globe. This is too thorny an issue to consider here, but it does begin to seem that there is something of a  social construct underlying these, see the post of 19-06-2020 – The Beadon Cube controversy.

There is another conclusion to make; what about the observations of Miss Penrose, when she was observed to halt the flow of water, if not necessarily having diverted it? This does suggest a type of psychokinetic (PK) action at a distance. It would be nice to have more accounts from other dowsers. However, within the BSD journals, we do find quite a few instances of the apparent application of PK in various situations, from movement of the dowsing instrument to perhaps even affecting the weather. We know that Miss Penrose was an extremely psychically talented individual, and so we might draw the conclusion that, at least a few exceptional individuals, are able to actually to control the flow of underground water.  

Evelyn Penrose – Maitre Sourcier & Witch

With the year ending and a time to look back, I thought it might be interesting to remember the life of Evelyn Penrose, now deceased, but who I think it is fair to say, was one of the greatest dowsers of the 20th century. The account that follows is a the first of a two-part account of her exploits (both published in the BSD journals in 2020), which are based on her fascinating autobiography.


A case of clairvoyant dowsing

Here is  a reprint from the Quarterly Transactions of the British College of Psychic Science. Entitled “Water divining at a distance”.


It is based on a letter from Mr Frank Hives (F.H.), a member of the college. His cousin, Mr Chas V. Hives (C.V.H.) had a property in Australia. The property had an existing well, but he wanted to improve it by sinking a new borehole. To ensure that this borehole provided water, he decided to enlist the psychic abilities of F.H. and sent him a rough sketch plan. Note that F.H. had never visited the location, and that throughout, it appears that he was living in Africa.

F.H. divined using a crystal. Upon making his mind blank, the crystal turned “cloudy”, then two numbers appeared, 250 followed by 585. The latter remained until he removed the crystal from the plan, only to reappear when he replaced it on the plan.

It seems he also divined using copper wires in some manner, not well described. But these wires usually behaved by “going down” over water, and “rose up” over mineral deposits (“usually iron”). When he passed the wired over the chosen position of the new borehole, the wires rose up, and he saw 250 in the crystal, but the number changed to 585, when the wires went down.

Later, as he moved the wires over the plan, they “vibrated” over a spot very near to the borehole, but under a nearby road. F.H. considered that this was the place where the bore should have been sunk, to a depth of 383 feet.

Later with the crystal in the plan, he observed “a thin blue line, increasing in width as it continued,  as if drawn by an invisible hand, started from a place on the plan, a few yards below the spot where the figures 385 had appeared under the road] and continued right off the plan, passing the present site of the well by about 20 yards…”. He concluded that the well was not on the underground stream.

The position of the new borehole was suggested by a driller.  He appears to have divined the spot, and predicted that water would be found at 180 feet, although he had advised that a better site would have been under the road as per F.H.. A description of the layers encountered during drilling, showed a lot of clay, but basalt at 180 feet and no water, which then gave way to “dolorite” [sic] at 250 feet,  “a very hard igneous rock”, that can contain iron compounds.  The description does not say whether water was eventually found in the borehole, perhaps at 585feet, but the intention was to stop drilling at 500 feet, and so we might infer that it was a failure.

Focussing only on the bore-hole, C.V.H. ignored F.H.’s advice about the underground stream, until after an accidental conversation, discovered that two water diviners working for a previous owner of the property, had located a stream in “much the same direction” as F.H. The article does not confirm whether the stream actually existed, but does show F.H.’s remarkable remote abilities to replicate the findings of three diviners.

At the time this article was written, remote dowsing was still largely considered to be a rare ability for a dowser. Of course, it is extraordinary, but dowsers now consider it to be an ability accessible to most, with practice.  The use of a crystal, and the visualisation of depth information, is I believe, unique in the BSD accounts. While visualising the course of the stream, might share some parallels with reports of several individuals, who could “see” underground water, while walking over land. But still, F.H. truly had exceptional abilities.

Past dowsers ‘talk’ again

Over the year, the dowsing-research site has been slowly expanded. Digitised versions of the journal of the British Society of Dowsers are now being added, beginning with the first edition published on 1933. Over the years, the journals have contained transcripts of talks given to the Society by its members and invited guests. I thought it would be an interesting exercise to resurrect a selection of these talks, and breath life back into them, by using modern technology to convert the text into the spoken word. The process is reasonably time consuming, so some patience is required. However, the resulting videos will be added to the new “Talks” section of the site.  Hopefully you will agree with me that the results are reasonably acceptable and where possible I will provide a link back to the original transcript.

Two short letters

Some of the most interesting writing to appear in the BSD journals are often the letters. Letters can be of complaint, praise, desires, but many of these simply relate the curious experiences of dowsers.  Here are two such letters.

The first, entitled “Ghosts”, is a letter from Michael Jack:


He begins with the observation that he can use dowsing to communicate with his dead wife. She helpfully provides the necessary settings for his washing machine!

He then describes using his dowsing skills to find the identity of a “ghost” he encountered. Amongst the BSD articles there is very little of this nature that has been written, so it is particularly interesting.

