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Observations placeholder

Evelyn Penrose - Dowsing for underground streams of water and deposits of oil and metal ores



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

British Columbian Fruit Grower's Association - Vignette: Evelyn Penrose, Water Diviner

The prolonged drought of the late 1920s and early 1930s brought to public attention one of the more unusual characters to appear in the Okanagan.

By 1931, the water shortage was such that growers were willing to try almost any means to increase the supply. Thus in the fall of 1930, the South East Kelowna Irrigation District (S.E.K.I.D.) engaged Miss Evelyn M. Penrose, an English woman who claimed to have inherited from her Cornish ancestors the ability to "feel" underground streams of water and deposits of oil and metal ores.

She was to search for new sources in the area draining into the District's reservoirs. For this she received five dollars a day for expenses, with a substantial payment promised if successful.

She spent October dowsing the hills east of Kelowna with her twisted wire rod, but there is no record that the District actually tried to develop any of the sites she indicated. She did, however, declare that there were strong indications of oil in the area, thus helping to encourage an oil-rush which led to two unsuccessful oil wells being drilled in the Kelowna area in the 1930s.

While Miss Penrose's efforts for S.E.K.I.D. may not have borne results, she interested others in her talents.

The Hon. J.W. Jones, MLA for South Okanagan and provincial Minister of Finance, was persuaded by the drought-plagued farmers that water divining was worth trying, and he arranged for Miss Penrose to be employed by the Department of Agriculture during the summer and fall of 1931.

She travelled through the Okanagan, Cariboo, and Peace River areas, dowsing properties wherever the owners had made a request through the Department. According to her own account, she was highly successful: she wrote that she found one young Okanagan fruit grower a "Wonder Well", giving a supply of more than 324,000 gallons a day, "in a spot that he had been walking over daily for years".

The Department of Agriculture's Annual Report for 1931 stated that "letters received from time to time indicate that settlers are securing satisfactory watersupplies where digging operations are carried on".

Evidently, the success was not great enough to convince the sceptics, for on March 24, 1932, water divining was discussed in the provincial legislature which decided to eliminate the $1500 which had been allocated for that purpose in the Department of Agriculture's budget. Miss Penrose left British Columbia and continued her travels around the world, searching for water, oil, and metals in South America, Africa, the United States, and Australia.

The last word, though, should be hers, particularly as she tells her stories so well.

In her autobiography, Adventure Unlimited, she explained that she could even locate ore deposits on a map by running her hands over it. Each metal gave her a different sensation; silver, for example, felt like being stabbed with a red-hot knife.

While she was water-divining in British Columbia, a mining man brought her a map of an area near a big silver mine, which he wanted her to survey for gold. While talking to him, she unthinkingly perched on the table and sat on the corner of the map where the silver mine was. The sudden stab of pain made her leap up with a yell.

The next day she mentioned this to a friend, who remarked, "But, my dear, how very convenient to be able to work at both ends!"

The source of the experience

Ordinary person

Concepts, symbols and science items




Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Inherited genes