Paraskavedekatriaphobia

Posted: Friday, February 13, 2009 at 12:24 pm
By: Doug Lund
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There should be lots of you reading the blog today as you sit huddled at home afraid to leave the house because it’s…well, you know, FRIDAY THE 13TH.
I’ll probably stick close to home too but it has nothing to do with being superstitious, I just don’t have anywhere to go.  That’s not to say that I don’t have a few..shall we say, “concerns” about mysterious events which defy explanation. I was sort of kidding in an earlier post about my being a jinx to the Minnesota Vikings but I’m not entirely free of superstitions.For example; Keloland engineers needed to get to the roof of our building quite often and would usually put their ladder up right next to the back door. That left employees with the choice of walking around the ladder or under it. I preferred not to tempt fate so I always took the long route but I had a feeling that the engineers had rigged up a closed circuit camera and got their jollies watching people like me make such a stupid decision. 
Over the years I’ve done several stories with folks who’ve experienced all kinds of weird things from seeing ghosts and UFO’s to those with the ability to find underground water with divining rods; Water Witching!
The first “dowser” I met was in the late 70’s. She was an older lady, (I’ve forgotten her name) who lived on a farm somewhere between Harrisburg and Canton.  She was known far and wide for her ability to locate the perfect spot to dig a well using nothing more than a “Y” shaped willow branch. She would walk around the property holding the branch in her outstretched arms, palms up, until the long end would magically point downward. “It never fails to find water,” she said. “Let’s see you do it,” I said. And with the camera rolling, she marched around the yard until the rod’s tip started to move. I could hear it twisting in her little hands as it pointed toward the earth.Ever the skeptic, I wondered to myself, how this sweet old lady could be a con-woman. But it turns out she didn’t charge for her services. “It’s gift from God that I must share,” she told me.  Way back in the cobwebs of my memory, I seemed to recall my dad saying that he was able to witch for water.  Maybe it’s in my genes too.“Can I give it a try?” I asked the woman.  After a quick lesson on the proper way to hold the divining rod, I started pacing about. Within a minute, I could feel the branch pulling down and me powerless to stop it.
“You’ve got it too!” the lady yelled. “ I know for a fact there’s water down there.”
Many years later I was doing a story on Jim and Joan Lacey’s “Little Village Farm” near Trent..North of Dell Rapids. They have a large collection of antique farm equipment plus a couple rare round barns. Jim also has a successful well drilling business. I asked what he thought of people who claim to be water witches. As an expert in geology, I expected him to laugh at the absurdity of it. Instead, he smiled and pointed to his wife. “She’s the best dowser around,” he said. “I use her to find water all the time.” With that,  Joan grabbed a couple of “L” shaped rods out of the pickup and told me to watch. She held them in her outstretched arms and began walking. “When they cross, it means there’s good water below, “she said. “I can even determine how much and how deep.”  Sure enough, the rods crossed like crazy for her. “Wanna try?” she asked. Before long, just like before, without any warning or help from me, the rods crossed. I stopped, backed up and they went parallel again.
James Randi, the magician and noted debunker of all things paranormal, has done several controlled experiments with dowsers and concluded it’s all a flim flam that can be explained by something called the”Ideomotor effect” which basically means we want the rod to move so we subconsciously make it move.
Randi offers a million dollars to anyone who can prove to him that dowsing is for real.
Hmmm.
Linda, I’m going to take a couple coat hangers from the closet. I have an idea that just might make us rich.
 

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