Henry and His Dowsing Rod

Henry Gross and His Dowsing Rod

Henry Gross and His Dowsing Rod

Submitter: My local library has three copies of Henry Gross and His Dowsing Rod. We all chuckled at the title. Apparently some of us still have dirty minds. Three copies? That seems a bit much. The copy I requested was shipped over from a closed stack storage facility. So I am guessing the circulation numbers on them are rather low. I should think there is something newer on this topic. I do, however, love the groovy 1950’s cover.

Holly: Are there any current books about dowsing out there? Second question: Why is Henry Gross wearing a suit while dowsing at the top of Mount Washington (below)?

Henry Gross and His Dowsing Rod

Dowsing chapter 1


  1. This cover is from the mid-60s to early 70s, and was added to replace or cover up a dated original cover. I worked at a public library in Florida, and when I first went there in the early 1980s, almost all of the books had covers made from wallpaper! And labels just like this.

  2. Here at Big Library, I got 43 hits on Dowsing, many published this century. Our copy of Henry Gross went out just last week.

  3. Even if this was up-to-date, the lack of title on the outside seems like it would make it a poor choice for a library.

  4. It would seem to me that if books like this are being kept in a library that it would be wise to create a psuedo-science books section so there’s no confusion.

    1. That’s a tough one though. I fantasize about it, but who makes the call? I would hate to have to defend every other book’s placement there to the board when angry patron practitioners find out where their sourcebook got put.

      1. I agree it’s a tough one even if certain topics have no grey area, like dowsing, acupuncture, bigfoot, etc. It’s difficult to get most people to understand the difference between peer-reviewed and accepted science and, frankly, the opposite.

        1. The Dewey Decimal system has at least three sections for pseudoscience! Our one book on dowsing (a 2010 reprint of a 1996 how-to guide) is shelved in the 133s, Parapsychology and the Occult. It’s right between a book on tarot cards and one on the prophecies of Nostradamus, so if you’re anything like a critical thinker you should know what you’re getting into.

          Bigfoot is in the wild neighborhood of 001.9, Controversial Knowledge, along with aliens, the Illuminati, and about half the ghosts (the ones who aren’t haunting Folklore in the 398s.) The best section to browse if you can’t wait for the X-Files reboot.

          Interestingly, my library puts acupuncture in its own Dewey classification of 615.892, and is considered a subset of Ancient and Medieval Remedies. If it makes you feel any better, it’s relatively close to 615.856, “Spurious therapies and quackery,” but I think it’s more widely believed in than dowsing or bigfeet.

            1. I know a dog that was helped by acupuncture; are you suggesting it “believed” that it worked so it did?

              1. No, I’m not suggesting anything. I’m stating the fact that it’s complete nonsense. Feel free to believe anything you’d like, though.

  5. I used to see dowsing rods in cartoons all the time as a kid and I would take a stick and hope I could actually find water with it. But I live on an island where you’re never that far from water so the thing should have been vibrating like crazy. Rods, vibrating, everything these days sounds dirty…

    1. You have to cradle the stick instead of gripping it tightly. My sister, who has worked in the field for a city gas company, showed me how a forked stick will bend downward when it detects the water or gas line (or the disturbed earth of both) beneath a city sidewalk. It is the freakiest sensation when it resists being held level.

      1. Wouldn’t it be constantly doing though? I’d expect there to be more disturbed earth than non disturbed earth beneath a city sidewalk.

        1. Considering there’s absolutely no physical mechanism for this to work and it’s just the directed (intentional or otherwise) movements (like a Ouija board) of the person holding the dowsing rod, of course it’s not going to go off all the time. Some people like to believe in magic, though.

          1. Stephen King relates a dowsing story in “Danse Macabre” and spitballs that some people, like some animals, can smell water underground, and then they impute that knowledge to the stick. It makes as much sense as anything else.

  6. Considering the strongest wind speeds in the world have occurred on Mt. Washington, Mr. Gross had better tack down his lapels!

  7. Of course Mr. Gross was wearing a suit. It was probably taken in the late 1940’s or 1950. Men wore suit and proper hats to sporting events even. By 1965 that was pretty much over, but FBI agents wore suits, ties, and hats during bank robbery investigations in the 1970s.

  8. Wow…this is not necessarily an “awful” book. The reason this book is important is because it’s by Kenneth Roberts. He was a very prolific and prominent historical fiction author back in the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s. Please don’t all go throwing your libraries’ copies away!

  9. My library just got in a new book on dowsing, “The Practical Guide to Dowsing” copyright 2013. I was amused when I saw it on the processing shelf.

  10. Russell Crowe’s movie “The Water Diviner,” was released in Australia last December and is apparently going to be released in the U.S. on DVD. So it might spark a little interest in this subject.

  11. There’s a theory, with some evidence to back it up, that dowsing works — when it works — because the dowser has unconsciously learned about the geology of whatever area he (or she) is based in. He can “just tell” when the lay of the land is such that water is likely to be found underground. The stick is a tool that, psychologically, allows him to accept the information coming through from his subconscious.

    This also explains why even the successful professional dowsers fail so badly under laboratory conditions. No amount of geological knowledge will help you find a bottle of water hidden in a room. Also, dowsers tend to do badly when working in areas that are different from the sort of place they’re used to.

    So, although the central idea of dowsing is false, dowsing itself can be a real phenomenon.

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