Saturday, August 15, 2015
And Now For Something Completely Different: West Virginia Dowsing
Hello, folks. As said: something different this time [although there has been some coverage of dowsing in the blog previously --- about three posts in ages past].
Here's how this one happened: in the never-ending battle to organize the archive(s), the material which "fell off the top of the pile" this time was a stack of a newspaper called the West Virginia Advocate. The paper was edited by a fellow who we wish there had been more of --- someone intelligent, skeptical within reason, open-minded to mystery, and willing to take the risks of publishing interesting things. His name was Warren E. Duliere, and from what I read of him, we'd probably all like to have had him as a neighbor.
I had purchased a few WV Advocates during a several day visit to the Gray Barker Archives at the Clarksburg, WV library, though I have no idea why they/Gray had them as nothing of UFOs appears there. What Duliere DID feature in his paper were three categories of anomalies: a). Bigfoot reports and claims; b). West Virginia artifacts and cave markings pointing to visitations to the area by Celtic peoples very long ago; and c). Dowsing. The latter is the most manageable bit, so I'll do that. Maybe i'll get enough energy later to do the other two.
Duliere's coverage of Dowsing surrounds his own introduction to the subject, and includes his unique experience with it --- this is the main reason I want to get the "report" out there as it is in such an ephemeral source that it will be lost. Duliere doesn't illustrate this [as he does other topics] so you'll just have to put up with "random" pictures to distract you. Here's what Duliere says:
This was in 1985-86. He and his wife were wanting to finalize their decision to build a home on property in the hills, but removed enough from any town that there was no readily available water supply. Before going forward, they wanted to get assurance that they had water on the property.
They contacted a number of well drillers, but were given no optimism whatever. The drillers claimed familiarity with the area, and would not even look at the property. Finally, they heard of a sort-of "different" type of driller in Stephenson, VA named C. Edward Shirley. Shirley had a good reputation as a well-finder, but even he was doubtful before coming to the land. This is because all these guys knew practical geology and knew that this particular sand/sandstone strata had very poor results in the past. Plus, it was a risk for drillers to drill in, as the sandy soil thereabouts had produced several situations where the drillers could not extract their equipment, with the result of catastrophic economic loss.
But he showed up, dowsing rods in hand --- much to Duliere's amazement and incredulity. Shirley however took the risk out of the situation by saying that if didn't bring in a satisfactory well, there would be no charge. ... So Duliere watched him get to it.
Shirley used the bent welding rod method of dowsing and began walking with the rods pointing forward. Duliere found it difficult to buy when the rods began to swing out to the sides and then go completely "backwards" as Shirley crossed certain points. This action of the rods happened slowly, and Shirley repeated the procedure several times with apparently consistent results. Duliere didn't believe him when he said that this indicated an underground stream at the key point twelve feet wide and running away along the base of the hillside.
Trying to appease his skepticism while not insulting Shirley, Duliere said: can anyone do this? Shirley, a lifelong "victim" of skeptics, but one who had retained some humility and sense of humor, replied: you have to be full of shit and half nuts. Duliere responded that people had informed him that he met both criteria, so let's try it.
What Duliere reports next is rather astounding to me. Not that the rods "worked", but the way they worked. As he walked towards the alleged stream line, the rods began to slowly turn. He was shocked to feel this reality happening. He tried to stop it by gripping tighter and tighter. The rods moved anyway, right through the force of his grip. And, they moved oppositely to the way that they had for Shirley. They crossed inwards. But the rods moved for both men in the same relationship to the spot on the ground.
Shirley laughed out loud "Look at that! He's crazy as hell. He's got a short circuit! The rods are crossing on him instead of spreading apart." As Duliere continued to walk, the rods continued to move until they first pointed at himself and continued until they pointed away from one another, having now made a 3-quarters circle rotation [whereas Shirley's rotation to the same orientation had to transverse only 90 degrees "going the short way"].
Duliere speculated that as the rods turned all the way, he must have been walking above the middle of this underground stream. It took the rods twelve feet to make their moves; the same as the width that Shirley had said. Duliere then walked backwards and the rods reversed their behavior, which included the palpable feeling of force overcoming his hand grips. Now convinced that Shirley [and he] had actually located an underground stream, he suggested that this was where Shirley should dig. Shirley said no.
Saying that the site was too close to the bottom of the hill and a risk of catching up his equipment, he took off witching the direction he thought the streamflow went. 200 feet further on, he declared that this was a good spot and that there was "a damm underground lake with one helluva lot of water" down there. Again Duliere's skepticism flared; this new site was further away from his prospective home [by the 200 feet] and also, conveniently, quite near where Shirley had already parked his drilling rig. The two took this good-naturedly, but Duliere still wondered. Then his wife showed up.
