Dowsing for Murder

It began with a brutal double murder on July 5, 1692.  A wine merchant and his wife were killed in the cellar of their shop in Lyons, France. Since the money known to be in the shop was missing, authorities concluded that the couple had been robbed and murdered using the bloody billhook that had been left behind.  Forensic science was virtually non-existent at the time and the magistrates had no idea about who might have committed the crime.

Rather than letting the crime remain unsolved however, the magistrates were urged to consult Jacques Aymar. Though actually a stonemason, Aymar had become fairly famous in the area for his skill as a dowser. While dowsing had largely faded into obscurity by the 17th century, local stories quickly spread over Aymar’s success in locating underground springs and other lost items. 

But his greatest fame came from his apparent success at solving crimes. Several years earlier, Aymar had reportedly used his dowsing rod to track down a thief who had stolen some clothes in Grenoble, France.   Not only did his dowsing rod identify the thief, Aymar reportedly tracked down where the stolen goods were hidden. According to another story, Aymar had used his dowsing rod to locate the body of a murdered woman and implicated the woman's husband (who promptly fled the parish).  

The Lyons magistrates asked permission of the Procureur du Roi to test Aymar and see if he could find the murderer. Not shy about proclaiming his ability to find the murderer, Aymar insisted that he could solve the crime if he and his dowsing rod could be taken to where the murder happened. In the wine shop, Aymar carefully dowsed the crime scene and concluded that three men were involved in the murder. After gaining his impression of the killers, he left the wine shop and began tracking his prey across town. Following some impressive guesses, he began wandering into the countryside pointing out spots where the killers had slept, ate, etc.

To read more, check out my new blog post on the JREF Swift site. 


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