Instructor Who Teaches Cops To Dowse For Dead Bodies Issues Hearty Defense Of Corpse Witching

from the dowsing-for-dowsing dept

A few weeks ago, Rene Ebersole drew the curtain back on law enforcement forensic training, showing the public that their tax dollars were being blown on forensic education handed out by Dr. Arpad Vass — someone who in the year of our lord two thousand twenty-two is teaching cops how to utilize witching to locate dead bodies.

Five crime scene investigators wearing white Tyvek suits and purple Latex gloves pace through a Tennessee woodland in a slow wave, searching for areas of sunken ground and other clues that might indicate a gravesite. The chill morning air is scented with loam, leaves, pine needles — and a hint of human decay.

The agents mark three suspicious depressions in the dirt with red flags and discuss their options for investigating further. One student asks about dowsing rods.

“You want to use some?” replies Arpad Vass, an instructor at the National Forensic Academy in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where law enforcement officers come to learn how to use science to solve crimes — at least in theory. “I use them on everything.”

[Smash cut to shocked gasps/facepalms.]

Arpad Vass is not happy his psuedoscience has been criticized. Not happy at all. He has issued a response via his business’s (Forensic Recovery Services) website. The headline itself is a treat, reading like something composed by other people who have often had their credentials and/or assertions challenged/debunked by journalists.


The introduction (and it’s a long one) is credited only to “Admin,” but it sounds like something Vass might have written himself. It’s a pretty fun read, especially since it’s supposed to be the beginning of an unassailable defense of Vass and his dowsing for dead bodies.

Dr. Vass is a brilliant scientist with a breathtaking resume who has invented an amazing machine that is revolutionizing law enforcement investigation procedure.

OK. Most people wouldn’t put “brilliant” in this sort of sentence and no evidence is presented that Vass’ new machine is “revolutionizing” anything.

More on the machine:

Dr. Vass recently invented a machine he calls the QUANTUM OSCILLATOR (QO) that uses resonance frequencies to locate comparative objects in the environment. As mind-blowing as it might be, Dr. Vass can find your relatives from the resonance frequencies given off by fingernail clippings.

[Studio audience]: HOW DOES IT WORK!?!?

Your fingernail clippings (reference sample) will have a similar resonance frequency as your ancestry. Dr. Vass will first do his best to narrow the search with anecdotal information. Then using a comparative sample, in this case your fingernail clippings, his machine will point to where your great-great-great grandfather was laid to rest.

[Studio audience begins searching for EXIT signs]

“Scary accurate.” “Game changer.” “30-mile range.” “Can detect a single drop of blood that is over twenty years old.”

This product is indeed patented. And it looks a whole lot like a slightly more complicated form of dowsing.

By the time readers actually get to the rebuttal supposedly written by Vass, they may already be exhausted. Pressing on, you’ll hear Vass claim Ebersole is a deceptive journalist with a hidden agenda and that her article for The Marshall Project is “fake news.” So, you know, real hard-hitting, deeply-factual stuff.

Despite claiming Ebersole’s discussion of his dowsing training was “misleading and inaccurate,” he admits he does “train” law enforcement officers to use dowsing rods to locate bodies.

Do I also discuss and demonstrate dowsing? – well, yes I do. The QO was actually invented to overcome some of the negative aspects of dowsing (e.g., environmental factors) that would interfere with the detection of bone. Can dowsing locate bone? The answer is yes and I know why. I explain this to the students and let them try it for themselves.

They can make up their own minds after they learn the proper way to use the antennae, the correct materials of which to make them, and the pros and cons of this technology – yes, you read correctly: TECHNOLOGY. It’s not witchcraft or voodoo, it’s actual technology still being used today.

First off, dowsing can’t locate bones. In all the words Vass expends here, he points to no scientific study that backs this claim. All scientific research dealing with dowsing shows it’s no better than a coin toss. In fact, it may be worse than a coin toss since law enforcement officers wouldn’t waste their time being instructed by someone flipping coins. But they do waste their time (and our money) being taught by Vass that dowsing is a legitimate method for finding dead bodies.

It’s hilarious that Vass claims in this rebuttal that there is a “correct material” for making dowsing rods. Because that’s not what he tells his law enforcement students.

