Letters to the Editor, June 25

Jul 02, 2017

Millay cause of death

Your otherwise interesting article about Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Edna St. Vincent Millay contained an error. Millay did not “die of a heart attack,” as reported. She was found at the bottom of the stairs that went to her second-story bedroom, and likely fell down the stairs, sometime during the night, and was found the next morning, Oct. 19, 1950. See Nancy Milford’s excellent biography, “Savage Beauty."

Phyllis Merriam


Editor's note: Several sources, including "Shore Village Story" and History.com, state that Millay died of a heart attack. However, we appreciate the reference to "Savage Beauty" for more information on the subject.

Says dowsing is pseudoscience

The Midcoast Weekender's Outdoors section recently ran a story entitled: "Learn how to find water" by Tom Seymour, a naturalist/author from Waldo. In his several books he generously shares his experiences of nature and knowledge of wild things and places, and as an early graduate of the Maine Master Naturalist Program, I appreciate the availability of such resources.

That said, I must protest his promotion of dowsing and the instructions on how to "dowse," which reminded me of children's snipe-hunt tricks played on younger kids. In this post-truth era where fake news, anti-science and alternative facts clamor for equal representation in the public square, it should come as no surprise that the promotion of pseudoscientific entertainment like dowsing continues to receive support from unqualified opinion and anecdote.

There is no doubt that many sincerely believe in the mystical powers of sticks of various kinds to detect buried materials of various kinds (dowsing isn't used just for finding water, but also metals, coins, bodies, etc.!). It's not the "belief" that I question; it's the fact that no dowser has ever been able to pass a properly constructed test of their "dowsing" powers. Many such tests have occured over the decades, in this country and abroad, including a challenge of $10,000 to anyone who could detect water flowing in underground pipes  -- some pipes contained water while others didn't and the professional dowsers did no better than chance/blind guessing!

Explanations offered for their failures provide further evidence that they lack simple knowledge of scientific method to verify their own claimed powers; there is no basis for their claims. And there are many fascinating mythologies surrounding the practices, too, ranging from an origin in Germany around 500 years ago to "thousands of years ago," based on what appear to be recently invented oral traditions or citations of dubious origin.

Here's a thought -- what if the dowser has a full bladder? And since human bodies range from 50 to 75 percent water, consider all of the creative and amusing excuses you need to have in order to explain away the implications. My suggestion is that you put your money on a qualified geologist or hydrologist if you really wish to understand the dynamics of underground water. Otherwise, you can do an online search of all the sites on dowsing and just have fun!

Chuck Dinsmore


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Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jul 02, 2017 17:46

Well Chuck. I had a native dowser test out my new building lot way back in the '60's and the rod bent full force, so I had Drinkwater well driller drill that spot and within 100 feel I had all the water I needed. So i believe in my female friend dowser 100%

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