Mystery of the Dowser

Last month the Government of British Columbia appointed Miss Penrose, at a high salary, to be official dowser, water-witch or diviner, to the Department of Agriculture. The evidence of this singular power goes back some 400 years. It seems to have been first employed in finding not water but precious metals. The miners of Germany used a forked rod for prospecting, the rod turning suddenly when gold or other metal was in the ground immediately below them. The tin mines of Cornwall were nearly all discovered by German dowsers brought specially from Germany with the approval of Queen Elizabeth. A striking instance of water finding is given by St. Teresa, who, having established a convenant, was hard put to it to procure an adequate water supply. In Spain there was a whole class of seers having the Arabic or Moorish name Zahoris. They professed to find water and metals.

Divining Rod

Tracked criminals

Three great French dowsers attracted considerable attention, at least in their own country, which was 200 years ahead of England. They were Jacques Aymar, Barthelmy Bleton, and the famous Abbe Paramelle.

Aymar was a poor man mason of Dauphiny, who won notoriety by tracing criminals. His reports were found to be correct on the persons involved, their route, and the exact point at which they had crossed the Rhine. When found, the culprits confessed their crimes, being the last to suffer death by the wheel.

Similar cases have been recorded in the present century, and although the dowser's evidence is not formally presented as evidence by the French police, it has been employed as a clue by the Surete, the criminal investigation department, itself, and has led to correct results.

Less startling than Aymar was Bleton, whose remarkable finding powers were scientifically tested. Dr. Thouvenel, then inspector-general of water supply in France, wrote a book about him in 1781. Bleton in his tests revealed all the hidden water pipes in each engineering scheme he was taken to see. He found many supplies of water for French aristocrats on their estates, and he did this regularly for 30 years.

Bleton had his critics. Their arguments show how little understood was his power. It never dawned on half the scientific men of France that the power could be subjective, and be genuine. While one faculty of medicine supported Bleton's claims, a great scientist declared him a fraud, because while the rod moved in Bleton's hands it did not move in his own. This merely proved that the scientist was not a dowser; it proved nothing about Bleton, who went on finding wells every week and every day. The Abbe Paramelle was the most renowned dowser of his time, and today one of the greatest international dowsers is a French abbe recently brought to London by English industrial firms, Abbe Gabriel Lambert of Nice.

The abbe's success

The Abbe Paramelle, in his religious or ecclesiastical preferment, found himself , in Lot, a dry arid region in which the farmers were put to much labour in carting water. The county council, as a result of his labours, made a declaration which is of interest, because critics declared the abbe's so-called power to be either a fraud, or, if true, to be diabolic.

"Whether," said the council, "he be a sorcerer or a messenger of God, we do not know, but this we do know and publicly declare to, all France, that whereas we were perishing for want of water, now by his help we have an abundance."

Exercising his gift until he was 65 years old, the abbe found some 10,000 sources of water supply which had been previously, unknown and unsuspected. The Government estimated the value of His wells at 5,000,000 francs additional1 to the national wealth of France.

A small literature has grown up since 1500, mostly Continental. One of the most famous books illustrated by woodcuts is called "La Verge de Jacob". It is written by someone whose Biblical knowledge was faulty, for he meant not Jacob's rod but Moses' rod.

In England we find references to divining by De Quincey in is "Modern Superstitions", in 1840. As a matter of fact English dowsers were just as capable as their Continental brethren, although not of such great and widespread reputation.

Notable names were those of William Lawrence and John Mullens. Both of these men lived to a fine old age, and practiced dowsing for some 60 years.

Uses only his bare hands

Today there are several dowsers, men and women, of international reputation, both professional (fee taking) and amateur. Leicester Gataker is a notable professional dowser who uses his bare hands only. Benjamin Tomkins had a distinguished career in South Africa with the De Beers Company. A dozen more English professionals could be named, some of whom have inherited the gift.

Among amateurs who take no money are Colonel Hugh Rose, the Dean of Westminster, Lord Farrer, Archdeacon Earle, a judge, several large land-owners of county families, two or three parish clergymen, and several Army captains, some of whom rendered valuable service in finding water both in France and on Gallipoli.

The late Duke of Argyle was a dowser and so was Andrew Lang.

More remarkable is the case of the boy named Lockyer. There is another remarkable boy in the United States, Guy Fenley, of Texas, who began dowsing some years ago at the age of 14. Also in the United States is Bob Wellington, a fine dowser, who is a black man.

All sorts and conditions of men have this power and women. Miss Clarissa Miles is the greatest woman dowser of England. She entirely altered the water supplies to Chirk Castle, and doubled the supply to the municipality of Chirk, in Wales. She acted as percipient in the telepathy experiments across the English Channel with Miss Ramsden years ago.

What is the explanation ?

How is it done?

Many theories have been propounded. It has been claimed that there is an affinity between metal and the wooden rod. No one knows what this really means. If it be true, can the same rod have affinity for both metals and water ? It seems unlikely.

Tradition gave to the willow a sympathy with water. The weeping willow bent, it was said, in the direction of the water as a tree; a twig of the same tree broken off did the same. This answer will not do.

John Mullens often used a piece of wire, and a noted German dowser invariably uses today a pendulum of string, having at the end of it a fine fresh German sausage. The rod wire or sausage, is purely a mechanism by which something is manifest.

Gataker uses no rod or wire, but bare hands. The power is in the dowser.

"Electricity", says someone. It was found that when put into insulating boots dowsers ceased dowsing. But a further shrewd experiment showed that if put into insulated boots without knowing that they were insulated, the dowsers went on as before. A recent report ascribed the power to a remarkable knowledge of geology. Wellington, the negro, and the two boys cited know nothing of geology. Mullens could find sovereigns in a garden as easily as water. In some countries dowsers bend rods up, and In others down.

The movement is, no doubt, due to unconscious muscular action, but that does not explain why unconscious muscular action takes place at certain, spots of ground. Miss Miles gives clear testimony that she sees and her agitation turns the rod, even in opposition to her conscious will. There appears to be only one theory under which the diverse phenomena of, dowsing can be united, and that is clairvoyance, seeing objects hidden or distant in space. This rare power is known to psychologists, but it remains a mystery even to them.

By professor J. Alexander. Gunn

Wellington Times, 8 December 1932