There are no official dowsing rods at hand, but that doesn’t matter. “You can use the flags,” Vass offers. “Bend them like you would coat hangers.”

So, basically anything you have on hand is the “correct material.”

Since Vass doesn’t have science or facts on his side, he’s reduced to issuing rebuttals that don’t actually rebut anything Ebersole asserted.

To claim dowsing is the ‘pseudoscience of witching’ is completely misleading and indicates to me that the unnamed experts Rene interviewed have never looked into the science behind the technology.

The 2021 dowsing ‘study’ was, in my opinion, ‘useless’ because in order to properly dowse, you must be instructed in proper techniques and theory, use the right materials, and be informed of possible of interferences, which did not apply in that study.

In other words, dowsers must be prepped by someone who believes dowsing works before dowsing will work for them. That’s not how science works. That’s how confirmation bias works.

Vass cannot simultaneously claim that the rods respond only to emanations from dead bodies (like “piezoelectricity” [more on that in a moment..]) while claiming a scientific study is wrong because people weren’t fully instructed in how to operate the rods. Either they move in response to outside stimuli or they don’t.

It’s not just Vass’ claims about dowsing being science that are unbelievable. Other assertions made in his so-called rebuttal sound like someone making stuff up to sound better and smarter than they actually are. This doesn’t sound like a scientist talking. This sounds like Donald Trump:

While Ms. France is correct that getting a patent doesn’t mean that it works, Rene failed to mention that when we submitted it to the patent office, the lawyers asked us to come up to Washington, D.C. for a demonstration because they didn’t believe it worked as claimed.

The lawyers were so impressed by the engineering and effectiveness, they wanted to fast-track the patent through National Security channels.

None of this sounds plausible. I can’t find any information from the USPTO that suggests there’s a NatSec acceleration option. The USPTO doesn’t care if you can make a working prototype. It’s just there to ensure it doesn’t infringe on previous patents. And it certainly doesn’t care enough to ask inventors to meet with its lawyers.

Vass also takes some time to bash other scientists who work with dead bodies but, you know, with actual science.

Regarding anthropology professors Bartelink and Gill-King, who claim that the QO is not scientifically valid (Rene never indicates that they have any expertise regarding radio frequencies, resonance frequencies, physics, electrical signatures, or antennae theory, etc.), how are they qualified to comment on dowsing or the QO?

It is doubtful, in my opinion, that these anthropologists had even heard of piezoelectricity (or knew that bone has this property) until Rene talked to them and told them what I said. Have they ever called me to discuss my technology, gone out on a search with me, looked into how the QO works, or talked to people who do? Of course not.

I’m sure these people have heard of “piezoelectricity.” They — like pretty much everyone else — probably don’t consider it relevant to dead bodies. Piezoelectricity has its uses, and can be detected and measured, but almost all research focuses on living people and what this can contribute to healing fractures. There is also some research being performed to see if this energy can be harvested (from LIVING people) and stored as they generate it via movement.

What you’re not going to find (outside of this vague citation from an organization with ties to Vass) is scientific research saying dead bodies can be located via detection of piezoelectricity emanating from human remains.

Vass appears to sincerely believe dowsing for dead bodies works. I don’t believe he’s just running a con on law enforcement and non-profit search-and-rescue entities. But that doesn’t make him right. It just makes him someone who shouldn’t be trusted to instruct law enforcement officers or suggest dowsing as an option during search-and-rescue efforts. Until Vass is able to produce scientific research that backs his dowsing claims, he should probably stop claiming accurate reporting about his training efforts and firm belief in pseudoscience to be “fake news.”

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Comments on “Instructor Who Teaches Cops To Dowse For Dead Bodies Issues Hearty Defense Of Corpse Witching”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Step 1: Believe really hard Step 2: ...

Ah yes, there’s no stronger evidence of rock-solid science quite like ‘To get an accurate reading you need to be prepped beforehand by someone who already believes in it wholeheartedly.’

That’s the fun thing about actual science, so long as you are doing it right it doesn’t matter if you believe in it or not you’ll still get the same result.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:


I know from the weight of scientific evidence that dousing is useless.

That said, if years of listening to lawyers talk about how to get out of a traffic ticket have taught me anything, it is that even simple equipment can produce false readings if not employed properly. Speed Guns for instance, require regular calibration and proper technique to provide accurate readings. Years of cookery have taught me that many dishes, simple dishes, require technique that many have to practice to get right, even with professional instruction.

