Dowser, Consultant to the Universe

Glenn Johnson’s business card reads “Dowser, Consultant to the Universe.”  Photo by Katherine Hays (2004).

A recent interview with This American Life host Ira Glass on got me thinking about about an old Salt Radio piece called “Dowser, Consultant to the Universe.” It’s the story of Glenn Johnson, a dowser who makes a mistake. And, therein lies the connection to the Ira interview.

Ira says mistakes are important to storytelling. Not a mistake on the part of the producer, but a mistake made by a character in the story.”I don’t go looking for stories with the idea of wrongness in my head, no,” Ira says.  “But the fact is, a lot of great stories hinge on people being wrong. In fact, we’ve talked as a staff about how the crypto-theme of every one of our shows is: “I thought it would work out this way, but then it worked out that way.”

In part, that’s what happens in the story about the dowser produced by Owen Agnew in 2004. Glenn, the dowser, goes hunting for water one day with his dowsing rods, finds what he thinks is a good source, the property owner digs a well….. and never finds water.

This “wrongness” as Ira calls it, adds an interesting twist to the story. Gives it some conflict and causes Glenn to question, if only briefly, his spirituality — what he believes powers his dowsing. Without the mistake, the story would, most likely, be less interesting.

Listen for yourself.



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