HEY, A D FOX! IS DOWSING ACTUALLY A THING?
Updated: May 30, 2021
In the Henry & Sparrow crime thriller series, Kate Sparrow is a detective with Wiltshire Police and Lucas Henry is a reluctant dowser. He is capable of finding lost things by reading energy patterns and frequencies - aided by Sid, his old glass bottle stopper pendulum. (Pictured)
It’s a fanciful take on the whole genre of crime-solving double acts, with Lucas able to find missing people - dead or alive.
‘But HOW fanciful, A D?’ I hear you shout.
‘Not as fanciful as you might THINK!’ I shout back. Out loud, in my writing pod at the end of the garden. The neighbours are getting concerned.
Genuinely - dowsing is very much a thing.
Years ago I wrote and photographed a feature for BBC Radio Solent Magazine - on Dorset based dowser Stan Connard. It was part of BBC presenter Mike Powell’s ‘Mike’s Mysteries’ strand. (You can catch Mike doing occasional BBC World Service documentaries and continuity on BBC Radio 2 these days.)
Mike and I travelled to see Stan at his home in Blandford and he seemed like a really nice guy. Up until this point, Mike’s Mysteries had tended towards psychics and ghost hunters which had been very entertaining but, for me, not that convincing.
As we sat chatting to Stan about his dowsing talent, he was keen to point out that this wasn’t the same kind of thing at all.
‘There’s a lot of silly spiritual stuff about this divining,’ Stan told Mike. ‘There’s a lot read into it and I think there’s a simple, mechanical reason for it. I’m saying frequencies are mechanical. If you’ve got a map, the map is the frequency.’
I recorded the interview and towards the end started sorting out my camera gear (a lovely old Nikon F5, so heavy I had to rest it on my shoulder like a hi-tech parrot while walking). I left them both chatting while, at Stan’s invitation, I went outside to hide my car keys in a lane at the front of his bungalow. He and Mike were sitting in the back room, overlooking the garden, and there was no possible way he could see where I was.
A short while later, Stan came out with his divining ‘Y’ rod and headed up the track… in the wrong direction. I sighed, wondering how I was going to write up this feature without embarrassing the poor guy too much. Meanwhile, Stan stopped… at exactly the point where I had stopped earlier, and then turned, as I had, and retraced his steps.
I followed, my big old Nikon F5 held up to my eye, completely obscuring my face and any expression on it. Stan walked on and then stopped dead. The Y rod flipped up. ‘I think it’s here,’ he said.
I was too amazed to speak. ‘No?’ he said. ‘OK… I’ll keep trying.’
‘No!’ I squeaked. ‘You’re right. It’s by your toe!’
And it was. The toe of his boot was literally nudging the leaf I’d hidden my keys under.
This all happened a decade and a half ago but I have never forgotten it. What I particularly loved was how very normal and down to earth Stan was; no wooooo going on with him at all.
And this is what inspired the character of Lucas Henry and, years later, the whole Henry & Sparrow series.
For research, I took a couple of dowsing courses - but didn’t see anything which convinced me anyone attending or running them had the ability that Stan had. Many of them had a wooooo approach to the whole thing and maybe that was the problem. I don’t know.
I do know that well known corporations and developers hire the genuine article, like Stan, to dowse for water courses before building on the land. This is quite a convincer.
So although the Henry & Sparrow series might seem to have an almost supernatural twist to it, it’s not really that kind of thing.
Or, I wonder, as my own pendulum swings in my hand and starts to circle when I ask it to… is it..?