What's the dope on "dowsing" for graves?

I’ve been following the news and recent conviction of the serial killer, Gary Hilton, in Florida. Evidence indicates that he’s probably killed about half a dozen people. However, there is a small fringe group of “crime junkies” or whatever they are called, on the internet who are convinced that the guy has killed scores to hundreds of victims.

Several of them claim that they are using “dowsing rods” in the woods where the killer often camped and that the rods clearly indicate that there are victims’ graves there. They complain loudly and bitterly that law enforcement is refusing to investigate due to some coverup or whatever and that the graves are being ignored. :rolleyes:

Here’s a link to a page with some dowsing claims: http://websleuths.com/forums/showthread.php?t=58428&page=5 Guy says “I am a grave dowser and have the ability to locate graves”.

I have done a bit of googling on this “dowsing” thing, looks like a bunch of nonsense. But seems like a who lotta people actually believe in it.

Here’s a link about Department of Energy testing dowsing: http://www.time.com/time/columnist/jaroff/article/0,9565,231110,00.html

So, what’s the straight dope on “dowsing”?

It doesn’t work.

You seem to be working with the assumption that these two statements are contradictory.

Sorry, you’re right, they aren’t. What I wanted to say is that there sure seem to be a lot mainstream (eg not fringe new-agers or whatever) people who swear by it. If you google it, you’ll find dozens of cites for employees of utility companies use dowsing rods on their jobs:

You name the silliness, and I can show you the multitudes that swear by it.

Dowsing is an old art used all over the world. Dowsing is used to try to find lots of things but water, underground minerals, and buried utility lines are the most common. It is a strange phenomenon that you can try yourself. Dowsing rods made out of wood or metal will seem to very forcefully pull in a certain direction if you hold them in front of you under tension. It is a psychomotor effect but a powerful illusion even to the person doing it. Sometimes people can be convinced that it works because water or minerals are just about anywhere you did in some areas making for a strong confirmation bias. Other times, people just get lucky or basically already know where something is based on other clues and they just use the dowsing rod to confirm them. Dowsing for graves isn’t a traditional use for it but some people belief it works based on psychic intuition and can be used to locate anything you want it to.

Dowsing doesn’t work. Proof of that is the lack of winning the million-dollar prize that has been offered for many years by the James Randi Educational Foundation in Florida. Anyone who can demonstrate – under proper observing conditions where cheating is ruled out – an ability to find something using any kind of dowsing procedure can claim the prize. Many have tried, none have succeeded.

Please have those utility workers or that gravedigger apply for the prize so they can win it. Should be easy if their claims are valid. Should be a failure if they aren’t.

So the straight dope on dowsing is it is bull. Bigtime bull.

Dude, if you can bring a rod, you can bring a shovel.

Literally The Straight Dope on Dowsing:

Oy Vey. I assume you know what you’ve done? Might as well wave a red flag at a bull.

Oh well, I’ll bring the popcorn. Multi-page trainwreck incoming. Should be highly amusing, though.

In other words, Argumentum Ad Populum is still a fallacy.

It actually works just as well as dowsing for water or oil or anything else! It’s got that going for it at least…


I know, I know. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. Maybe one in a hundred will actually listen.

Is this unusual?

There is a very old grandmotherly type lady in my area that dowses for graves to help out a cemetery restoration group.

This is the only woman I am aware of that claims this ability, most (all?) portrayals in the media seem to be male.

Is what unusual? That people believe the most ridiculous stuff without thinking? Sure. Is dowsing for graves more unusual than dowsing for anything else? No. People have claimed to find anything and everything with a dowsing rod or pendulum. The only thing that hasn’t been claimed is the one million $ prize for doing it, however, so that should tell you something.

Interesting, but many fields are predominantly male. Does that mean anything to you?

If that’s what you believe…


Where is Peter when you need him?

I was visiting distant relatives in Louisiana, and an older aunt was a huge promoter of this. :rolleyes: She demonstrated to us how she could determine where a grave was, what the sex of the dead person was, and which end had the head. :eek:

I let her teach me the whole process, and of course kept my opinion to myself. It was very entertaining, although later in the car my wife and I laughed our asses off. :smiley:

This not-very-surreptitious baiting of other posters ends here.

Knock it off.

[ /Moderating ]

What’s to stop these bitterly complaining “crime junkies” from digging up one or more of the alleged burial spots? Bring a skull in to the authorities, and you’ll have their attention fast.

Thanks. Now I’ve got this O’Kaysions song in my head.

*I’m a grave dowser
I’m a grave dowser
Here comes one now
Mmmm, mmm, mmm

Whenever I detect
Bodies that no one else expects
I play the game I do so well, oh*

There is also potential here for a spin-off from my sure-to-be-a-hit TV series, Cadaver Dog.