I’m a skeptic who likes to prove people wrong.
So when my co-worker Wes Chance showed me an article about using wire clothes hangers to determine where a grave is with an additional bonus of finding out if a grave contains a female or a male, I had to prove it wrong.
He fashioned the hangers into straight lines with 90-degree hooks on the end to use as handles and we walked from the newspaper office to West Hill Cemetery to test this out.
I’ve done a lot of strange things in cemeteries — rubbings of tombstones, helping look for unmarked graves (which you can see because of indentations in the ground), looking for names and dates for research, taking photos of the way cemeteries look today so when a tombstone gets eroded over there will be a record of where it once stood. But I have never walked around with two hangers in my hands parallel to each other watching for them to cross and uncross.
Wes told me I was the “honest spiritual type” which things like this worked on.
I had my doubts that dowsing would work in a cemetery on graves. It took a couple of times to hold the hangers loose enough, but sure enough, as I walked from the foot of the grave to the head of the grave, the hangers crossed.
The pull was stronger from the one in my right hand. I went into the experiment fairly blindly. I knew how to hold them, but had no idea what was going to happen otherwise. I just knew there was no way whatever was happening was going to tell us whether a male or female was buried there.
I was wrong.
The pull from the right hand to cross left meant a female should be buried there, Wes told me. We glanced at the marker and, sure enough, there was.
I did another. And another. And another. He covered up markers and told me to tell him what the hangers revealed. And each time, the hangers crossed as soon as I walked over the grave, and the pull was stronger toward my left when a female was buried there and stronger toward the right when a male was buried there. One time, in the oldest part of the cemetery, the hangers didn’t cross at all over a grave. And one time the pull was stronger to the right, but the tombstone indicated a female instead of a male.
I couldn’t explain the feel of the pull as I walked over the grave.
“OK. Why does this work? Does it say?” I asked, referencing the article by Bernie Deliniski of the TimesDaily in Florence, Ala., that Wes held in his hand.
“No one is certain why the hangers cross ... ,” he responded, reading a line from the article.
“But there has to be a reason it works,” I said, unhappy I didn’t know why this was happening.
I came back to the office and immediately began Googling grave dowsing. I came up with several sites, mostly genealogy related, that told about the process. None said why this worked.
I found several sites trying to disclaim the process. One article suggested that at least on a subconscious level, the person holding the sticks did cross them as the person stepped onto the grave or suspected grave.
Well, that article was wrong.
I didn’t look at my feet. I looked straight ahead with my head up. I had no way of knowing at what point I was stepping over the actual grave.
Once as I walked from foot to head, I thought they weren’t going to cross, but just a foot or so before the marker they crossed. When we looked, an infant was buried there.
I also walked about 75 yards in a straight line along an older part of the cemetery where there are no marked graves but there just has to be people buried there. I looked straight ahead walking north to south (most of the graves are laid out east to west). Wes watched where my feet were as I announced the sticks crossing and uncrossing. Every time they crossed, I was either lined up with a grave up or down the hill from where I walked or you could see an indentation in the ground indicating an unmarked grave.
We tested this process so much in that hilly cemetery I decided that counted as my workout for the day and I didn’t need to run that evening. (I ran anyway.)
I’m not an easy person to convince, but I’m a believer.
My husband, whom I told this story to, still isn’t.
“I’ll have to experience it for myself,” he said.
I’m sure you will, too. And I promise not to give you any of the funny looks Wes and I received walking around the cemetery with wire hangers in our hands.
Murray County native Misty Watson is a photographer and staff writer for The Daily Citizen. Yes, she is morbid and enjoys walking through cemeteries. Tell her your own experience in cemeteries by emailing her at email@example.com; friending her on Facebook, facebook.com/MistyWatsonDCN; or following her on Twitter, @mistydwatson