Family Gifts

Two near death experiences created expanded pathways of knowing for Ginny—they gave her a connection to realms of information that she learned to access through dowsing and other ways.

At the age of five, she and her siblings watched their dad demonstrate dowsing techniques in their back yard to a group of senior military brass gathered to see how these practices could be used to locate hidden explosive devices buried throughout South Vietnam by the Viet Cong.

Ginny's father, Louis Matacia, was a professional land surveyor and renowned dowser who helped landowners identify optimal locations for digging water wells. Businesses around the world also hired him to locate lost treasure and buried resources like oil and precious metals.

In 1967, as he listened to the nightly news reports of U.S. soldiers being wounded and killed by ordnances buried in Vietnam, he knew that dowsing techniques could be used to locate threats and reduce these injuries and casualties. He offered to share his expertise with the U.S. Marines.

In the basement of Quantico’s Landing Force Development Center, several officers gathered to watch Matacia as he held an L-shaped metal rod in each hand and walked the basement. Each time he stepped underneath a water pipe exposed in the ceiling, the metal rods in his hands swung into alignment with the pipes.

“In his soft Virginia countryside drawl he told the Marines that, with the help of the rods, he could tell through which of the pipes overhead water was running, indicate how many degrees off the horizontal they were sloping, or find pipes underground. He could determine whether an underground pipe was made of iron or copper or whether it served as a sewer or a water pipe and he could pinpoint its thickness and its depth.” (The Divining Hand by Christopher Bird, p. 199) 

Matacia’s statements were greeted with a mix of curiosity, doubt and disdain. One officer, Major T. F. Manley, was interested in learning more and invited Matacia to return to the base for an expanded demonstration.

A section of Quantico had been constructed to serve as a mock-up for Vietnam terrain, complete with villages of thatched huts, ponds, rice paddies, bridges and trails. As a tactical training area for soldiers being deployed, it also contained underground tunnels and hidden rooms, similar to structures found beneath villages in Vietnam.

Officers gathered to watch Matacia as he began to walk the mock-up site with L-rods in both hands. As he passed between two huts on the edge of a village, both rods swung to point directly at the huts. Matacia observed there must be a tunnel between the two structures and even determined it was lying on a slope with one end lower than the other. A captain entered one of the structures and promptly returned with a confirmation.

He continued to walk the training grounds and in less than half an hour, was able to locate additional tunnels, buried communication wires, underground pipes, a large room located under the floor in a home, and a hidden wall within a structure where people could hide. Officers copied Matacia’s techniques using wires cut from coat hangers he had brought and many of them began to have similar successes.

In the following months, Matacia offered to provide additional training for military personnel without response and he began to wonder if the Marines had lost interest. But a dispatch from New York Times correspondent Hanson Baldwin conveyed otherwise in a report that dowsing techniques were successfully being used in Vietnam. According to Baldwin, “Coat-hanger dowsers, as they are called down here, are not included in the Marine Corps equipment manuals. But, according to Marine officers, they have been used in Vietnam with marked success in the last year, particularly by engineer units of the 1st and 3rd Marine Divisions, which are engaged in mine detection and tunnel destruction.”  (Bird p. 207)

Baldwin had witnessed a demonstration by Major Nelson Hardacker, commanding officer of the 13th Engineer Battalion, 5th Marine Division who located an underground tunnel for a group of Marine officers and determined the angle of its slope using coat-hanger dowsing rods.

Baldwin’s report led to a second opportunity for Matacia to share his techniques with Marine personnel at USMC’s Counter Guerilla Warfare Command (CGWC) at Camp Lejeune on May 12, 1968. He was joined by five other professional dowsers to lead a day-long training exercise. During the initial briefing, Matacia was interrupted by a colonel who conveyed his doubts about dowsing. Matacia politely asked if they had an artillery piece on the base and the colonel said yes, a105-millimeter howitzer. Leonard Brown, another professional dowser present, proceeded to use a nylon Y-rod to determine the exact location and distance of the howitzer from where they were all sitting. The officers sat in stunned silence.

Matacia provided an overview of techniques they would be learning during the demonstration. As Bird describes, Matacia told the officers that by the end of the day, they would all know “…How to accurately locate snipers, booby traps, bunkers, pillboxes, or anything else contained in a combat zone… They would be able to find underground caches of arms, and tunnels and tell how many persons and what type of equipment were hidden in them without going below ground. Finally, they would gain the ability to pinpoint, from nothing but the map of any given area, installations such as gun or radar emplacements, troop concentrations, airfields, and other targets of military interest anywhere in the world.” (Bird p. 209)

To the amazement of the officers present, Matacia and the other dowsers toured the training ground and successfully identified the location of hidden tunnels, caches of buried weapons, concealed trip wires, and also accurately identified the number of personnel hiding within buried tunnels. Matacia was even able to identify the exact location of a mock POW camp on the base by using nothing but a map and a pendulum. Skeptics present that day became believers as they personally located buried items using unfamiliar devices and techniques.

The extent to which these practices were adopted to serve our soldiers in Vietnam is unknown. What was documented at Camp LeJeune in November of 1968 was a compelling demonstration of dowsing techniques that created a new reality for several Marine officers that day—as they learned to access information in ways they had never experienced before.

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