Leann Pelvit and Romana Raffaell, armed only with old wire coat hangers and comfortable shoes, are determined to find the children’s final resting places and other lost graves along the North Dakota-Montana border. The grave-seekers’ mission is to chronicle the sites with GPS and to protect them from being disturbed from the explosion of development spurred by the region’s oil boom.
“We want to make sure everything is marked so that someone’s final resting place is not disturbed,” Pelvit said.
Bill Whittaker, an archaeologist based at the University of Iowa, called dowsing a delicate issue that’s often used by cash-strapped historical societies to locate lost graves or by those who have the thankless duty of maintaining old cemeteries.
“Dowsing works but not in the way dowsers think,” said [D.J.] Grothe, a former professional magician and president of the James Randi Educational Foundation, a Virginia-based nonprofit that debunks supernatural claims. “The dowser himself moves the rods.”
Many of the lost graves the women have found along the North Dakota-Montana border have been marked by depressions, or have perennial flowers such as irises growing atop them, planted by loved ones in some cases more than a century ago.
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Notice that last part, that the graves have surface features that give away their location. It’s not that difficult to spot them. And, there is no mention that these dowsers marked spots were tested. Before drilling, in most states, mapping must occur. If there is a suspected cemetery, that potential must be investigated so the part of the story that is most puzzling here is what good they are actually doing? Checking historic records would be more promising. Thankfully, the historical society uses ground-penetrating radar, an ESTABLISHED and scientific-based technology that can better reveal anomalies underground that indicate caskets. Dowsing is old-fashioned nonsense. It doesn’t work.