Checking the fault lines in our lives
DIVINER BRENDAN Murphy walks around the perimeter of our house carrying two dowsing rods. The rods seem to twitch and swivel at random on the end of his thumbs as he does so.
After a brief session of divining, he tells us that he has located an underground stream beneath our home, running at a depth of about 200ft, from west to east.
We move inside the house and Murphy tours the bedrooms. In the main bedroom, he stops to inform us that the stream is running directly beneath the left-hand side of our double bed, and the running water is disturbing the earth's geomagnetic energy field.
This, he tells us, is geopathic stress and it has the potential to make the person who is sleeping on the left side of the bed very sick indeed. He recommends that we move the bed away from the stress line. I have to admit to being extremely sceptical about the concept of geopathic stress and I am glad to report that the person sleeping on the left side of the bed is perfectly healthy - but later that day we move the bed anyway, just to be on the safe side, you understand.
So what is geopathic stress? Proponents say that the earth has a geomagnetic energy field which, when distorted, becomes harmful to our health. Although it is claimed that the Chinese knew about stressful places (and refused to build their homes on them) over 4,000 years ago, the modern "father" of geopathic stress is thought to be a German scientist and dowser Gustav Freiherr von Pohl.
In 1929, von Pohl mapped geopathic stress lines in the town of Vilsbiburg and found that all of the people who had died of cancer in the town since records began, had slept in beds in areas marked on his map - von Pohl decided that cancer was "a disease of location".
There have been some incredible claims made about the impact of geopathic stress on human health: that sleeping in areas of geopathic stress causes cancers and a whole range of other illnesses from cot deaths to heart disease; that animals and infants will instinctively avoid sleeping on geopathic stress lines, and that trees will have stunted growth if placed on them.
Scientists and doctors generally treat these claims with derision, and there has been no serious scientific research carried out on the issue since von Pohl's time. Though there is a wealth of compelling anecdotal evidence, there is an almost total lack of scientific evidence to support claims.
Murphy's company Positive Energy Ltd is one of a number in Ireland that specialise in dealing with geopathic stress and electromagnetic radiation. Murphy has been divining stress lines full time for nearly 15 years and charges €120 for the service.
His suggested remedies for geopathic stress include the installation of "neutralisers" in and around the house (see panel). "I start outside the house and look around for the obvious things like mobile phone masts or electricity pylons, which might be a source of stress. I then look for underground streams entering and leaving the building, which tells me where I need to check inside the house."
Murphy believes geopathic stress itself does not cause an illness, but that it impacts the immune system, rendering the patient unable to fight disease. When a bed is located over a geopathic stress line, he says, it presents particular difficulties since it is during sleep that the brain is sending out signals to cells to regenerate.
"It blocks the electric pulses from the brain from getting to the particular part of the body and so that particular area is prevented from healing itself. This is why geopathic stress-related problems are so localised."
He is well used to sceptics, he tells me, and has carried out several trials for curious newspapers, documentary makers and radio stations. These trials involved him being brought to the home of a cancer patient and successfully identifying which bed the patient slept in and where in their body the cancer was located.
"That is surely worthy of investigation," he says. "It always puzzles me that so much money is spent trying to cure cancer and so little money is spent trying to find the cause. I have no problem with scepticism - I welcome it - and I always find that if I can turn a sceptic around, they will be my biggest ally."
Neutralising the effect of geopathic stress
When their daughter Ava was about a year old, John Walsh and his wife Anita moved her out of her cot and in to a bed in their Kilmeaden, Co Waterford home. They were surprised to notice a dramatic change in her sleeping pattern.
"When she was born first and was in the cot, she was sleeping soundly, but when we put her in the bed, she started waking during the night. She would be wide awake for two or three hours and that was very tough on us. On top of that, myself and Anita were suffering from persistent back problems."
Convinced that geopathic stress might be the cause, Walsh approached Positive Energy and an examination of the house found underground water running right under their own bed and that of their daughter. Because they didn't have the option to move the beds, Positive Energy recommended the installation of a copper ring in a trench around their house, which it is claimed neutralises the effect of geopathic stress before it enters the building. This project, which included substantial ground work, cost €4,800.
Walsh claims that as soon as the work was finished, his wife's back trouble disappeared and that Ava has been sleeping soundly since.
His own back problems disappeared too after about five weeks. All in all, he believes it was money well spent.
"What was worrying us was what might come after the back pain. You hear stories locally about people with cancer of the throat and the line running right across their pillow. My mother died of cancer so these things are never far from your mind."