Psychic Story Criticized, Praised

EDITOR’S NOTE: The feature published in the Real Estate section on March 17 titled “Psychic Locates Land Assets,” has drawn widespread interest from our readers.

The Times neither endorses nor refutes the practice of dowsing. The article focused on successes reported by some real estate investors who availed themselves of the services of professional dowsers. Our story centered on one such practitioner, Ron Warmoth.

Portions of a letter from Al Seckel, chairperson of the Southern California Skeptics, are followed by a response from Evelyn De Wolfe, citing sources of reference used in the feature story.

Perhaps the Los Angeles Times should change its name to the Los Angeles National Enquirer Times. Why? Because of a new low in shoddy and uncritical reporting concerning the art of water and metal dowsing which appeared as a front page article in the Sunday Real Estate Section. It does not take long for the article to go downhill.


The first sentence reads “Einstein is said to have dabbled in dowsing. . . . He did not, nor is there any record of his expressing any interest in the subject. A check of every reliable published work on Einstein or by him does not mention dowsing.

All sorts of assertions are made in the article that dowsing works. Psychic dowser Warmoth states that his success rate is “usually 90% to 95% correct” in finding water underground. The sad fact is that dowsers are no better at finding water than anyone else. Drill a well almost anywhere in an area where water is geographically possible and you will find it. It is a scientific fact that 94% of the earth’s land surface has water within a drillable distance. Since this is the case, it is easy to understand Warmoth’s and other dowsers’ success rate.

The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, which consists of some of the world’s top scientists, have tested hundreds of the “top” dowsers all over the world. Extremely generous cash prizes were offered to anyone who had any genuine dowsing ability. The test results were complete failures for the dowsers. Why? Because the committee asked them to locate a dry spot. Easy for a dowser , wouldn’t you think? No. They fail!

The reason dowsers consider themselves successful is easy to discover. When the dowser’s customer digs and finds water, the dowser attributes this success to his detection of the right spot. No one ever bothers to drill nearby and discover if there was water in a spot the dowser said was dry. Tests were also conducted with underground water pipes. Again failure. Scientists have not been the only ones to test dowsing. Large oil and gas companies have tried for many years to verify the claims of dowsers. Let us just say that hundreds of thousands of dollars were wasted in dry sink holes and that is nothing to shake a stick at.


The Los Angeles Times, (is) professional and objective in reporting such things as corruption in government, or congressional hearings but the paranormal needs the same respect.

Why are not “wild” assertions such as that of a psychic who claims to have helped the police solve a case ever checked? Ask the detectives who were working on the case if they were really given helpful information by the psychic. When you actually do check, what you do find is either they have not heard of the psychic or the psychic led them on a wild-goose chase.

There is no authenticated record of any psychic actually solving a police mystery. So I say to you for the next time, check it out first.


Redondo Beach

Chairperson, Southern

California Skeptics,

local affiliate of the Committee


for the Scientific Investigation

of the Paranormal.

In a book titled “Psi Trek” (McGraw-Hill) Laile E. Bartlett, Ph.D., researcher in psychic phenomena who has taught sociology at UC Berkeley, writes: “Albert Einstein once astonished his hosts on a visit to their country home by dowsing the location of a troublesome leak in an underground flow of water draining their pond.”

A quote from the U.S. Army newspaper, The Observer (dateline Da Nang, March 13, 1967) describes the military use of dowsing by Marines of the Second Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment.

“Openline,” Pacific Bell’s customer newsletter, cites the successful use of “witching sticks” by its repairmen in locating cables and conduits.

From Bartlett’s book: Henry Gross, a known dowser and game warden of Biddeford, Me., delivered 175 gallons of water a minute to Bristol Myers, a company of chemists and engineers, at a spot where all local geologists had agreed no such water existed.

Times writer De Wolfe checked with Los Angeles Police Department sources and determined that Warmoth has been called in repeatedly to work with detectives in their investigations. One detective, assigned to a kidnap-molestation case, said the information provided by Warmoth turned out to be accurate.

I found the article on dowsing by Evelyn De Wolfe extremely interesting.


I would like to share an experience I had with dowsing more than 16 years ago. I was on a survey crew in 1969 on a very large, new subdivision where plans for the clay sewer pipes had been lost.

