Have you seen someone dowsing for gas lines?

At Balticon, a fellow was talking about the practice of dowsing for gas lines - there is evidence of it being done over forty years ago, but it’s difficult to determine how widespread the practice is. I told the speaker I’d ask here to see if anyone at the SDMB can help.

Have you seen anyone dowse for gas lines? If so, where?


(Please, no discussion about the validity/lack of validity of dowsing - I’m just interested in how widespread the practice is).

I’ve seen people trying it. Water lines, too. There didn’t seem to be any reason to think they were actually successful, since the rest of us could guess where the lines were with fairly good accuracy.

I was working as a construction inspector, where I watched people who had to dig holes for various reasons, and hopefully miss the lines. I didn’t see people try it very often, but I have seen it on occasion. This was in various places across New York State.

I don’t even know what you’re talking about, or why someone would do such a thing. A little context please?

I’ve had to find gas and water lines before when I was surveying- mostly so that we had an accurate set of horizontal coordinates, and approximate depths.

What we did was find the plats for the particular land at the county courthouse, go out there, figure out exactly where we were, and go find the pipeline easements. Gas easements were usually pretty easy to find- gas companies usually mark them pretty boldly so that they don’t accidentally get dug up. Water ones weren’t so well marked.

Once we found them, we’d try using our metal detectors to find the pipe. If it was shallow enough (5’-6’ or so), we’d get this odd t-handled contraption- it was a little metal torpedo thing about 5/8" in diameter on a 3/8" shaft, that went up to a t-handle about 6-7 feet up.

We’d basically wet the ground where we thought the pipe was, and then push the torpedo end in. Then pull it out a little, push in a little, and so-on, all the while steadily pouring water into the hole, until we got deep enough to actually hit the pipe.

Once we’d done that, we’d mark where on the shaft the ground level was, and measure that with a tape. We’d also measure how far up the easement we were from some known point. Sometimes that was with a tape, other times we’d set up the gun and shoot the distance & angle if we had got pretty far from our truck.

Lather, rinse and repeat the process every so often (usually 40-50 yards) until we had the specified length of pipeline identified and surveyed.

Not surprising that you’ve never heard of dowsing, what with your living in the 21st century and all.

(Actually, it* is* rather surprising - would that it weren’t.)

I did it in high school physics class. We had coat hangers that were bent at right angles and pointing straight out. We walked parallel to each other on the football field, spread out about 10 meters from each other. When you walked, the rods would cross (or was it repel?) each other. Wherever they crossed, you stopped and dropped a marker. The ‘finish line’ was at the 50-yard line. Once we were all done, we stood back and looked at our markers.

Damned if they weren’t in straight lines.

The lesson was on magnetic flux and induction. Supposedly, the Earth’s magnetic field was changing as we walked…I believe it was North/South. This induced a small current in the hangers which somehow reacted with the metal sprinkler pipes. Since I definitely couldn’t see my classmates or their markers, I doubt it was suggestion. So how did we get them to line up so neatly?

It sounded (and sounds) like bullshit, but then again, we did all line up our markers.
ETA: On review, exactly what the wiki article says.

I’ve been gone from the itty-bitty farm town I grew up in for many years, but we had two dowsers: one was a well driller, and the other was one of the two municipal workers. I did see the latter in action, trying to find lost pipes. What flavor, I don’t know. May have been sewer, may have been gas.
Slight hijack: The funny thing was that the local water table was so high that I could have struck water with my sand shovel.

**Chessic Sense **I believe barely a word of what you are saying but I won’t say more in this thread since the OP asked a specific question to which your post isn’t an answer and starting a debate would derail the thread. If you are going to make implausible allegations about dowsing, start a thread.

There is a million dollars out there for you if you can dowse successfully under controlled circumstances. Amazingly enough, it has never been collected.


The town water department sent out a guy to check for water lines before we put up a fence. He used a dowsing rod in each hand.

I’m not sure how he held it in his hand that was missing a thumb, though.

Small town in Vermont, if that matters.

I could walk onto many properties and locate wells water lines and buried electrical with pretty good accuracy. I’d sure look like one hell of a mystic if I was holding a dowsing rod and pretending like I was using it to find things. What allows me to do so is experience, I know what to look for.

When I hear someone is really good at dowsing what I think most the time is they are full of it and the small percentage that actually find things, through some mental malfunction they credit the stick instead of their own experience.

Thanks guys. I’ll point the fellow from Balticon to this thread - maybe he’ll join in with more questions for you all.

I’ve never seen anyone dowsing for anything, and I used to work for Verizon. I asked a few of my friends who work in outside plant construction and none of them had ever heard of such a thing.

Thanks for all the comments re dowsing for gas lines. It is helping my skeptical inquiry into the practice. In 2008, I talked to an employee of Baltimore Gas & Electric who was using dowsing rods (right-angle, steel) to “locate” gas lines on my street. His own statement, that he did that when his instruments failed to locate the line. Thought it just a one-time oddity, but two weeks later met a utility locator with Utiliquest (probably largest company on East coast doing this work). Asked him if he knew of any colleagues who dowsed for lines, and he smiled and said that he didn’t like to do it, but always had dowsing rods in his own truck for use if all else failed. Then found excellent study by Vogt and Hyman “Water Witching U.S.A.” that mentioned in passing that urban dowsers, a new, more occult group, were dowsing for a long list of things including gas lines. And that survey was done in the 1970s. Have since found tantalizing confirmations, but need many more to make a good case to the regulatory bodies.

Any one willing to write me a letter and sign it re witnessing dowsing for utilities, of any type, could help. Of course, the postings are valuable even if letter writing doesn’t follow.

Bing G

Make a case for what - that people do it or that it works?

I worked for a company that did drilling. For one job, the private utilities locator started by dowsing. I don’t remember if it was specifically for gas lines, but it scared the heck out of me until another locator came out and surveyed the site with the normal array of equipment.

Yes, the dowser found utilities in the same locations as the technology. No, it isn’t hard to guess that there’s a line running between the mete and the control box.

As an intermediate step between postings and sending a letter, people could send you private messages (PMs) if you’ve enabled that feature on your SDMB account.

But putting markers in straight lines isn’t dowsing. And if it isn’t paranormal, Randi won’t pay up.

Thanks for offer to send me email re sightings of people dowsing for utility lines. I am new to this site, or to any sites, but just reviewed my profile. It does allow for anyone to email me.

In answer to very relevant question: no, I don’t believe dowsing works through any occult power at all. I believe it is usually an automatic unconscious action of devices influenced by where the users most expect to find whatever they are looking for. Lots of experimentation bears this out. It took me 4 months, though, to get my gas company to make a firm stand against any use of dowsing to find their gas lines. The regulatory folks will line up quickly to forbid it, but they need to see that it is actually happening before they bother to issue rules against it.

Bing G

There are plenty of ways to create controlled double blind secenarios for any of the dowsing claims, water, power, whatever.