Next is a letter from Gillian Collins:


This describes an example of dowsing by proxy. The author’s unconscious appears to have connected with that of her friend, such that the author’s dowsing responded to her friend’s requests. Maybe the author consciously allowed this to happen, but it makes me wonder whether some of the reported dowsing results, might arise from conscious, or unconscious ideas or wishes, espoused by others; maybe akin to the idea of a “meme”?

Alternative car maintenance

Here is a nice tail of a very practical use of dowsing, that of car maintenance. In

“Australian Experiences”, by Alex Deans:


The article speaks for itself, but it shows just how useful and accurate dowsing can be.

There are a couple of other points of interest for those not familiar with dowsing. He uses graphical aids to obtain (in this case) numerical readings, which he says people are “amazed” by the correspondence between readings obtained this way compared with those taken using standard measuring equipment. Also, he uses a pendulum, which typically gave him a binary yes/no response, by gyrating in either an anti-clockwise, or clockwise manner respectively. It might be thought that this was the limit of its use. However, the motion could be nuanced, with any oval motion indicating some uncertainly.

A veteran dowser

Here is an account by a self-styled “veteran dowser”, of 44 years, of his experiences as a dowser in South Africa before WW2.

“Water and mineral divining experiences in South Africa “, by Mr  J. J. Morton.


In his article, he simply narrates some of his experiences, working mainly as a water diviner. It is typical of many down to Earth accounts submitted to the BSD journal in the earlier years of the society’s existence, often by members working in many countries across the World, often dowsing in very tough environment. The society acted as a means of linking these people together, to exchange information. They illustrate how important dowsers were in past days and how practical the activity of dowsing was back then; in contrast one feels to the more spiritual direction it has gone in more recent times.

Mr Morton seems to have been another dowser of remarkable sensitivity, for he describes how he could sense water up to ten miles away. The reaction of his Y shaped dowsing rod seems to have been considerable, which makes one wonder whether some form of psychokinesis was at work here.

He was intrigued by the harmful effects attributed to subterranean water flows. He remarks how trees appeared to be weakened when growing over such flows. And indeed, his own is sensitivity to water, seemed to have a deleterious effect on him, if exposed for some time.

For much of the BSD’s existence, the effect of underground water flows on health, has been of considerable interest to many dowsers. Maybe this effect is real and is mediated by one’s sensitivity to water? But something that has puzzled me often, is that the claims that underground water is causing some ailment, is never substantiated by actually drilling down to the supposed flow. And rather interesting, Mr Morton observed that in his experience, mineral deposits could be interpreted by many dowsers as underground streams, though he himself had a certain “gift” to differentiate between the two. It just makes me wonder.

Dowsing is not just for water

Here is the content of a talk entitled “Dowsing is not just for water”.


It was given by Chris Hinsley, to the BSD annual conference of 1991. It’s a nice illustration of applying dowsing to three unusual ‘practical’ problems. Namely:

  • Identifying certain genes in sheep.
  • Identifying the origin of a plant disease.
  • Locating the prior positions of stones removed from a stone circle.

The interest in the article is not so much about whether the dowsing results were right or wrong. In fact, feedback was only obtained for the first application, and in that case the dowsing failed. Rather, it is how the dowser goes about the task, the steps involved, the questions asked and his analysis of why his dowsing failed.

He says, “The better the understanding of the request the better and more accurate the dowsing results” and stresses the need to establish a clear mental witness. This was easier for the second task, then the first.

When the subject of the quest cannot be easily visualised, a physical witness might suffice.

It seems necessary to know just enough to, but to be careful of preconceived ideas.

Repeating the dowsing question with the same subject, to get better “odds”, and therefore a more reliable result, seems not to work for dowsing.

Map dowsing can be a helpful first step if the search area is large, but site dowsing is necessary for precision.

La Verge de Jacob (Jacob’s Rod)

As a diversion from the BSD journals, I wanted to draw attention to the following addition to the ‘Books’ section of the website: www.dowsing-research.net

It is Jacobs rod : A translation from the French of a rare and curious work, AD 1693, on the art of finding springs, mines and minerals by means of the hazel rod. Translation by T. Welton 1874. The author was a French dowser named Jean Nicolas. This has been added to the books section of the site.

The translation comprises two sections: the translation followed by additional material added by the translator. Only the translation is included here.

It is surprising to read that many of the dowsing methods mentioned in the early BSD journals were in use more than two hundred years earlier. For instance, he mentions the use of the Y rod in preference to the first dowsing rods, which seemed to be simply sticks, the Y rod having better movement possibilities. He also describes the use of samples, These might be attached to the end of the Y rod, or perhaps the rod was touched against an example of whatever was sought.

He mentions some applications of dowsing, other than simply water divning. For instance, searching for stolen goods, settling boundary disputes. His main areas of interest appear to be minerals, ie seeking mines, underground streams. But the rod could also be used for retrieving stolen goods and the perpetrators or settling boundary disputes. But

One particularly interesting point in the text, is that he seems to be the first to write about “the Bishop’s rule” for depthing water (page 41) (this has often been erroneously ascribed to the bishop of Grenoble and the French dowser Bleton, in 1770).

Finally, regarding explanations for the dowsing effect, he afirms that these are of a physical nature, but then in his day, suggesting that it was due to the “emanation of subtle bodies”. But the alternative was to suppose it was some supernatural work, perhaps of the Devil!