You Do Not Need to Divine the Location of Power Lines; You Probably Know Them Anyway

Power LinesProfessional skeptic James Randi has been debunking paranormal experts, faith healers, and other frauds since 1972. A magician during the first half of his life, Randi likes to describe himself as an investigator, openly challenging paranormal, occult, and supernatural claims he collectively refers to as “woo-woo.” His crusade has led Randi to cross paths with countless individuals living on fringe science, with some claiming that they have the ability to locate power lines without any equipment. Of course, Randi asserts that such claims are merely “woo-woo.”


Branch circuit testers, like those from, are the primary equipment electrical engineers rely on in finding circuit lines. But, individuals, even some claiming to be electrical engineers, insist on the effectiveness of copper wire in locating electric cables.

They say that all it takes is an 18″ to 24″ galvanized or copper wire to point them to the right direction. Many link its effectiveness to the planet’s magnetic field, but there is no scientific evidence to support this claim in this specific circumstance.


“The fact that you see it, yourself, with your own sensory apparatus doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily real, because that apparatus can deceive you, and we magicians know that. We use the fact that you can be deceived and you can deceive yourself,” Randi states.

There are many types of electrical tracers operators use to locate power lines, but none are as controversial as a single piece of copper wire. Scientists are linking all of the successful instances to a subconscious reaction of the human brain. They say that people, especially electrical engineers, are likely to have an understanding of where the buried lines are located. From electrical posts, conduits, and other structures, people have a wealth of subconscious information to pinpoint a location seemingly involuntarily.

“People have a way of deceiving themselves when they don’t see answers that they would like, and they prefer those answers. They skew the information they’re given, willingly, in order to arrive at the conclusion they would prefer, whether it’s correct or not,” Randi says.