Area man aids in water questsBy CHRISTINE BOUSH, Staff Writer
Published June 11, 2007
The L-shaped metal divining rods held lightly in each of Jack Lingafelter's hands gravitated into a crisscross as he stepped over the hose irrigating his yard.
"It's black magic," Lingafelter said with a twinkle is his eye.
Divining rods in the hands of a Stanford grad and retired metallurgical engineer seem an unlikely coupling, but the 80-year-old has gained recognition in Polk County and Landrum for having an uncanny ability to find water.
"I'm an engineer by training, and I had grave doubts about witching because it doesn't make any engineering or scientific sense," Lingafelter said. "But there's a lot in this world that's strange and inexplicable."
Lingafelter's first encounter with a dowser, a person who uses a divining road to find water, was 20 years ago, when he and his wife, Marcy Wright, were living in California.
"I needed a second well, and the neighbor brought a dowser over," Lingafelter said. "This dowser was about 80 years old, and he was able to tell me how deep I would have to go and how many gallons per minute I would get, and he was within 10 percent."
When he and Wright moved to New Hampshire, Lingafelter decided he had nothing to lose by trying it himself. He fashioned his first divining rods out of wire coat hangers and paced through their backyard while mimicking what he had observed.
"I thought he had lost it," Wright said. "He comes from a scientific background, and so do I."
When Wright snatched the rods out his hands to try it herself, she was astounded when the coat hangers in each of her hands swung on a horizontal plane toward each other and then crossed.
"It's intriguing," Wright said. "Finding something new you can't explain just shows we don't have all the answers."
When they moved to Polk County, Lingafelter broke out his makeshift divining rods again, but this time, Wright was an eager apprentice. The well driller dug in their selected location, and the result was a well that pumped out 50-60 gallons a minute at only 230 feet of depth.
"Over the years, people have heard that I do this, and I've done probably close to a dozen wells, and every one of them has had water," Lingafelter said. "I don't have a clue as to how deep or how much - all I know is the rods tell me, 'dig here.' "
His reputation as a dowser grew exponentially during his stint as Polk County commissioner after he dowsed a location for a well at the new middle school. Two previous attempts to drill a well for the school had come up dry, even though the contractor dug down 900 feet.
"I went to the middle school and dowsed and, lo and behold, found some water," Lingafelter said.
As county commissioner, Lingafelter played a crucial role in persuading the Arnold Palmer development partners that Tryon was the ideal location to build their premier golf course, White Oak.
Michael Savage, the managing partner, said once construction actually started, they ran into issues in connecting to the county for water.
"When we got in a tangle over water, Jack was very helpful," Savage said. "I had a hydraulic survey done, and they said there was probably water under the ground, but with 1,000 acres, it's a matter of where to drill."
Savage said they needed 620 gallons of water per minute to service the needs of the golf estate, and Lingafelter agreed to come out and dowse the area to "increase" their chances of striking the liquid gold.
"We got the well driller, and the first well was 450 gallons per minute, the second 300 gallons per minute," Savage said. "When we had a grand opening and Arnold Palmer was there to start the golf course, we had him put a little pin on Jack for a thank-you in helping us dowse up those wells. We have enough excess now that we can actually help the county out with water if they run dry."
Delbert Pittman, owner of Pittman Well Boring, the company that drilled the wells at White Oak, said getting that kind of water pressure is rare. He said a high-producing well is considered one that outputs 50 gallons a minute or more, and drilling one that puts out 450 gallons per minute is phenomenal.
"I've been around well drilling for 50 years, and some people believe strongly in dowsing, while others don't," Pittman said. "Dowsing has actually worked for me, but I don't have any faith in it. About 97 percent of the time, you set up a drill rig, you are going to get water, but drilling behind a dowser, you still have no better than a 97 percent chance."
Pittman said once he was hired to drill a well at a church that had also hired a dowser out of Asheville. The man looked around and then told Pittman the location to dig, guaranteeing he would hit water.
"I had one question for him," Pittman said. "I asked him if I didn't hit water if he was going to pay me, and he said, 'it's not that kind of guarantee.' "
In South Carolina, it costs 10 dollars a foot to drill. Pittman said it makes sense that people want to improve their chances any way they can.
The fact is, when you drill behind a dowser, it doesn't always mean you are going to get water, Pittman said.
In the case of White Oak, Pittman said they did drill on one of Lingafelter's locations for the smaller of the two wells, but he did a lot of research before he selected where to dig for the larger well.
"I keep records of every well we've dug, and I pulled out all well records of high-producing wells within a five-mile radius of White Oak," Pittman said. "I took latitude and longitude, used GPS and drew Xs on a map to determine the best place to dig."
Lingafelter, however, isn't trying to trick Polk County residents into thinking he has supernatural powers.
"I don't do it much; it's just for kicks," Lingafelter said. "I always offer a disclaimer for folks that I'm happy to help, but it's all for enjoyment and no guaranteed results."
Article excerpted for dowsing related content, Source : http://www.goupstate.com/article/20070611/NEWS/706110336/1051/NEWS01