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Psychic Story Criticized, Praised

March 31, 1985

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.

AL SECKEL,

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.

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