Sunday, April 20, 2008

Dousing For the Dead

Are you intrigued by the title? Do you know what "dousing" is? Do you know what "witching" is? Well, let me explain this to you.

Dousing for the Dead, or Grave-Witching, is similar to water-witching or dousing which you may have seen depicted in an old movie or tv show. But dousing for the dead, or grave-witching, hopefully will turn up something other than water: a body!

Dousing, or grave-witching--is the art of locating a body with a pair of metal rods which react when they come near a body. It's very useful when one is trying to find a burial which does not have a tombstone. And it's weird, but it does work.

One day last week our genealogy society made a field trip to a nearby cemetery. There were about a dozen of us, and only 4 sets of witching rods. Two sets were made from 1/8 " brass welding rods, the other 2 sets were smaller and made of aluminum. About 6 inches of the rod is bent into a handle shape, making each rod look a little bit like the letter "L." After a brief rundown of what to expect when we got to the cemetery, we were off!

Lethene, the lady in charge, showed us how to hold the rods. Taking one in each hand, she set off slowly towards a grave that was marked by a tombstone. When the rods come in "contact" with a buried body, they react, usually by crossing with each other. We watched carefully to see what would happen--and sure enough--her rods crossed as she held them over a grave. We each took our turns with the rods, and it worked for all of us. Some people even had the rods do odd things like turn completely around and point over their shoulders; both rods turn one way or the other instead of crossing, and things like that. There's supposed to be a way to determine if your body is male or female by how the rods react, but none of us knew just what that was. And if a body is more than 100 years old, the reaction of the rods might not be as strong as with a more recent burial. Since we were in the pioneer cemetery of our city, most of the graves were over 100 years old--but we noted pretty good reaction from all of the ones we tried.

On another note, a relative of my dad's had written me last fall to say that the gentleman who is the record keeper of the cemeteries back in Lincoln Co. Kansas, was a grave witcher, and had witched around the grave of my dad's grandmother. You see, she died in 1885-ish and was buried in a cemtery there. Dad's grandfather died in 1920, and was supposedly buried in a different cemtery, which we thought strange since he had never remarried in all the 35 years he was alone. There was no record of Great Grandpa Watson's being buried in the other local cemtery, so the witcher took his rods out to Great Grandma Watson's tombstone and began witching. He reported that there is a man buried next to Great Grandma with no tombstone, and that he is sure it's Great Grandpa! This report came shortly after I first heard about grave witching, and about 6 months before I got to try it for myself. While dousing for the dead probably isn't going to do you much good unless you dig up the body and run dna tests to find out who it is, it's an intriguing activity, and one that you might find interesting if you have any bodies you are looking for. Just get yourself some metal rods about 3 feet in length, bend a handle, and head on out!

2 comments:

Karen said...

Wonderland girl - I own a set of those wires & I love them. I find mine "react" different to male & female bodies. Only once did it appear to be confused, a woman buried with her infant son.

Nice article though. Enjoyed it!
Karen
GenealogyFrameofmind

CrochetingMama said...

I own a set of rods and though it does not work for me it works for my daughter. You can tell the age of the person by holding one rod pointed toward the ground and one rod above your head. The number of revolutions the rod makes is the age of the person. It works. Go to a cemetary and do this over a grave that has a headstone. It also works if you have someone lay on the floor in front of you and do it. It detects living people.