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Dowsing, in general terms, is the art of finding hidden things.  Dowsing is an ancient practice whose origins are lost in long forgotten history, however it is thought to date back at least 8,000 years.  wall murals, estimated to be 8,000 years old, discovered in the Tassili Caves of North Africa depict tribesmen surronding a man with a forked stick, possibly dowsing for water.  Artwork from ancient China and egypt seem to show people using forked tools in what might have been dowsing activities.  Dowsing may also have been mentioned in the Bible, although not by name, when Moses and Aaron used a "rod: to locate water.  The first written accounts of dowsing come from the Middle Ages when dowsers in Europe used it to help find coal deposits.  During the 15th and 16th centuries, dowsers were often denounced as pratitioner of evil.
In modern times, dowsing has been used to find water, mineral deposits, oil, buried treasure, missing people and as a ghost hunting tool.
No one really knows how dowsing works, not even experienced dowsers.  Some theorize there is a psychic connection established between the dowser and the subject sought.  All things, posses an energy force, and the dowser, by concentrating on the object, is somehow able to tune in to the energy force or vibration of the object, which in turn forces the dowsing rod to move.  The dowsing tool may act as a kind of amplifier or antenna for tuning into the energy. 
For believer or skeptic there is no definitive proof that dowsing works, but Albert Einstein, however, was convinced of the authenticity of dowsing.  He said, "I know very well that many scientists consider dowsing as they do astrology, as a type of ancient superstition.  According to my conviction this is, however unjustified.  The dowsing rod is a simple instrument which shows the reaction fo the human nervous system to certain factors which are unknown to us at this time."
In the past several years, dowsing has been gaining popularity as a ghost hunting tool.   The best method for the beginner is to use two L shaped rods.  Both rods should be the same in length.  Hold the short end of the rods loosley in your hands and relax.  Avoid looking at the rods and move forward.  the rods will either cross over each other or swing open wide.
Mankind has been dowsing for thousands of years.  However, it has only been in the last few years that ghost investigators have added dowsing rods, which have also been called diving rods, to their arsenals of equipment.
When dowsing for objects other than water, such as in ghost hunting, this requires a great deal of practice for the novice and even professionals can have difficulty due to the powerful influence of water.
Dowsing rods are said to react to the electromagnetic energy given off by ghosts.  Intests with skilled dowsers, the rods reacted favorably compared with an electromagnetic meter.(see our article on EMF meters).  When the rods react it is suggested that someone snap a picture, it is a good way to pick up orbs and other interesting phenomena.  Rods can also be used to contact spirits.  Using yes or no questions, ask a spirit to cross the rods for a yes answer and open them wide for a no answer.
With all the expensive equipment that you can purchase to aid in the detection of spirit activity, it is not suprising that more and more investigators are turning to dowsing rods.  These inexpensive rods can prove to be as accurate as all of this other equipment.  Once you have mastered the technique, you will probably find yourself relying on your rods more and more.