The contractor felt his only hope of finding these clay sewer lines, undetectable by metal detectors and probably buried 8 to 10 feet deep, was to dig a trench the entire length of the block. One of the members of the crew took two old coat hangers, straightened them and made a 90-degree bend six inches from the end of each coat hanger.

He held one coat hanger in each hand, pointed the long portion in the direction he was to walk. He walked perpendicularly to the suspected location of these clay sewer pipes and to my amazement, all of a sudden the coat hangers turned 90 degrees, crossing one another. He stopped and said: “Mark this spot.”

All were fascinated and wanted to try this. I was one that tried and it was to my amazement that it worked for me too. Others tried it. For some it worked, for others it did not.

The contractor carefully dug a hole at the location of each of our markers and to his amazement, not one of the markers was more than a foot off the position of the underground pipes. I have since used dowsing effectively on several occasions. A coat hanger is standard equipment in the back of a surveyor’s truck.

It has been explained to me that everything has its own vibration. A tube or cylindrical object will throw off a circular pattern of vibration. The coat hanger is round and has a similar but smaller circular vibration pattern than pipes; when the two patterns cross, the smaller pattern is drawn into the larger pattern and feels the same as a magnetic pull.


president C. W. Cook Co.,

Civil Engineers/Land Surveyors

I want to compliment you on your article by Evelyn De Wolfe. I have known Ron Warmoth for six years and consider him one of our best dowsers. It is about time that dowsers like Ron are recognized for the good work they are doing. During the drought in the ‘70s, California dowsers located many wells. Most farmers would not consider having a well drilled without the advice of a “water witch.” Our utility companies also use dowsers to locate buried pipes and to discover leaks.

In the days before modern electronic devices, man discovered that he had the power to operate a hand-held device. Beginning with a willow stick, he allowed his body to provide the power to operate it. Today, science is learning more about what is called “The Body Electric” (book by Robert O. Becker, M.D. and Gary Selden); perhaps the ancients knew something we have yet to discover? No one can give a positive statement on what makes dowsing work, but the many thousands of persons who have learned to work with the “rod” know its power.

Today, many independent oil companies pay dowsers for their assistance in selecting the best drilling locations.


Santa Ana

Trustee, American Society

of Dowsers Inc., president,

Orange County chapter

Eureka! At last somebody has taken an objective look at this thing called “dowsing.” Ron Warmoth does not claim to be 100% successful, as well he shouldn’t. But he apparently has had a modicum of success finding water, locating lost persons and predicting the stock market.

I have, on occasion, used the same method trying to locate a “lost” article, sometimes being able to find it, and sometimes not. No matter. The frequency of success is not important. The really important thing is that it works at all. Success is where you find it.

As long as somebody benefits from dowsing once in a while, the world is better for it.



Anyone with an open mind can dowse. Did you know the Franciscans used dowsing to locate the sites for the Missions? That the Spanish used the “Spanish Needle"--a dowsing tool, to locate their silver mines? In the American Assn. of Dowsers, we have engineers with doctorates, NASA scientists, physicists, and plumbers, who need to locate broken water pipes. And lots of ordinary people who can dowse a winning bingo card (would you believe $150 in one evening?). Or check to see if the fruit in the market is sprayed--not good for you--or unsprayed, and OK to eat.



Secretary, Orange County

Chapter, ASD

Thank you so much for an interesting, informative article about dowsing.

I have known psychics who are into many phases of study--reincarnation, UFO, etc. But this had a dimension other than far away; it was near and useful.

Your courage in investigating this phenomenon is remarkable.


Lake View Terrace

Another medal for your reporter Evelyn De Wolfe. She did a real good job of reporting the activities of Ron Warmoth.

Those of us who have known him through the years, know him as a man gifted in more ways than one. He is not inclined to “stretching” his accomplishments but through the years has maintained a “both-feet-on-the-ground” attitude.

Dowsing is an ancient art which had been used many years ago in a very practical way. The use of dowsing was “permitted” to be cast aside for a period of years. Then certain countries started to use the dowser and European countries revived its use to advantage. Russia et al started research during World War I. The American Society of Dowsers soon followed the British Society of Dowsers in research trials.

Last September, at the national convention at Danville, Vt., I was awarded the great honor as “Mr. Dowser of U.S.A. 1984.” It was the first time such an honor was bestowed by the American Society of Dowsers.