- Associated Press - Sunday, February 9, 2014

SMITH’S GROVE, Ky. (AP) - James “Jr.” Parsley doesn’t know why he is able to find water using a y-shaped wild cherry or peach twig, only that the method works for him.

Called water witching in the South, what Parsley and others like him do carries other names such as dowser or diviner.

“I didn’t know nothing about it,” Parsley, 86, said of his ability to find water. One day his father, also a water witcher, threw down the fruit branch. Parsley, who was 18 at the time, picked it up and felt a strong pull. “I found out it worked for me.”

Parsley, who lives outside Smiths Grove in Edmonson County near the Warren County line, is responsible for finding clean water for many people who live around him, including a well he used to water 28 head of cattle for several years.

“I never make no guarantees,” Parsley said about his “gift.”

“I’ve never charged a penny. The Lord gave me a gift that way. I didn’t want to abuse it,” he said.

Dowsers use a variety of tools, such as y-shaped twigs, L-shaped rods, bobbers and pendulums.

Parsley used a y-shaped wild cherry twig to demonstrate how he finds water. The twig pulls in the direction of the water and will then bounce. The number of bounces corresponds to the number of feet below the surface where the water can be found. Parsley also has used dowsing to find lost objects. He doesn’t know how it works. Now that his left hand shakes a little, it’s made dowsing more difficult for him. But he’s still able to use his gift.

Louis Matacia, one of the most well-known dowsers in the country, agrees with Parsley: The ability to dowse is a “gift.” If the gift is abused, you lose it, said Matacia, who lives in Sterling, Va.

Matacia, 84, is a licensed surveyor who uses dowsing to find everything from buried electric lines to water, oil and all manner of things not visible to the eye. During the Vietnam War, Matacia taught Marines how to use dowsing to search for tunnels, explosives and booby traps. He has dowsed for more than 50 years and said the brain is so powerful that when trained, nearly anyone can dowse.

“What the mind can conceive, you can achieve,” Matacia said, borrowing from a similar quote of the late American writer Napoleon Hill.

Having no hard scientific evidence on dowsing, physicist Dr. Claude Swanson, educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Princeton, didn’t believe in dowsing until he began hearing rumors of the U.S. government’s involvement in “remote viewing.”

“I didn’t believe in any of this stuff,” said Swanson of Loveland, Colo. “I guess it was around the mid-1980s probably because of some of my government work I began hearing rumors about something called remote viewing. This was a program that our government was doing. It was all classified.

“What the government found is you can take a person, put them in an isolated, shielded room and if you go into a light trance, they can get information about distant objects, subjects, targets,” he said. “If you are a scientist, you know that that’s impossible. There is not a force in physics today that could make that possible. Yet I was hearing rumors that that was happening. When everything became public in the ‘ 90s, it became clear that these abilities exist.

“My question was how. I’m interested in physics. This was a clue that something was missing from our present science. That’s how I got started looking into the weird stuff. We called it paranormal. It’s phenomena that don’t fit our present scientific theories.”

Swanson has since become a believer and used Matacia to successfully dowse for water on a piece of land he bought in West Virginia.

“There’s a lot of evidence to show that dowsing in the right hands can be effective,” Swanson said. He has researched controlled experiments in dowsing by German scientist Hans-Dieter Betz, who conducted a German-government sponsored program on dowsing. They found the best dowsers could locate water sources within a foot, Swason said.

Swanson has dabbled in dowsing himself but blames his analytical mind for blocking his subconscious mind to be able to receive the signals to answer his questions.

“The best way we can understand this in our current science is something that happens in quantum physics. It’s called entanglement. When quantum particles are created and then separated from one another, it’s found that a change in one particle often shows up as a change in another particle as though they were communicating across great distances simultaneously. This same basic ability in the universe at the quantum level is probably at the heart of all forms of psychic ability, including dowsing,” Swanson said.

“The human mind is very adept at tuning into this energy,” he said.

That’s the key to how the information is transferred to the dowser. The subconscious brain sends signals to the dowsers’ muscles that react to that energy. The dowsing tool acts as an amplifier for the subtle change in muscle tone, causing the movement in the rod or pendulum, he said.

Matacia’s daughter Ginette Matacia Lucas uses dowsing to find missing people, objects and water.

“You have the stick in your hand, the nerves are pulsating, and the stick reacts to that pulsation. Who knew that was quantum waves,” Lucas said. She said she has used dowsing to find more than 20 people. She uses maps and a pendulum to locate missing people.

Marty Cain in Black Mountain, N.C., has been dowsing since she was child. Her Lithuanian grandfather taught her how to dowse when she 6 years old.

“I dowse for water a lot. Water is critical right now. Without water there is no life. That’s the major thing that dowsing was all about to begin with. Once we began using dowsing, we discovered it could be used for anything done ethically,” Cain said.

Parsley has fine-tuned his skills enough that he can find hard water or soft water. He also has dowsed for steel, copper and oil.

“I don’t know exactly how it works. I know it works,” Parsley said.

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