Video coming soon
The video of the demonstration by Lewis Rees will be here soon.
Lead Investigator: Spencer Marks
Article by Spencer Marks
Photography courtesy Brian Hart and Mark Johnson
SOURCE OF CONTACT:
On January 23rd, 2012, the Independent Investigations Group in Los Angeles received a Challenge application through our automated system from a gentleman named Lewis Rees from Phoenix, Arizona. Mister Rees was actually “Facebook” friends with one of our members, Anna Bishop, and had been directed to us by her because they had had conversations about his abilities as a Water Dowser, and his belief that he could win our $50,000 prize money.
Dave Richards of the IIG Steering Committee first answered Mr. Rees on the same day, and a series of three or four e-mails were then sent between them. Negotiations for a protocol stalled, and the negotiations were then turned over to Spencer Marks, also of the Steering Committee, due in part because Spencer’s name had been given to Mr. Rees originally by Anna Bishop to contact.
CLAIM AND NEGOTIATIONS:
During the early e-mails, Mr. Rees mentioned that he would only use one hand to hold the dowsing rod, and not two, as is the most common practice. Mr. Rees mentioned that it didn’t matter which hand the rod was held in, when water was detected, the rod would turn inward to his body, regardless of where the water was in relation to his body. This action matched the motion of most practitioners of dowsing, even though they may use two rods … the rods tend to move inward to the body and therefore “cross” each other.
After two or three e-mails were exchanged with Mr. Rees, it was clear that Mr. Rees was trying to make the protocol much more difficult than it needed to be, with him suggesting that he look for “disturbed ground” near a building that might have a water pipe buried within. Spencer Marks asked Mr. Rees specifically if he could just find hidden water, and Rees assured him that he could, as little as one cup.
In the next e-mail, Spencer asked him if he would be comfortable looking for a gallon of water beneath a cardboard box, as this seemed a bit easier than a cup of water beneath four feet of dirt, and Mr. Rees agreed that this would be a simple test of his abilities.
After that, the protocol negotiations went quickly and smoothly, and it was agreed that the IIG would hide a gallon of water beneath one of 15 standard file storage boxes, and he would have to find the water hidden inside. We would mark off a distance of at least 10 feet in our parking lot between the boxes, and he would have three trials in which he would have to find the water with 100% accuracy. This would allow the odds against random chance to be 3,375:1, (15^3) which are approximately the odds we want to see for our preliminary demonstration. If Mr.
Rees could find the water under these conditions, he would be eligible to move on to the actual test. During the actual test for the prize money, he would have to beat odds against random chance with a minimum 1,000,000:1. This would have been accomplished by running the same test with six trials, instead of three.
Mr. Rees would be allowed to “pre-dowse” the entire parking lot, without boxes, with the empty boxes, and with the gallon of water in a controlled, known spot. After he had satisfied himself that the parking lot offered no “background interference” with ground water, and that he could indeed detect the water in the gallon jug we had provided, he would move on to the actual demonstration.
The date was set to match the next General Meeting of the IIG – Los Angeles, which was scheduled for March 17th, 2012. This would be one of the fastest time between first contact of an applicant and the actual demonstration, as less than two months would have elapsed.
As usual, in our behind-the-scenes discussions about setting up the test for Mr. Rees, we were solely concerned about not being cheated, and what the applicant could do (if he were so inclined) to try and beat us by nefarious methods. We decided that one of the things that could be done was to use a confederate situated somewhere away from our parking lot at the Center For Inquiry, one that would watch to see what box the water was hidden beneath, then secretly signal Mr. Rees. We decided that to combat this possibility, we would have 14 additional milk jugs filled with kiln-dried sand that would be placed beneath the empty boxes, so that any onlooker would see activity at all of the box locations, and then (hopefully), not be able to determine which was the water jug. To insure a double-blind test, the IIG would have one team of our members pick a number (1 through 15) from a hat, then go into the parking lot with the water and sand jugs and place the water beneath the box with the corresponding number of the random number they picked. Once they had placed all the jugs (water and sand), that team would leave the area, and signal a second team that would escort Mr. Rees from inside the building where he was sequestered into the parking lot to begin the demonstration. He was not allowed at any time to touch any of the boxes physically.
