Leroy Bull was about 12 the first time he dowsed. He and his cousins were at a family reunion in Watertown, New York, and his grandfather, a dairy farmer and water dowser, took them all outside, handed them willow sticks, and told them to find the underground water vein. “Mine snapped down so fast it surprised me,” the 77-year-old Stamford resident recalls.
That was just the beginning of a lifelong fascination and side career in dowsing. A former federal food inspector, Bull says he has found about 3,200 wells on four different continents so far. He says his accuracy rate is about 95 percent. The rare misses, he says, have to do with rock formations that can get in the way of an accurate reading.
Most people associate dowsing with finding water, often using sticks made from willow or witch hazel that point downward or pendulums that swing over a water vein. But that’s not all dowsing is said to discover. Dinosaur bones, bodies lost in lakes, lost pets, missing stones from engagement rings, holes in pipes creating underground leaks — Bull has been called to find all this and more. “My wife and I have been flown to Japan 12 times for me to find time capsules buried by grade-school kids,” he says, noting his biochemist-biophysicist wife also dowses. “In 12 trips I’ve found 13 time capsules.” Bull also does remote dowsing, standing over a property map with a pendulum to discover water veins, for instance.
“The equipment is just a means to the end,” he says. “A knife, fork and spoon are used to propel food to your face. The equipment is just to show you you’ve found the energy.”
While Bull and other dowsers — the American Society of Dowsers, with about 2,000 members, has chapters across the U.S. — point to their successes as proof that dowsing works, the scientific community remains skeptical of this tradition first uncovered in cave paintings in Africa dating back 6,000-8,000 years. An article by the U.S. Geological Survey, a part of the federal Department of the Interior, notes that water exists under so much of the earth’s surface that it would be hard not to find water. “To locate ground water accurately, however, as to depth, quantity, and quality, a number of techniques must be used,” the report notes.
Bull remains nonplussed. “You and I have been living in a primordial soup of frequencies,” he says. “All you do with your head is separate it out by recognizing the frequency of what you want to find.”
Dowsers, he says, use both sides of their brain in ways that other people may not. “You and I feel our environment in our medulla oblongata [early brain],” he says. “If you can send information to your cortex, then you know what you feel from your environment. Now your conscious mind must tell your arms when to turn your tool. If you can’t send the information you feel from your environment from your medulla to your cortex, you can’t do it.”
At this point in his career, Bull, who is one of about 100 dowsers in Connecticut, doesn’t necessarily need a rod or pendulum to sense what is missing. His daughter, a medical physicist at Sloan Kettering, uses her hand to sense water and other objects. “When her palm turns warm, she walks that way,” he says.
“You see in your mind’s eye the answer,” he continues. “You can ask the pertinent question and see which way the pendulum is swinging.” He tells a story of standing on property where people were building a house and wanted to know where to dig the well. “All of the land was going uphill away from me. I could see it all at the same time. I saw little gold lines running through the grass. I realized they were underground water veins. In the upper-right-hand corner of the lot was a place where they cross, and in my mind’s eye it was going beep beep beep. I quote ‘saw’ that intuitively without using the stick. It becomes automatic, like power steering.”
Asking the right question is critical to dowsing success, Bull says. “ ‘Where is the best location for a water well for these people for what they want to do?’ The rod will swing when you walk over the place that answers that question. You need to be concentrating on the target you want. If you think of your new Subaru, you’re going to miss.”
Dowsers typically use one of the following: y-rods (forked stick, divining rod), which are usually 12-24 inches long and made of wood, metal or plastic; l-rods (angle rod, swing rod, pointing tool), usually made from wire; bobbers (wand, spring rod), any flexible rod, branch or wire; or pendulums, anything you can hang on a string or chain.
Asking the right question is critical to dowsing success, dowsers say. It may take a series of questions to get all the information a dowser needs, including asking, for instance, about the depth of a particular vein of water.
Dowsers believe it’s important to ask permission before starting to dowse. “Can I? May I? Should I?” Bull has tweaked the “should” question to “Is this the appropriate time?” “Shoulding is not a nice thing to do to people,” he says.
Source: The American Society of Dowsers