Arkansas Woman Continues Husband’s Dowsing Tradition

by Banner News, Magnolia, Arkansas Published: 06/20/2012

FAYETTEVILLE — “I know very well that many scientists consider dowsing as they do astrology, as a type of ancient superstition. According to my conviction this is unjustified. The dowsing rod is a simple instrument which shows the uncanny reaction of the human nervous system to certain factors which are unknown to us at this time.” — Albert Einstein

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For much of four decades, Harold McCoy walked the hills and valleys of Northwest Arkansas with a forked stick in his hand. Like generations before him, McCoy walked with a specific goal in mind — to find water, enough to meet the needs of a family.

When the stick tipped itself from horizontal to vertical, he knew he’d found what he sought.

“My husband was a dowser,” McCoy’s wife, Gladys, said proudly. “I didn’t know it until he retired from the military, and we needed a water source on our property.

“He walked across our yard and found us a place to drill a well,” she remembered. “It’s still producing after 40-some years.”

When Harold McCoy died in July 2010, his widow followed in his footsteps — literally — taking over the Ozark Research Institute he founded in Fayetteville in 1992 and “water witching” for families in need.

“I learned to dowse basically by hanging out with him, helping him, watching him,” Gladys McCoy said. “I did believe in dowsing; I had no doubt that it worked. It’s not an unbelievable thing that you could find water, gas, oil, whatever, in an underground area, because it’s been done for eons.”

The practice of dowsing is thought to date as far back as ancient Egypt, where tomb paintings show a pharaoh with what might be a dowsing rod, according to the American Society of Dowsers, and it’s mentioned in the Bible.

“Many passages in the Bible allude to dowsing, relating in considerable detail how both Moses and his son, Aaron, used a dowsing device referred to as ‘the rod’ to locate and bring forth water,” Lloyd Youngblood writes on the ASD website. “In the Old Testament, the prophet Ezekiel reports King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, uncertain as to which city he should attack — Jerusalem, the capital of Judah, or Rebath of the Ammonites (today’s modern-day Amman, Jordan) — directed his dowsers or diviners to select the best target.”

In the Ozarks, dowsers like the McCoys are best known for seeking water, and that’s the need that keeps Gladys McCoy working.

“You know, there are places still in Arkansas where they don’t have rural water; you can’t just turn that tap on,” she said. “When someone tells you they’ve been hauling water for over 25 years and now they’ve got good, clean, sweet, potable water — and all they need — right there! That’s what I do and what I love doing.”

Of course, there are skeptics, but a November 1998 article in Popular Mechanics states science might be on the dowsers’ side.

“Researchers analyzed the successes and failures of dowsers in attempting to locate water at more than 2000 sites in arid regions of Sri Lanka, Zaire, Kenya, Namibia and Yemen over a 10-year period,” the magazine reported. “To do this, researchers teamed geological experts with experienced dowsers and then set up a scientific c study group to evaluate the results. Drill crews guided by dowsers didn’t hit water every time, but their success rate was impressive. In Sri Lanka, for example, they drilled 691 holes and had an overall success rate of 96 percent.”

McCoy said anyone can dowse, “all you have to do is let go and allow it to work.

“You don’t know unless you’re an electrician how your refrigerator works,” she said. “All you know is you plug it in and put it on the number 3, and it works. It’s the same way with the dowsing: You put the rods in your hands, ask the right question, clear your mind of any preconceived ideas, and the rod will respond.”

McCoy said all the time she’s walking, she’s talking, and she’s often asked by clients and observers to whom she’s speaking.

“I’m talking to God,” she said simply. “I ask God before I ever go out there to provide what this family needs, and I keep asking.”

Not all of McCoy’s work is done in the field. She’s in the office at the Ozark Research Institute from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week, her daughter Joyce said, counseling people who call in with all kinds of questions, from health concerns to relationship issues.

“My dad started out with the American Society of Dowsers, so his main interest was water,” Joyce McCoy said. “Then he started learning all these different techniques, and he thought, ‘Why can’t I help people with their healing?’

“A lot of people use it to answer questions and get information for healing. They use it to find deficits in the energy fields of the body.” Her father, she said, then used meditative visualization techniques to move the energy and solve the problems.

“He was very intuitive,” she said, often discovering past issues that were causing ill health in the present. “A lot of his teachings were based on letting go of all of that negativity from the past.”

Dowsing, Joyce McCoy said, is in danger of becoming a lost art in the Ozarks, and that’s why the institute offers free classes to youngsters ages 10 to 18 every April.

“A lot of old-timers know about dowsing or water witching, but I’m not sure the younger generation is quite as open to that right now,” she said.

“I find dowsing fascinating and believe it has a long and varied history, and Ozark Folkways believes in keeping the dying arts alive for future generations to use and enjoy,” said Rebecca Buchanan, director of Ozark Folkways in Winslow.

That’s how Gladys McCoy came to teach an afternoon class on dowsing there.

“I do dowsing because I feel like it’s a service, and I teach it because I want everybody to know how,” McCoy said. “I truly believe the day is coming when we’ll all need to know how to find good potable water in the ground.”

Banner News, Magnolia, Arkansas Published: 06/20/2012