Dowsing Rods Have a Mind of Their Own When Couple Lend a Hand

Carroll Baker, 78, was dowsing for water in his back yard in Anaheim as he explained his gift for searching out the unseen: “I guess it’s in my genes.”

Meanwhile, his 68-year-old wife, Virginia Baker, held her own dowsing device, a pendulum, above a grapefruit. She was trying to determine the fruit’s energy level. “Look,” she said as the pendulum swiveled in her hand. “It’s top grade.”

Then her husband announced, “That’s it,” as his divining rod dipped, indicating to him that he had located the underground stream he’s found so many times before.

The Bakers were demonstrating dowsing, the practice of locating water or oil and other energy sources with a divining rod or pendulum.


Carroll, who is retired from the oil industry, said he is sometimes hired by wildcatters to dowse a map and pick a place to drill for oil. He charges $100.

The Bakers are used to the scoffing of skeptics, especially when Virginia dowses at grocery stores.

“I don’t usually bring my regular pendulum to the market any more,” she said. “I don’t want to make a spectacle of myself.”

Instead, she uses her car keys when dowsing in markets to see if the food has the proper energy level. “Just about anything works,” said Virginia, who founded the 50-member Orange County chapter of the 3,500-member American Society of Dowsers Inc., which is based in Danville, Vt.

Her pendulum provides an answer by turning, she said. “One way is yes and the other way is no.”

Dowsing, said Virginia, is only for believers.

When non-believers try to dowse “and it doesn’t work, nothing will convince them that it does,” she said. And while she admits she has no scientific proof that dowsing is valid, Virginia said: “Frankly, I really don’t care. I know it works.”

But these days, Virginia isn’t using dowsing for its original intent.


“Call me modern,” she said, explaining that mostly she dowses food for better health and nutrition. “We all have to change with the times.”

In the 1700s, religious leader Martin Luther described dowsing as “the work of the devil” and called it “water witching.”

Virginia doesn’t accept that premise. “Dowsing uses the same kind of energy people use when they pray. Everything in life has energy.”

What do their three daughters think of their dowsing?


“One believes it, one accepts it and the other just scratches her head,” Virginia said with a smile.

She said skeptics and believers alike are invited to attend the dowsing society’s meetings, which are held the third Saturday of each month at the Fullerton Public Library.

If you think parties are fun, you’ll really like the one being planned for 9-year-old Reina McGraw of La Habra.

It’s called a remission party, and if she had her way, Reina said, she would invite everyone.


Her parents are planning to throw the party to celebrate her doctor’s announcement that Reina no longer has traces of neuroblastoma, a type of cancer that has plagued her body for half her life, causing her to undergo chemotherapy.

At one point, the treatment caused her hair to fall out.

“The doctors have told me that I won’t need to go back for more treatment,” said Reina, who was just named the American Cancer Society’s Orange County 1988 Poster Child.

And now she’s pushing Daffodil Days, a major fund-raiser for the Cancer Society, which is taking orders for the flower that symbolizes hope.


The money will be used for cancer research, education and patient services. Flowers can be ordered until Thursday by calling the Orange County chapter of the society at (714) 751-0441. A bunch of 10 costs $3.50 and corporate bouquets are $100.

Reina said she plans to be a nurse. “I wanted to be one even before I had cancer,” she said. “I want to work with kids like me. I know what it feels like to be there.”

Acknowledgments--Vietnam-born Chinh Tran, 10, of La Habra received a $100 savings bond for winning the fifth- and sixth-grade category of a quiz bowl on the U.S. Constitution and the country’s Founding Fathers. Although he won in the history division, Tran said he’s better in math and reading.