Here are the relevant emails and letters regarding the DKL LifeGuard devices.  I must also note that James Randi notes that this most likely is, at least to a significant degree, unwitting error, based on the strong self-illusion that is provided by the movement of these devices in response to virtually undetectable tilting by the user's hand.

From: Self <Single-user mode>
To:,DMAT list <>, (NCRC Discussion List),
Subject: DKL LifeGuard
Send reply to:
Date sent: Tue, 7 Apr 1998 07:02:49

Keith Conover, M.D., FACEP
36 Robinhood Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15220-3014

(412) 561-3413 (H) 232-8222 (W)

April 7, 1998

Attn: Robin Bonner
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Washington Metropolitan Field Office
1900 Half Street, SW
Washington, DC 20024

Dear Ms. Bonner:

I recently received the attached email from the Department of
Energy's Sandia Labs. Given that their double-blind test
showed the DKL LifeGuard to be totally useless, I am making
my evaluation of their devices, and my previous letter to you,
public to the Emergency Medical Services, Search and Rescue,
and law-enforcement communities. This may make your
investigation a bit more difficult but due to the possible hazard
to lost/entrapped persons' lives, I feel morally obligated to take
this act. And, based on Sandia Lab's investigations, I doubt
that the ASRC will undertake any further technical
investigation of the device.

Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance to you
in this matter.

Thank you.

Yours aye,

Keith Conover, M.D., FACEP


Date sent: Mon, 06 Apr 1998 15:00:26 -0600
Subject: DKL LifeGuard


On March 20, 1998 Sandia National Laboratories performed a double blind test
of the DKL LifeGuard human presence detector and tracker. The test was
designed to allow the device to search for individuals well within the
product's published operational parameters. The Test Operator of the DKL
LifeGuard was provided by the manufacturer and was a high ranking member of
DKL management. If the device operated as advertised, the test would have
clearly shown this to be true. The results were that the device failed to
meet its published specifications and its performance was no better than
random chance.


Dale W. Murray
Department 5848
Entry Control and Contraband Detection Technologies
Sandia National Laboratories Albuquerque

From: Self <Single-user mode>
To:,DMAT list <>, (NCRC Discussion List),
Subject: (Fwd) DKL LifeGuard
Send reply to:
Date sent: Mon, 6 Apr 1998 23:47:29

Just wanted everyone to know -- the devices called "LifeGuards" that
are offered by Dielectrokinetic Labs are useless and a fraud
(possibly unwitting on the part of some of the purveyors). These
devices, which sell in the $5000-$15000 range, are nothing more than
an expensive dowsing rod. But unlike a dowsing rod, which can be had
for no cost, and might serve to help focus one's subconscious clues
about where someone might be, this one purports to work on
technology. And there is no good solid theoretical basis for their
claims about their devices, nor do they work in controlled empirical

A copy of my letter to the FBI can be found at:

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
[see above email]

image2.gif (8134 bytes)

Keith Conover, M.D., FACEP

36 Robinhood Road

Pittsburgh, PA 15220-3014


February 1, 1998

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Baltimore Field Office
7142 Ambassador Road
Baltimore, MD 21244

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing to ask for your assistance in investigating what I strongly suspect to be a fraudulent moneymaking scheme preying on the law enforcement, search and rescue and emergency medical services communities. Yesterday, I attended an executive meeting of the Appalachian Search and Rescue Conference, a regional 500-member wilderness search and rescue organization with Groups in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland (see enclosed fact sheet from my local ASRC Group in Pittsburgh). This meeting was held in the Zoology/Psychology building at the University of Maryland, College Park, where one of our ASRC members has her office. At this meeting, Howard Sidman and an associate whose name I didn’t learn, from Dielectokinetic Laboratories, LLC demonstrated certain devices, called DKL LifeGuards, that they claim can locate those lost in the wilderness, buried in avalanches, or trapped in collapsed buildings. An ASRC member who had seen a preliminary demonstration of their search techniques had invited them.

Mr. Sidman was offering these devices for sale, with prices ranging from $5,995 to $13,995. He explained that these devices operate by "picking up the dielectric potential from a human heart," which puts out varying electrical signals with a frequency of from 1-30 Hz (1-30 cycles per second). As they explained, their devices pick up these signals, and with special electronic filtering that they have installed, the device discriminates the regularly varying pattern of the human heart. As a physician, I of course am familiar with surface electrocardiograms, where we pick up these electrical patterns from small sticky electrodes applied to the skin over the chest – and thought that it might indeed be possible, with careful amplification and filtering, to detect these at a distance. But these ultra-low frequency waves would be very difficult to detect. As those of use who have used different types of radios know, the lower the frequency, the larger the antenna has to be – and an effective antenna for such low-frequency signals would have to be hundreds of feet long.

One of our members, a physicist, asked about blinded or double-blinded studies showing the system worked – and we got a very evasive answer. (Blinded and double-blinded are terms that refer to controlled experiments, where neither the subject nor the one performing the tracking are aware of where they are relative to one another – important to prevent unconscious bias that would throw the results off.)

