10/03/1983 at 01:00 AM EDT
At least since Moses smote a rock with a rod "and the water came out abundantly," people have been looking for water with sticks. For 22 years they've been doing it in Danville, Vt., where the American Society of Dowsers—as people who engage in this sort of thing are called—holds its annual convention. This year's event drew 800 curious folks, some serious and some strange. One man, reports a Danville waitress, "dowsed his lobster at dinner to make sure it was all right."
Obviously, 20th-century dowsing isn't limited to scouting wells with a forked stick. Practitioners use twigs, metal rods and pendulums to dowse—or "divine"—medical problems, structural deficiencies in buildings, psychic vibrations and mineral deposits. Oklahoman David Bagley told a packed audience that he had dowsed for 450 oil wells. Water hunter Paul Sevigny also dowsed for a lost wallet. But the award for creative dowsing should probably go to Dennis Fassler of New York. "The guys in my office thought I was nuts," says Fassler, "until I told them I could tell if a girl wanted to date me by asking the pendulum."