The cemetery whisperer
Liscomb man restores headstones, dowses for graves
A cemetery may serve as a holding ground for the deceased, but for Bob Terry of Liscomb, cemeteries hum with life.
Since the 1970s, he has repaired and restored headstones locally and throughout the United States. In 2007, his efforts expanded to include cemetery mapping for both commercial and private entities. He has been profiled in countless publications and on television shows, eager to share his insights into this unusual field.
“My wife Kathy and I lived in Albion and had a home handyman service — we’ve done just about anything you can do to the home,” Terry said. “One day an old gentleman wanted to know if we’d go out to the Heartland Friend’s Cemetery and straighten out the graves of his two wives. The monuments were leaning and tilting. We got them straightened out, and after we did that, Albion wanted some monuments worked on, then another little town. And it just kind of blossomed from there and has been a full-time career for 31 years.”
Terry’s Cemetery Restoration & Mapping, a family business, is a multi-generational enterprise.
“I now have my granddaughters and great-granddaughters helping me,” he said.
Any given week, Terry and his crew may find themselves mapping out a rural cemetery in Iowa, then traveling to Ohio to clean headstones that have suffered vandalism. The Terrys have few contemporaries.
“Not many people restore graves and I’ve never met anyone else who maps,” he said. “We began creating maps for cemeteries, aiding in replacing lost documents, benefiting genealogists, auditors, the local courthouses and town trustees and helping create new revenue by finding open land for burials. We have even aided public citizens who have come to us stating that they used to have relatives buried in a specific cemetery, but their stones could no longer be found. By using dowsing rods, I was able to find the buried gravestone markers, bring them to the surface and restore them to their rightful place within the cemetery.”
While Terry doesn’t classify himself as a psychic, he said he does pick up on energy and communicate with spirits.
“I have inherited an energy from being out in the cemeteries, and it just grew and got stronger, and now I just know things,” he said. “I did not have that ability before (going into this line of work.)”
Mapping requires documenting all the known — and unknown — burials in a cemetery.
“People are surprised at how many unmarked graves there are,” he said.
Terry uses L-shaped dowsing, or divining rods, to detect the earth’s buried secrets.
“After 30 years of dowsing, I’m still wondering what it is, but it is just something I have to show; it is hard to explain. It’s communication with another realm for information,” he said.
Since the Middle Ages, dowsing rods have been used to not only detect burial plots, but discover underground sources of water and minerals. However, they are not a scientifically accepted form of underground detection. Terry said he is certain dowsing rods are just as accurate as Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR.)
He makes his own metal rods, filling them with special crystals and metals that create orgonite, which some believe balances and harmonizes bio-energy and improves the accuracy of the rods.
“I’ve also put in a photo or hair of a missing person in the rod, when I’m working with police,” he said.
Holding two rods out in front of him, he’ll begin to walk. If a rod begins to dip downward or angle left or right, he knows he is getting close to an unmarked grave and continues his movement. When the rods cross, he says, he has discovered a body. He said he can also determine the sex of the decedent and whether the grave harbors and adult or child. Based on burial rows, he figures out what direction in which the feet of the deceased person are pointed.
“Starting at the head of a grave, I will walk with the rods, and if they cross, it is a female. It is just the opposite with a male. If I start at the feet and walk and they cross, it is a male. I know a child or infant is buried there if the rods cross and uncross after walking only a short distance over the grave.”
Terry often utilizes a pendulum in his cemetery mapping, alongside the rods.
“The dowsing rods take me places and they show me things. The pendulum takes me places, and it tells me things,” he said of the difference.
Terry, who believes in the power of healing energy, carves his own healing stones, made from semi-precious gems. For the past 30 years he has volunteered on the Liscomb Fire Department. He conducts seminars and presentations.
“People ask me when I’m going to retire. I’m 75 years old. As long as I can keep doing this, I’m going to stay out here,” he said.
For more information about Terry and his services, visit www.cemeterymapping.org or call 641-496-5422 or 641-750-0067.
Contact Sara Jordan-Heintz at 641-753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org