Doodlebugs and Dowsers
A History of Unusual Ways to Search for Oil
Published by: Texas Tech University Press
Imprint: Texas Tech University Press
Sales Date: May 2023
304 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: May 2023
- Published: May 2023
What lies beneath the ground? Our poor eyesight cannot penetrate even an inch into the soil, so for centuries, fortune-seekers have tried every way imaginable to see below the surface. Whether searching for mineral veins, groundwater, or buried treasure, people have looked for ways to avoid the plodding and backbreaking process of digging. They have followed dreams, seers, dowsing rods, and advice from the spirit world. When petroleum became an item of commerce, oil-hunters took to all these methods. Many built homemade inventions called doodlebugs, which they said could detect underground oil.
It took a while, but science finally came up with its own toolbox of oil-finding methods in the early twentieth century. Finding oil is still expensive and risky, however. The old ways? They are mostly gone, but a few oil-dowsers still stride across fields with rod or pendulum, and no doubt people still consult dreams and psychics. And don’t pretend that you yourself haven’t wondered if that dowser might be onto something, or if that famous psychic can really tell where there is oil, or if that inventor stumbled onto a better way to detect underground oil. Of course you have.
History is written by the victors, and scientists won over the oil industry—rightly so. But their accounts give short shrift to the rich history of less traditional ways to find oil. Although ignored, the records of nonscientific methods and their contributions to the oil business are well worthy of study. Lacking in science, they are rich in humanity.Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear . . . wait, scratch that . . . these things are still going on. Join us in a visit to a place where dreams, seers, and spooks are taken seriously, where forked twigs dip toward oil pools and homemade oil-finding gizmos blink or beep with the promise of riches tucked just below the surface of the known world.