If you didn't read Ghosts are Good For Business, Part 1, let me bring you up to speed: Last April, I signed up for a one day cemetery class offered through our local community college.
|Nebraskans love their football!|
Sixteen people showed up for the spring class. We were a varied bunch. Three couples were east coast vacationers following the path of the Oregon Trail. Three men were superintendents of their hometown cemeteries, wanting to learn about headstone preservation. And the rest were like me: adventure seekers, curious about the history and lore of the Prairie Home Cemetery in Holdrege, Nebraska.
|Gathering at the start of class.|
Skip Meyer was our guide for the day. An acknowledged expert on the subject of Nebraska’s oldest cemeteries, this was his 26th year giving cemetery tours. He started us out with the most mind-blowing activity I could ever imagine: DOWSING.
Of course, I’d heard of the ancient practice of dowsing for water, but I’d never heard of dowsing for bodies! Skip opened the tailgate of his pick-up and handed us each a pair of dowsers, homemade L-shaped rods made of stainless steel or brass. Some were short, others long, but this didn’t bother Skip. “They’ll all work,” he promised.
He showed us the proper grip (not too tight, not too loose) and proper walking form: elbows bent, arms comfortably in front of you, rods parallel to each other. As luck would have it, we had a perfect day for this activity: zero wind. Had their been any wind, we wouldn’t have believed what happened next!
Skip instructed us to spread out and walk across graves (history point: bodies were traditionally buried on the east side of tombstones for religious reasons). He demonstrated. As he approached a grave site, his dowsing rods crossed into an X with lightning speed.
“You did that yourself,” grunted one of our group members.
"You try,” smiled Skip.
The writer in me wanted to observe first, so I watched as person after person stepped across graves. Every one of their rods moved the minute they neared one. Some made a V instead of an X, indicating reverse polarity in the individual carrying the rods. Gasps of awe filled the air. I had to try this myself!
Checking with Skip to make sure my grip was correct, I walked down a bare grassy strip that contained no headstones. With no wind to nudge them, the rods remained perfectly parallel. Then I headed to the east side of a grave dated 1863. The rods crossed decisively. My heart started pounding. I knew I didn’t make that happen!!! I tried it again, this time on a grave dated 1954. The rods crossed immediately!
I’m a logical person and wanted to desperately to understand this. I swung around for a third attempt on an even newer grave. This time, however, the rods didn't cross. Maybe I didn’t approach the headstone right. I circled around making sure my grip wasn’t too tight and crossed the grave again. Nothing. I called Skip to ask him what went wrong. He’d been watching. He crossed over to me and told me to look at the headstone. It was a brand new one, made of beautiful brown marble. The birth date was on it, but the death date was blank. The owner hadn’t died yet, so there was no body to move the rods! I was now 100 percent convinced this wasn’t a trick.
I asked Skip what caused this phenomena. He said he believes a field of static electricity builds around bodies and bones, which causes the rods to cross. I asked him if the rods would cross for animal bones. He answered yes.
Dowsing was so fun, I could have done it all day, but Skip had an agenda to keep. We returned the dowsing rods to the truck and continued on with the most fascinating tour I’ve ever been on. (Ghost blog, part 3 coming up!)
If you’d like to make your own dowsing rods, they’re simple and cheap: Get a three foot length of brass or stainless steel rod from your local hardware store. Bend five or six inches into a handle and head to the nearest cemetery. One thing, though: make sure to go on a windless day!! The dowsing will work, but the skeptic in you won’t believe it if you have the breeze to blame! Great fun for kids and adults alike, especially as we head into the Halloween season. Enjoy!