Now, the rural current affairs show Landline continues this great tradition. In a program featuring the efforts a group of monks are taking to transform their country property, the program also produces a Dowsing Monk.
JOANNE SHOEBRIDGE: But in rural circles it's Brother Clement for whom the monastery is best known. Brother Clement has an unusual gift. Today he's on a vineyard and grazing property near Young divining for water.
CLEMENT HOLZ: I found the water because of the water wire turning in my hand. Well, an uncle of mine lived at Singleton, which is east of the Hunter Valley, New South Wales. And one day he handed me the wire and said "just try yourself out" and it worked with me. Well, I can tell how wide the actual water is underground. But this is extraordinary, seven-foot wide. And I find the quality of the water, of the wires crossing like that. I wait for the reaction of the wires, right? And the wire, they're crossing. This is most important. Those wires are actually crossing. I find the depth by one piece of wire; 19, 20, 21, 22. That's the end of that. It's 22 metres down to the water.
JOANNE SHOEBRIDGE: And what does it actually feel like when the...
CLEMENT HOLZ: Well, it's actually tugging on your hands. It's impossible to hold it up. And I use a stick, a willow stick, to check out the wire, because on five occasions I've had wire saying that it was OK, and I tried the willow stick and the willow stick wouldn't have anything to do with it.
EoR's a little confused. Is the wire reliable, and the willow stick not? Or the other way around (in which case, why bother with the wires)? Do the wires and willows have arguments about who's right?
The monastery at one time had 10 brothers and 25 fathers. Like most such religious enclaves, it is declining. Today there are only 3 brother and 5 fathers, the youngest being 73. It's not stated how old Brother Clement is, but EoR would be surprised if a piece of wire he was holding didn't shake, even without the ideomotor effect (something that has been known since at least 1852, but clearly not to the ABC).
JOANNE SHOEBRIDGE: Ever counted how many times you've found water?
CLEMENT HOLZ: No, I'd have no idea. But a lot. I could say it'd be... It could be hundreds. It would be hundreds in the last six years.
Well, if he says so, it must be true. Let's not spoil a good story by checking facts. The reporter even goes so far as to prove it to herself in the most bizarre of tests:
CLEMENT HOLZ: Not everybody can do it but I'll find out whether you can do it or not. You're going to walk over there now and stand there. That's the edge of the bore.
JOANNE SHOEBRIDGE: Look at that. Look at that! I'm not moving that!
CLEMENT HOLZ: Yeah, yeah. They're going across.
JOANNE SHOEBRIDGE: You can see my hands aren't moving.
CLEMENT HOLZ: That's always good quality water.
JOANNE SHOEBRIDGE: Gosh, I couldn't control that if I tried!
CLEMENT HOLZ: No, it's impossible.
JOANNE SHOEBRIDGE: That is amazing!
CLEMENT HOLZ: Yep. And people have said to me "Why don't you look for gold, you're doing so well?" I said, well, water is more important than gold and that's what I believe, you can't keep stock and people alive with a bit of gold but you can with water. And if I can help out I'm only too happy to, but when it rains, I will be out at work. And thank goodness for that, too! (Laughs)
So, the reporter stands in a place where she already knows there's water, experiences the ideomotor effect and, hey presto! The ABC promotes yet another myth.
Why doesn't Brother Clement look for gold? Well, for one, it's a lot rarer than water, and a lot less likely to be found by chance. Though, again, EoR is confused about how he'd do it anyway. Do the wires shake in a different way for gold?
Meanwhile, at least other monasteries in Australia are more accepting of the scientific approach (this is also from the ABC, but it's from George Negus Tonight - George Negus, one of Australia's senior and most respected journalists, no longer works at the ABC, they "let him go" by not renewing his contract).
The monks of St Clements also offer online prayer requests.
Thanks to Sheep Groper for bringing this remarkable gentleman to EoR's attention.