State Dept. of Transportation Archaeologists forced to use ground penetrating radar and magnetometers to dispute location of cemetery located by man dowsing with wires

By walking lengthwise down the grave, he can tell the height of the deceased, he said. The rod in the right hand swings to the right if the remains belonged to a male and left if female, he said. A person born in the Southern Hemisphere has reversed polarity, Estes added.” (Thanks, Puggy J. Jones!)


  1. Perhaps we should take up a collection to buy the poor archaeologists a ‘Facepalm’ poster for having to endure such a farce…

    1. Call it a farce all you like. I’ve seen someone who ‘knew what they were doing”  mark a site every bit as accurately as the dig safe crew we were waiting to have show up.  Not that work proceeded on his say so, because that’s not something an insurance company is terribly understanding about if they’re wrong, but I’m not the skeptic I once was. You definitely can find some shallow anomalies that way. No idea why.

        1. Aside from the part where he showed me and it sorta seemed to work and I got a little creeped out. I’ve run a GPR, both the old acrid paper feed style and the modern sled style with digital readouts. All that said, GPR is much more accurate and I would rely on it 10 out of 10 times.

  2. It’s 2012. I’ve given up my dream of a personal flying car. At this point, I’d settle for people being smart enough to recognize dowsing as a load of crap.

  3. At the risk of giving comfort to the superstitious, the dispute is whether the construction site was previously a graveyard.  The use of dowsing (and whether it is effective) is incidental to the question.

  4. Independent laboratory tests conclude the world is jam packed full of idiots!  And that no amount of obviousness can change the fact that common sense just isnt common anymore.

  5. While dowsing sounds like paranormal stuff to me and scientifically there’s not much reason why it should work, I have seen someone doing it, several times over. He checked for water in many places 10’s of miles apart and he found water every time. Unless that whole area was just one big aquifer underneath, which I highly doubt because of all the mines in the area.

    He’d indicate the veins of the underground rivers, which direction they flowed and more or less how deep they were. He was never off by much more than a meter or so, with the various site’s water depths varying greatly.

    We watched him find water on other properties before my dad got him to dowse on our property. He found several rivers converging/crossing  in one spot. We had a borehole sunk and found so much water that even in times of drought we could pump 24/7 and not run out. There were mines either side of our property that should have drained such an aquifer if it existed.

    So I don’t know what to think… I just know I’m still skeptical…

    1. There is no such thing as an “underground river”, except for streams running through caves, and a few even more unusual geological situations. Most water-dowsers seem to believe in underground rivers, and insist they’re all over the damn place, but no material evidence for these rivers exists. Water really does just spread out slowly through the ground; why SHOULD it form “rivers”? Would you expect to find “rivers” of seawater if you dug holes on the beach?

      And yes, you really can dig just about anywhere in the kinds of places where humans make permanent dwellings and find water. Dowsers have been tested many times, and along with the rest of the paranormal brigade, the better you control for information leaks and cheating, the less effect you find.

      (James Randi says that he finds dowsers to be the most sincere of the people who fail to demonstrate their powers and win his million bucks; they’re usually genuinely surprised when they fail the test.) 

  6. As a professional archaeologists I can tell you the best way to find a possible cemetery- dig! Just strip off the topsoil down to the subsoil and you ill automatically confirm or refute any claims of burials in an area. people use the old “there’s burials over there” tactic when they they want to pull a NIMBY

  7. I was completely skeptical about dousing, until I saw (and felt the wrists) of the dowser my uncle hired to find a good spot for a well on his property. The first well they tried before they brought in the dowser was almost dry down to a few hundred feet. The dowser found a spot that was producing good water at about 70 feet.  I have no explanation as to why it would work but I have felt and seen it work on several occasions.

  8. @plymoutharch (reply button didn’t work) My thoughts exactly.  You could do it with a backhoe in half a day; any graves in a historic cemetery should be deep enough that you wouldn’t be risking hitting a coffin.  Remote sensing isn’t always very reliable, and it’s a pain to clear the ground for it.  I worked on a site where they were sure we’d found a row of graves with magnetometry, and it turned out to be some sort of regular pattern of igneous rock.

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