I ran across a clipping in my archives (read: piles of paper on one of my many “desks” at home) reprinted in the Gettysburg Times by Tony Gonzalez of The Tennessean titled, “Historians use divining rods to find old cemeteries.”
Now, the historians I know are probably going crazy right now. Dowsing falls in the category of the paranormal which, to them, has no place in providing information from the past. The problem for me is that I’ve seen too many times when the documented history has validated paranormally obtained information.
Like the time in the Gettysburg Hotel when Laine Crosby, an Investigative Medium, was “communicating” with a man she said had worked in the hotel when it was a bank. However, she saw him in the blue uniform of a Union soldier and he said that he was from Gettysburg. I told her, indeed, there was a unit that fought at Gettysburg that had been recruited in Adams County, of which Gettysburg is the seat. I asked could she ask him his name. Hesitatingly, as if listening to something that was hard to discern, she said “Cul…bert…son. I don’t know if that’s his whole name or if he’s telling me he’s Culbert’s son.”
Later research confirmed there was a Culbertson who fought with the unit. Skeptics will say she looked it up ahead of time, but from her reaction when we were talking, I’m convinced she didn’t even know there was a unit from Gettysburg. Later, she came up with the name again, while visiting the David Stewart Farm outside of Gettysburg. The Civil War era Culbertson never lived there, but the family later bought the place, and it was a WW II era Culbertson that was communicating with her. This was all confirmed later by the current owner who had the deeds and records of the farm.
As far as dowsing is concerned, I have had several personal experiences that convinced me that something is going on that can’t be explained.
My first experience was with the late Cecil Downing, a soft-spoken, unassuming man who had discovered several hundred wells for people all over the state of Pennsylvania. He dowsed a site on the battlefield known for its numerous camera fails. As he walked with his forked plastic rod, it would dip suddenly toward the ground. He spent well over an hour walking back and forth and determined there were “ley lines”—lines of energy—radiating from one specific area. It was his contention that spirits could travel more easily along these naturally-occurring paths of energy.
It made sense to me. I have the theory that ghosts are “energy thieves.” Since they cannot create their own energy by eating (like living beings create their energy) they have to get it from somewhere, like batteries, natural sources, or living human beings.
My second experience in dowsing was with my wife Carol. Keep in mind she was a biology major in college, in retail for a while and finally ended up in computers. Needless to say, she has a scientific, inquisitive, analytical mind. So when she first picked up dowsing rods, it was with a heavy dose of skepticism.
We were in an abandoned churchyard near Bowling Green, VA. We were told there were emptied graves nearby. It was fall and the leaves lay in an even carpet through the woods. Carol began walking with the copper rods—two wires bent at a 90 degree angle inserted into a sleeve so they would turn freely. As she walked along, the rods began to cross. She then stepped into a depression which was once a former grave. She backed out of the depression, and the rods uncrossed. This happened several times during the session.
Also sometime in the fall, again with leaves obscuring any depressions in the ground, we were at one of the temporary cemeteries established after the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864. These graves, too, had been emptied years before, the bodies taken to the Fredericksburg National Cemetery. Again, as Carol walked along, the rods began to cross, then she stepped into a depression. She back out, and the rods uncrossed.
Finally, for my book, Civil War Ghost Trails we were conducting a “mini-investigation” at Shiloh Battlefield in Tennessee. I was using a recorder to get EVP. We had heard that after the battle, there were so many Confederate dead that they were forced to bury them in mass graves. The Park Service knows that there were eleven or twelve mass graves, but the 19th Century commission could only locate five. Carol, using her dowsing rods, with me video recording the event, tested the ability of the rods to find graves over a known mass grave. Indeed, they reacted. Carol then moved behind the site and the rods began to react again. Individual graves now lost? Possibly.
Writing Blood and Ghosts with Katherine Ramsland and working with Gregg McCrary, former FBI profiler taught me that investigators should not rule out any method that leads to clues or evidence. In conversation, Gregg said, “Whatever works.” Perhaps historians’ and other investigators’ concerns about obtaining evidence paranormally can be summed up by one of the historians working in Tennessee to locate graves with dowsing rods before they are destroyed by modern development: “I can dowse, but I do not trust this method. It can’t be explained why it works.”
But it does work.