By Tony Harrington
Prior to being adapted and implemented by ghost hunters within their investigations, dowsing rods were simply a means by which individuals once searched for elements buried within the ground. These elements ranged from water to iron, from gold and silver to petroleum. How the process works is unknown and there has never been scientific evidence to substantiate accuracy.
As with modern tech such as EMF detectors and thermal cameras being adapted for use within paranormal investigations, so too did this early form of detecting energy.
The theory is that the rods act as a conductor of hidden energy sources, and that spirits reside within these fields and draw upon the energy to manifest themselves. Because spirits are intricately connected to energy fields then they could, in theory, manipulate the rods to respond to yes or no questions.
Dowsing for water sources and precious metals dates back to the 15th century. In fact, it was then considered an act of occultism and declared by Martin Luther to break the first Commandment. The late 1600’s found the act of dowsing to be considered satanic but oddly enough, the 1700’s found the rods being employed in the first “paranormal” means of tracking and indicating witches and occultists.
Abuse and deliberate misuse of the rods to wrongly convict individuals led to a decree forbidding the use of the rods for the purposes of justice. [Thomas Fiddick (2011), Dowsing: With an Account of Some Original Experiments, Sheffield, United Kingdom: The Cornovia Press, p. 3,ISBN 978-0-9522064-8-4]
Modern rods are typically made of metals such as iron or copper or other conductive metals. In the early days the rods were created from porous woods so that they could bend at the presence of moving water.
In recent times the act of dowsing has been all but discredited through various experiments and tests suggesting that dowsing is the equivalent of a random guess. A study conducted in Munich, Germany over the course of two years in the 80’s found that of forty-three test subjects skilled in dowsing, only six of those individuals were able to accurately determine the course of running water under a barn, with the flow of water being controlled by third parties who could randomly switch the direction of the flow using a buried pipe system. Of those six, even the best dowser was only demonstrating a 0.0004% advantage over a mid-line guess.
Despite evidence to the contrary, many individuals within paranormal groups will turn to the rods as a means of communicating with any spirits that may be present.
The act of dowsing is rather simple. The rods are held firmly in each hand and do not themselves move. Instead, the rods are embedded into the handles on a pivot allowing the rods to swivel. The handles are held closely to the chest or abdomen of the dowser to prevent accidental manipulation of the rods, the dowser’s legs are spread shoulder width to ensure a stable stance void of swaying.
Instructions are announced to any spirit present on how the rods are to be used. Ground rules are established in how the questions are to be answered. Typically, crossed rods indicate an answer in the positive. After each question the spirit should be asked to uncross the rods. A negative response is typically indicated by the lack of manipulation. Because of this you will want to periodically ask the spirit if they are still there to gauge whether the lack of response is a negative response to a question or because the spirit has departed the scene.
The downside to using the rods is that the information you glean is often limited and unless you have prior knowledge of events surrounding the spirit or the alleged haunting, it could be an effort in futility determining just with whom you are in contact.
Some questions you can ask to determine the nature of the presence:
1) Are you male?
2) Are you female?
3) Are you a child?
4) Are you an adult?
5) Were you human?
6) Did you die here?
7) Were you murdered?
8) Did you die of natural causes?
Obviously if you know details about the case you are investigating you can ask more targeted questions and perhaps receive better results.
Additionally, some investigators ask the spirit to manipulate the rods to point the group to important areas within an investigation scene, using the rods as a sort of lead.
Dowsers will often caution those just starting out that the act of carrying on a session with a spirit can cause fatigue and nausea/disorientation as the spirit is supposedly using the energy of the dowser to manipulate the rods.
The Spirit Seekers have used the rods during investigations to varying degrees. More times than not though the results are inconclusive and make no sense in relation to the investigation.
So just who is moving the rods? Many believe that the movement is caused by subconscious muscle movement of the person holding the rods, similar to the belief that the moving planchette of a Ouija board is nothing more than subconscious movement of the participants. Others believe that the rods move on their own but that the movements have a more earthly explanation; that the rods are conductors for magnetic fields, water, and other elements and the interference is causing the rods to cross and uncross.
Whatever the reason, the rods have been in use for centuries and many people believe in their power. Be it finding underground wells or communicating with the dead, the rods are destined to be a part of paranormal history well into the future, and something with that kind of staying power is nothing to shake a stick at.