Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Water witchery

Interesting article on dowsing in the New York Times:
Phil Stine is not crazy, or possessed, or even that special, he says. He has no idea how he does what he does. From most accounts, he does it very well.

“Phil finds the water,” said Frank Assali, an almond farmer and convert. “No doubt about it.”

Mr. Stine, you see, is a “water witch,” one of a small band of believers for whom the ancient art of dowsing is alive and well.
I was once accused of promoting ignorance and superstition by a story I told about dowsing.  When I was very young and we first moved to this area, my dad became acquainted with an elderly man who was a dowser.  He offered to dowse our property.  As far as I know, he never charged anything, he just did this for anyone who wanted it to be friendly.  The guy who was drilling our water well had already decided on a site.  After a few minutes with his wand, the old dowser said something like, "Yep, there's water down there.  But it ain't no good."  They drilled the well anyway.

He was right.  The water was so full of iron it couldn't be used for anything but watering the cattle, and they probably didn't like it much.  It would turn coffee green.  God help you if you washed your clothes with it.  We had to bring water from my grandmother's house in a nearby town to have water fit for drinking and cooking.  We washed our clothes at her house.  Many years later when I was in high school, and we were doing water hardness experiments in chemistry class, I stopped by the old place and got a jar of water from the well that's still there, although now it isn't used for anything but watering a garden now and then.  When I got to school I went to the science classroom and dropped it off with the teacher.  He taped a label to it that said "Alan" so we would know who it belonged to.  That afternoon during class, he got out the jar and it was orange.  The iron suspended in the water had rusted after being exposed to air.  Our hardness tests were done with some soap.  We would use an eyedropper to drop one drop at a time until a noticeable soap film formed on top of the water.  Most of the other samples formed a film after only 5 or 6 drops.  This stuff got up to 100 drops and it still hadn't formed a film.  The teacher started squirting the whole eyedropper full into it at a time.  It never did form a film.

But anyway, after we had lived there for a few years my dad sold the place to a family friend, who also bought another big section of property behind it.  The elderly dowser came out again and did his trick.  He told our friend where and how deep to drill for good water, and a new well was drilled according to his instructions.  The water from that well is perfect.  The two wells are about 400 yards apart.

So believe it or not, and maybe it was only coincidence.  But that's something strange I've seen with my own eyes.


  1. I've seen similar stuff done by dowsers. I have no explanation of how it works.

  2. Some of my family and I can dowse I can't tell you how deep or how good but I have found several septic tanks for friends and family members ans marked out the wires running through the concrete floor in my high school craft shop.

    The jewelry teacher taught me how. I don't know haw it works either, I just know how to do it a little.

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