Dragooning her into the "experiment" [rather irritatedly to begin with], she couldn't detect any force on the rods at all and they didn't move even at the original point of the "finding." BUT, as she continued on towards the alleged "lake", the rods suddenly twisted in her hands, spreading apart, as they did with Shirley, and she shrieked: "Oh My God!!". From then on there was no stopping her from testing the area with the rods, and she became a total proponent of Shirley's claim that the "lake" was where to dig.
A few days later, the Duliere's were proud owners of a 180-foot deep well, running 70 gallons per minute.
Duliere, for a while, used similar rods to test some of the other information that Shirley had made about the property and its near surroundings. The rods, though "backwards" for him, acted out according to Shirley's opinions about water availability each time.
So what had gone on here? Duliere certainly wanted to know. He made a historical search for what the ancients and mediaevalists thought about dowsing, feeling that he had located references to dowsing in classical Greece, China, and the Bible [I doubt that last one as it is the reference to Moses striking with his staff the rock in the desert from which ran forth water. This COULD be allegory for water witching but there is a better naturalistic explanation involving breaking the crust of a certain type of accretion to allow access to internal water deposited.] The one of these that fascinated me was the reference from Herodotus that the Scythians had been using divining rods that far back in time. If so, this gives possible support for the ancient Irish tale of druid mages finding a lost person utilizing something sounding very much like a witching stick.
Duliere also referred briefly to the several studies that had been done which seem to give controlled data for the phenomenon. In an earlier blog posting, I reviewed some of these, and I believe that the evidence for some unexplained phenomenon here is plenty sufficient to credit it. There ARE also plenty of examples of crap out there though, so one needs to stay "Duliere-ian" with an open-mind and a savvy skepticism with full crap detectors functioning. An example: someone set up a test of dowsing for several practitioners who turned in astonishingly positive water-finding results ["The Alabama Evidence"]. Geologists later pointed out that water was everywhere in that county within 20 feet of the surface. And, though some dowsers seem to have the gift [like Shirley], many don't. One professional driller interviewed by Duliere said that his highest rate of failed wells came when he was brought in "behind dowsers" to drill a well.
BUT... since it seems to be going on, what is it THAT IS going on?
There are several leading hypotheses for dowsing:
A). It's just bunk. You're bound to hit water most of the time.
B). The "good" dowsers, though honest, find water because they have spent a lot of time "in the land" and have a practical-though-subconscious feeling about where water likely is.
C). The material in the "rod" interacts with some force created by the water [usually felt to have to be moving water] and twists of its own accord.
D). The human senses this by some subtle electromagnetic field sense, and subconsciously twists the rod without being aware that the rod has nothing to do with it.
E). The human does it, but by some clairvoyance and subconscious physical response.
F). Both human and rod material have to react in synch to accomplish the "trick", whether it's based in physics or based in psi.
Though there is a bunch of bunk here, hypothesis "A" just doesn't cover the best evidence at all. Hypothesis "B" doesn't seem to either, as there seem to be evidences that "naive" persons can succeed at certain challenges with dowsing ... though two very famous proofs of dowsing, both involving professional archaeologists who "came out of the closet" to admit that they used dowsing to make their dig discoveries, COULD be assigned to hypothesis "B". I do not believe that there is any good evidence for "C", the rod acting on its own. Ivan Sanderson tried to test this, I believe, and his results were unconvincing. The "feeling of force" though would lead people to credit the hypothesis that something is happening with just the rods themselves.
My reading of the subtle human sensory perception literature does not give me any confidence in hypothesis "D". This is not because our sense preceptors "don't have it in them" [we are constantly stunned by the subtlety of what we can perceive], but because "D" would require such low-level stimuli to force major muscle groups to act outside of conscious volitional control --- we just don't see that happening in anything like normal life. So, it's coming down to "PSI" for me. Trimming off the "bunkum" and the "unconscious savvy", what's left for me is truly anomalous action in the non-physical-textbook world. .... so sue me. I'm Out Proctor on this one and happy for it. The REAL Proctor WV isn't too far from Duliere's place anyway.
There was a guy, ex-engineer [engineers are often more willing than scientists to explore stuff like this], who published in FATE magazine of all places, in 1966, an article pleading for we humans to dump our unhelpful prejudices and seriously study dowsing. His reasoning was correct. This was/is an anomaly which seems clearly real, and testable, AND potentially a door to understanding wide potentials about the intercommunication between the human mind and the outside world.
Why don't we take this track? Who knows what destinations might be down that way?
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