The Water Witch


…a true story stranger than fiction…

I’m sure you/ve heard of “dowsing” or “water witching” a method of finding water in rural areas using brass rods or forked sticks. The “dowser” holds his locator of choice and follows what seems to be an unnatural directional pull of their locator. People close to the land believe in such things and the educated scientist types scoff saying it is all hokum.
What I am about to relate to you is absolutely true. An impossibility. But it happened nonetheless…

It was in 1957, when I was a junior in high school, when my dad came home with a tale about a ‘Water Witch’ or Dowser. His boss at work had told him about this old man named Kon Muttrick who lived in a town called New Era who went beyond the Forked Stick method of seeking water that most so-called ‘Water Witches” used.
I told my high school buddy Harley about this guy and we found it difficult to believe that such an event could happen as described. We decided to make a Day of it and go up and see this guy….tell him we were making a science project and report on the Dowsing Phenomenon.

So, off we went. Drove to New Era, Michigan, where the guy lived and inquired (as we were told to ) at a certain small store for directions to Kon Muttrick’s farm.

We pulled into the barnyard and, sure enough, here was this old man, probably in his sixties…bib overalls…gray hair…had that look of The Land that a lifetime of hard farming brings onto a man. He looked a lot like Walter Brennan’s character “Amos McCoy” featured on an old TV program The Real McCoys.

We told him our fabrication and asked him for a demonstration of his abilities.

“Well, y’know…I know where all th’ water is on my proppity is…won’t be a real test.” he said.

“Yes, sir, we know, but our teacher says that dowsing can’t be done and we hear you have a most unusual way to do it.”

What I relate to you now is quite impossible. But I saw it with my own eyes, in broad daylight…

He gave Harley a pocketknife and told him to cut a Sassafras sapling that was about 12 feet high, about 1.5” thick at the base.. Sassafras saplings grow like weeds in western MI and tend to grow really straight. After cutting this treeling very close to the ground he was instructed to trim all the branches off it except for “the brush” at the top. It was at this point about ten feet long I’d say.

The old man then waved in the general direction that he said an underground stream ran and took the trimmed sapling in his hands. He held it vertically with the ‘brush’ touching the ground. Without any motion from his hands, the cut, sky-pointing. tip started gently whipping back and forth. but in an odd, one sided, back and forth.
When he went in the direction he’d said the water was, the whipping action started to resemble a fishing pole with a fish on it, i.e. it was starting to flex one sidedly in the direction of where he’d said the water lay…. move in the opposite direction and the bending would lessen. As he moved toward where the one sided flexing indicated it became a real chore for him to hold the sapling as it bucked.

“Now, watch this, boys” he said and he moved in the direction of the alleged underground stream and the sapling bent over into a ‘U’ until it audibly snapped above his hands!!!

We, of course, were dumbfounded.

Oh, to have had a video camera in those days.

Old Kon claimed he could tell which sparkplug was mis-firing on a car by touching them with his left hand. If he were to touch them with his right hand he’d get shocked like anyone else.

He claimed it was a Gift from God and would not charge you if you wanted him to ‘witch’ your land for water. He did require that you, as an act of faith, have a drilling rig hired and ready on the site. His hardest find he said was a place so barren that the only live wood (a necessity) he could find was a small live bit of brush less than a foot long. It worked, however.

Curiously bigoted for one claiming a ‘gift from God’ he “wouldn’t work it fer niggers or injuns…”

Strange, strange man…