It would not be unreasonable to suggest that if dousing worked, the technique would need to be taught by someone experienced. the real issue being that, like those people who claim to be able to live off sunlight but only when no one is watching, when the results of trained dousers are examined en mass, the big picture results are indistinguishable from any other random human search party, or in the science lingo, indistinguishable from the control.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

like those people who claim to be able to live off sunlight but only when no one is watching

Hey, lots of people live off sunlight (while people are watching).
Works like this: the sunlight (helps) full a plats growth. Then we eat the plant. Or in many peoples case, someone else pluck the plant. Then processes it (possibly till all meaningful nutrients have been removed), and then ships to to them to be eaten (lots of steps omitted due to laziness).

Although I must admit: if you want evidence any of that works… I’m too lazy.
Also: For people easily confused: living only off sunlight (no plants involved) is crazy talk.

Anonymous Coward says:


This crank sounds to me like the kind of person to file SLAPP lawsuits for “defamation”. I’m worried this could be his next move.

…And the “hero” of the story linked directly above the quote did exactly that.


Oh, and calling one’s invention a “quantum [anything]” is an almost memetic red flag.

Anonymous Coward says:

The lawyers were so impressed by the engineering and effectiveness, they wanted to fast-track the patent through National Security channels.

None of this sounds plausible.

All it takes is a lawyer with sufficient acting skill and a willingness to grift. I mean, this guy has a gizmo he wants to patent, and the lawyer wants to get paid for pushing the patent through. Works or not doesn’t matter to the lawyer. Inventing “National Security fast track” to pad the bill seems just another part of the sales pitch.

mcinsand says:

dowsing memories

Wow. This reminds me of a story from my first job after school. The building was fairly old, and an engineer received a task of mapping pipes under the building. The pipes in use were easy, but he was also supposed to map out those that were not in use but still in place under the lowest floor. I knew about the task but didn’t think anything of it until I was walking down the hall and saw the engineer with two bent pieces of wire in his hands. I saw but repeated “I will not ask” several times before turning around to ask. Sure enough, he was trying to find dried out, disused pipes with dowsing rods.

I admire the people being gentle by calling this pseudoscience. To me, dowsing is clearly antiscience.

Naughty Autie says:


Fixed that for Vass. He’s welcome. ;D
As for piezoelectricity, the only thing I’ve known it to do is light cigarettes and hobs (electronic lighters and pilot lights on gas cookers).

Anonymous Coward says:

Piezoelectricity… So, when people die and decay, the little compressors in their bones keep squeezing them for years. Seems like it would be easier to detect the energy source of the compressors. Curious how fingernails and blood do the same, and/or act as a tuning crystal specific to (checks notes) one’s bloodline?

Also i love how it’s always “frequencies, frequencies, frequencies,” but not a frequency of anything, until someone is really reaching, or backed into a corner. So now it’s radio waves, eh? CW? Modulated in any way?

Jesus saves radio, radio waves.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

““I use them on everything.””

I await Franks Red Hot filing a trademark lawsuit for him getting close to ‘their’ phrase because at this point it makes as much sense as claiming he can use a fingernail clipping to find my long dead ancestors.

Skippy if your magic sticks worked as you claim, you’d be rich instead of selling snake oil from a cart as fast as you can before the townsfolk run you out of town.

How dare you attack my unproven, unsupported claims, you just didn’t drink my flavoraid.
I look forward to the first defense lawyer learning the ‘expert’ got training from this bozo and it sinking the entire case.

Bobvious says:

Narrowing the search

Dr. Vass will first do his best to narrow the search with anecdotal information.

Which cemetery is your great-great-great grandfather buried in?

Then using a comparative sample, in this case your fingernail clippings, his machine will point to where your great-great-great grandfather was laid to rest.

And if we stand at the gates of that cemetery, Hey Presto!

Ginette Matacia Lucas (user link) says:

Combining Dowsing and Science for True Crime

In the 196o’s my father combined dowsing to locate Boobie traps, bombs and communication devices to save lives during the Vietnam era. He trained the Joint Chiefs of Staff and military soldiers in my backyard in Falls Church, Va. I was 7 years old then, dowsing hasn’t changed since the 1400’s or the 1960’s or even now.

