This article is from 2021 and may be outdated. We're working on restoring a newer version.
UPDATE: I no longer recommend using divinatory tools for ghost hunting. Those tools can be useful when used by a professional (meaning: someone with over 5 years in this field), but for everyone else, the risks aren’t worthwhile.
In the right hands (no pun intended), dowsing rods can be useful ghost hunting tools.
First, you’ll use them to detect normal phenomena that can make a site seem haunted.
For example, dowsing rods can detect underground springs and streams.
Underground water can contribute to infrasound. Its low-level frequency disorients some people. They might think they’ve encountered a ghost when they haven’t.
Some ghost hunters use dowsing rods to identify active areas at a haunted site. For that, you may need skill and sensitivity.
You can learn the skill. I’m not sure everyone can develop the necessary sensitivity.
Dowsing rods can respond to yes-or-no questions, as well.
How to hold dowsing rods
Some people use just one rod. I use two, and hold one in each hand.
Hold the rods with a light grip. It should be loose enough so the rods can move without much resistance.
(The exception is dowsing rods that include a casing between your hands and the rods. Since your hand won’t influence the rods one way or the other, hold the casing as tightly as you like.)
Also, check the length of the rods and what they might hit — especially your face — if they start swinging wildly. (That’s happened to me a few times.)
Initially, hold the rods so they are parallel to the floor or ground.
Then, tilt your hands so the tips of the rods are at a slight downward angle… less than a 10-degree drop. This allows gravity a gentle influence on the rods. If the rods are able to swing wildly, they’re useless.
However, don’t let the rods point too far downward, or gravity will pin them in place.
Ideally, the rods move slightly against the pull of gravity.
Begin with some test questions.
I start by asking basic questions I can answer myself, such as, “Is my name Fiona Broome?” The movement of the rods tells me what the rods will do for a “yes” answer, if anything. The rods may swing in opposite directions. They might swing towards each other and cross. They might point to the right or to the left.
I try enough yes/no questions to detect a pattern.
After that, I put a coin on the floor or ground, and stand at least ten feet away. Then, I tell the rods to lead me to the coin. I do this aloud, saying something like, “Where is the coin? Point to it and lead me there.”
In most cases, both rods point in the direction of the coin. When I get there, they either return to resting position, or — more often — they’ll cross in front of me as if to prevent me from walking ahead.
After that, I’m ready to use them on that investigation. I know how to detect a yes, a no, and how to tell where the rods are leading me.
During the investigation, I might use them for yes/no answers. For example: “Is this ghost female?” “Is this ghost male?” “Is the ghost a child?” “Did this ghost live in the 17th century?” “… the 18th century?” “… the 19th century?” And so on.
Note: Never start by asking when the ghost “died.” Many ghosts seem to reject the idea that they’re dead.
Or, use them silently.
More often, I simply hold the rods in the “ready” position, and walk around. I let them lead me to a “hot spot.”
If the rods indicate a “hot spot,” I usually walk around, testing different directions.
Dowsing rods can detect underground water, water pipes, and electrical wiring. So, I see if the rods indicate (or point to) a long, straight line. If they do, I know the reading isn’t paranormal.
I’ll check that same line with an EMF meter. I’m looking for normal (but elevated) EMF levels. If I find it, I’ll avoid that area as I continue my research.
If just one spot or a small area seems active, I set up my ghost hunting equipment. I’m looking for anomalous readings and responses.
You can ask dowsing rods to lead you to the “hot” areas of a haunt. There, you can use the rods, seance style, to ask — and receive answers to — questions about the ghost.
However, dowsing rods don’t work for everyone. So far, we don’t know why.
Practice makes perfect?
If dowsing rods work, but not as well as you’d like, you may need more practice. Place small objects around your living room. Then, ask the rods to lead you to a particular object. The more often you do this, the more skill you’ll have with dowsing rods, and the more confidence, too.
Warning: Do not expect ghostly energy to work “through” you. Maintain firm boundaries.
The ghostly energy works with the tools. You’re just propping them at the correct angle.
(This is why I prefer to use dowsing rods with casing-type holders. I make no direct contact with the actual rods.)
Never give a spirit permission to enter or use your body to communicate.
That may seem like a fine point, but with increasing dangers in ghost hunting, precautions are important.
Reliable dowsing rods for paranormal research
I’ve used their larger, custom rods (17- or 18-inch rods) with researchers who swear that dowsing rods don’t work. So far, they’ve had success with those rods 100% of the time. (But, I’m not sure if Joey’s company still offer such large rods. If they don’t, make them yourself. They’re that useful.)
I’ve also used Joey’s recommended portable (collapsible) rods with great results.
However, in my field tests, others had weaker (or no) results with smaller rods. So, start large. Over time, work down, if the big rods become too sensitive (swing too wildly) for your research.
Or, make your own dowsing rods.
You don’t need to buy dowsing rods. Make your own from wire coat hangers.
If you want to use a casing for handles, visit a DIY store (like Lowe’s or Home Depot). Ask them to cut two small lengths of narrow, straight PVC pipe or brass piping. You’ll slide your dowsing rod handles (the shorter sides of the bent coat hangers) into them. Then, your hands can’t influence the rods at all.
In my opinion, the more active my dowsing rods, the more active the haunting. If the rods barely move, not much is going on. If they respond vigorously, I’ll usually see EMF spikes, orbs in photos, and other phenomena.
In rare cases, my smallest dowsing rods have swung in complete circles, repeatedly. (It can look silly, like a tiny helicopter blade.) I’m pretty sure those were active, paranormal spots.
They occurred at:
– Cambridge (MA, USA): At the mass grave of Revolutionary soldiers, buried under a mound in the Old Burial Ground at Harvard Square.
– Also at the tree in front of Peet’s Coffee House, 100 Mt. Auburn Street, Harvard Square. (It’s the site of a “witch jail” during colonial times.)
– Methuen (MA, USA): Upstairs at Tenney Gate House, in one of the front rooms. Repeated several times before the anomaly ceased.
– Salem (MA): In the basement of 127 Essex Street. (The basement isn’t open to the public. But, excellent ghost tours leave from in front of that shop).
– Stratford-upon-Avon (England): One room in the Falcon Hotel, but only briefly. Several times at the Falstaff’s Experience (Tudor World), 40 Sheep Street.
– York (England): The Golden Fleece Pub, but only a few times, in odd spots near the entrance. Did not repeat during additional visits.