Lewis Rees made the appropriate hotel reservations during the time of the test, and we coordinated his pick up and return to the hotel on the designated day. Mr. Rees is an older gentleman, 71 years at the time of the test, but very physically fit, personable and with a seemingly genuine belief in dowsing. Mr. Rees does not believe dowsing to be a Psychic ability, but rather an unknown “natural” ability. Indeed, Mr. Rees had been taught dowsing only 7 years before, when he was 64.
On the day of the test, nature decided to not cooperate with our test to “find water”
by raining on us, a relatively rare occurrence in Los Angeles. We were sensitive to
the fact that Mr. Rees had driven from Phoenix to do the test, so we asked him what
he wanted to do, offering to move the test indoors or to postpone to a time when the weather was more cooperative. Mr. Rees told us that indoors would be fine, as long as he could still pre-dowse the floor for water pipes, and we assured him he could. Mr. Rees was flexible with some of the other specifics of the stated protocol, and told us that the boxes could be less than 10 feet apart, which was important due to the limited space indoors. We also decided that the 14 jugs filled with dry sand were no longer important, since we had control of the indoor environment, and there was no possibility of an outsider looking in to signal Mr. Rees.
We took Mr. Rees to the first floor of CFI where he could look up and actually see the bottom of the second floor … the same floor that he would be dowsing on. This was important because we could easily establish that there were no water pipes running along this section of CFI, and after the visual inspection, he also dowsed the area looking for any “problem” areas. After identifying a couple of problem spots, we adjusted the location of the boxes, and he was satisfied that there were no more areas that would interfere with his abilities. Finally, we placed a jug of water beneath a box in his full view, and allowed him to do a test dowse, and he was easily able to find the jug located in the target box.
Once Mr. Rees was satisfied that nothing would interfere with a fair test of his
dowsing abilities, we asked all the members of the IIG (except the team that was to
place the first jug of water) to leave the area. Once out of the area, the placement
team drew a number from the hat, showed it to the camera that was recording the
event, then silently placed the water jug beneath the corresponding box. The team
left the area, and as they did so, they called to the rest of the IIG “Ready.” The other
members of the IIG came back into the room, escorting Mr. Rees, and allowed him to
begin dowsing the numbered boxes.
Mr. Rees went quickly though the room, and once he found that box number 3
seemed to move his dowsing rod, he announced very confidently that that was his
choice. Unfortunately, the box that actually contained the water was revealed to be
box 14, located at least 15 feet away. Mr. Rees had technically failed at this point, but
we had asked him as part of the protocol negotiations to complete all three trials if
there was a failure, since if he had scored two out of the three, those results may be
significant as well. Mr. Rees did complete the next two trials, but failed to find the
water in either of the other two trials.
We explained to Mr. Rees that the most probable explanation was the “Ideomotor Effect,” which allows the human body to adjust very subtly to conditions, especially when the eyes give advance warning of something expected. The Ideomotor Effect can cause slight correcting motions of the muscles under various scenarios, like an Ouija Board, as one example. Mr. Rees listened to this explanation and he seemed to accept that as possible, although he feels that in the past he had tested himself under similar controlled conditions. When asked, it was clear that he had never
double-blinded himself, and we suggested that subtle clues may have been given off by those that had placed the water since they were present during his self-test. Mr. Rees may have been picking up on those subtle clues, and he had only provided four containers for hiding the water, thus limiting himself to a 1-in-4 possibility during every round.
Mr. Rees was then interviewed by Dr. John Suarez, resident Psychiatrist in the IIG and Mark Edward, a professional magician also of the Steering Committee. The post- demonstration interview is standard, and is used to determine how the applicant came to believe that they had their power(s), and if testing under such controlled conditions had made them view their powers any differently.
Based on this test, it is impossible to determine if Dowsing is an actual skill or ability, but if it is, it has once again failed to make itself available under controlled conditions. As of this writing, Mr. Rees has not attempted to shift blame on the IIG for his failure, and has stated that our group ran a fair test. Mr. Rees has stated he will continue to dowse, but is also going to continue to test himself under controlled conditions. At this time, we have no idea if Mr. Rees has performed those tests.