The teachers might be different but dowsing has been used in the main stream professional field for the CIA, Police, FBI, etc. Dr Vass is just improving on the usage of dowsing as I have. I used dowsing to locate Caylee Anthony, Chandra Levy, and others.

Dowsing isn’t a belief system it’s a mental process that affects the neurological system and then gives reactions from the brain. This helps the dowser to visually see the reactions to help us point to the correct answers to find, in Dr Bass’s case missing remains.

I am a true crime forensic dowser and Treasure Hunter, who is successful using dowsing to give answers. The Marshall Project is going to make a big difference in the usage of locating the missing.

Check out the article by Journalist Jack Hope who wrote about Dowsing for the Smithsonian Magazine. Then read more about dowsing in Psychology Today by Journalist Maureen Seaberg. Open ur mind and try dowsing it’s the brain working for you !

The American Society of Dowsers is having their Annual convention soon go attend in person or virtually.

mechtheist (profile) says:


If you can successfully dowse as you claim, why haven’t you picked up an easy million bucks from The Amazing Randi’s challenge?

You’d have to be an idiot and a fool to not have done so. It’s not active now but was until 2015. But, you can still make a tone of money at many various other challenges to demonstrate paranormal activity:

Why let so many folks laugh at you when it would be really really easy to prove them all wrong [and rake in a lot of cash!]? And don’t be the typical craven weasel by trying to denounce the tests due to their stringent requirements, it’s science, right? Science always works hard to eliminate the possibility of spurious results. Denouncing that is to denounce the fundamentals of science.

As long as you and your ilk don’t do this, you’re deservedly laughing stock. Tee effing hee.

Anonymous Coward says:


You know, it’s funny. Even if you were telling the truth that you actually found anything in either of the cases you cite, which isn’t the case (I know, I’m shocked too), the fact remains that you were involved as a psychic and weren’t running around in the woods with a pair of twigs. So even if you were right (which, again, you aren’t), dowsing had nothing to do with it.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Mr Tim

As I pointed out in the previous article on this man, please read up and attempt to understand aspects of religion you do not regularly interact with. Your terminology is completely wrong.

Your use of “our” for your lord is also problematic as it claimed inclusion when many readers may not in fact consider “your” lord there’s.

Finally, as with the previous article, I make no claim that any of these techniques work or do not work. But if you want to convey a message without showing your entire ignorance on a topic at least use the correct terms.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2

You try to hard! You need to go back to my comments on the previous article:

Witching is a term used by Judeo-islamo-christian believers to cover any number of magick, spell casting, and cursing practices.

Divining, divination, is calling on the dead or the non-human for knowledge.

And dowsing is a practice claiming to use unproven scientific methods and beliefs to find underground water.
Dumping water on something. Sometimes also called christening or baptising.

Which I followed on with

The only point of the comment beyond humour was people in general need to put more effort into understanding what they denounce.

Here it was too easy… year of our lord? Talk about mixing religion up.

Tim Cushing (profile) says:

Having referenced your prior comment, you seem to have a problem with me using “witching” and “dowsing” interchangeably.

I suggest you take up this argument with the internet.


I admit I was wrong to call it “witchcraft” in the last article’s headline, but what Arpad Vass is teaching has been historically understood as “witching,” even if he won’t admit it.

As for the “year of our lord” sentence, I won’t change or apologize for it. It’s a deliberate addition that’s meant to highlight the ridiculousness of Vass’s nonexistent contribution to the forensic community. We should definitely not have people who instruct law enforcement investigators passing on the secrets of long-debunked twig twitching.

I’m sorry this is the aspect of this post that most offended your sensibilities.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:


Agreed. It was just a poke poke jab jab.
(And rile a few republicans)

Although, “witching” was (and often is) used to describe anything in science, folklore, existence, that didn’t conform to the bible text.
What he is teaching is closer to divination that actual witching.
Witching requires either one or more spells, or the involvement of a/the (depending on branch) goddess or god.
Devining is interpretation of the clues.
Though we could probably break this down further to split divination from revelation. Which were separate practices.

As for sensibilities… I find it more interesting that non-pagan adults find such practices worthwhile despite the scientific evidence against it.

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