Mr. Sidman then explained that they have tested these devices against all sorts of animals – dogs, cats, pandas and gorillas at the National Zoo, and the like – and their filtering keeps the device from picking up any of these, only picking up live human hearts. But Mr. Sidman took pains to insist that they would find human hearts of any age, from the smallest infant to the largest adult. Fascinating, I thought. But how do they tell the difference between a dog EKG and a human EKG? They look pretty much the same to me. And what about humans with irregular heartbeats, such as atrial fibrillation, or who are hypothermic (very cold) and have a very slow heart rate? No problem in the mildly hypothermic patients they’ve tested, Mr. Sidman said. This made me somewhat suspicious, as I don’t see any basic physiological, electrical or magnetic difference between similar-sized mammalian hearts.

When asked about the circuitry inside, Mr. Sidman was vague – and explained that the circuit boards were potted (encased in epoxy resin) to "make them waterproof" though this also prevents any examination of the circuitry. One of our electrical engineer noted that if the "potting" was opaque, this would raise suspicions even more (that the circuits might be nonfunctional).

They then showed how the devices work, with repeated explanation that it requires much training and experience to use them. This repeated insistence on training and experience bothered me – if the device can detect a human heartbeat, it should not be so operator-dependent. The device they showed is a box, about the size of a VCR tape cassette, vertically mounted on a handle at one corner, and a telescoping antenna sticking out the other end (see the picture in the attached brochure). I assumed that the device would give some sort of indication of a heartbeat, maybe a light flashing in lockstep with the detected heartbeat. Wrong.

The device is attached to the handle by a ball-bearing swivel, so the device freely swivels – they explained that this was necessary so the device can swivel freely in response to the "dielectric polarization force." Since I knew that any dielectric polarization force would be barely detectable, and would have to be carefully filtered and amplified, I was confused. How did the detector move the device? Was there a servo motor that made it move? No, it swiveled back and forth in direct response to the external dielectric force. As soon as they said this, I realized that something was very, very wrong. How could such a tiny force – barely enough to detect with extremely sophisticated electronics, if at all – make this big detector swing back and forth? They explained that the ball-bearing swivel was needed to allow the device to swing freely. They were quite unable to explain this massive effect to an incredibly tiny force in any way that made the slightest scientific sense. When they demonstrated the device, they held it tilted forward, though, so the device naturally swung pointing forward – and so the slightest motion of the hand could make the device swing to the right or the left, as with "L"- shaped pieces of coat-hanger wire as used in dowsing (see the enclosed device). As one of our members pointed out, even the slightest movement of one’s hand would combine with gravity to impose a swiveling force of much greater magnitude than any tiny magnetic force. If one wanted a ball-bearing swivel device to respond to tiny magnetic forces, one would have to use a bubble-level to carefully level the device and keep it in a vacuum chamber to prevent wind or convection currents to nullify the tiny electromagnetic effects. But Mr. Sidman explained that to work, the device has to be held in a human hand; he claims the human body serves as a kind of "ground plane." However, with other electromagnetic phenomena, it is possible to substitute a chunk of metal for a human body as a ground plane. Nonetheless, Mr. Sidman claims (and I have no doubt of its truth) that if the device is simply mounted on a metal table and allowed to swing freely, it will not detect any human heartbeats.

One of our members noted that Mr. Sidman and his associate emphasized that, to be used, the device has to be held in the hand, and moved from left to right or vice versa. And, that one must move it in a straight line, not in the arc that would come more naturally. And our member realized why this is – moving in an arc would make the device swivel out from the center at the beginning and end, simply "flailing" and not pointing at anything in particular. However, when moved in a straight line, one naturally tends to actually move in a slight arc that is concave upwards (a shallow "U") and as a result the device tends to point straight ahead, providing the illusion (and a good one it is, indeed) that the device is magically pointing at something dead ahead as one moves it from side to side.

Mr. Sidman also showed a model with a laser pointer attached to it – and demonstrated how, with the laser pointer turned on, it was more accurate – though without the slightest explanation of the possible scientific basis for this. He also noted that it worked differently when a person walked past with the laser pointer turned on – the detector actually swung somewhat in advance of a person walking by, as opposed to swinging somewhat behind with the laser pointer turned off. Exactly why this would occur, or how a laser pointer made it more accurate, he didn’t say.

None is an amateur stage magician trained to see sleight-of-hand or other deceptions. However, several of us saw simple ways to "fake" the demonstrations that Mr. Sidman and his associate gave. For instance, one of the demonstrators stood in a classroom with the "detector" while one of our members stood in the doorway watching the other demonstrator walk back and forth in the hall outside. The demonstrator in the hallway could have prearranged how he was going to walk back and forth so the demonstrator in the classroom could "track" this prearranged pattern. Or, the demonstrator in the classroom could have simply tracked the hallway demonstrator by watching the eyes of our member in the doorway.

While Mr. Sidman and his associate went outside to provide an outdoor demonstration for most of the about 25 people present, they left one of their units inside, and Gene Harrison (the communications engineer described below) and I had a chance to examine it. When Mr. Harrison used it to try to detect me, with power both on and off, and keeping it carefully level, there was no effect at all – unless he tilted it slightly to make it swing in the "right" direction.

I believe this was a unique presentation opportunity for Mr. Sidman. As wilderness search and rescue is essentially an all-volunteer pursuit, all of us have other "day jobs" and by luck or fate, this audience included a large number of skeptical and well-educated people including the following, all of whom informally discussed the presentation and its lack of credibility:

Our combined critical analysis was enough to point up the unfounded basis of this proposed lifesaving system – or I shouldn’t say "proposed" as they’re already offering them for sale. I initially thought that this might be, as with many cases of reportedly-successful dowsing, subconscious effects. But, I can see no way that even the most deluded scientist could believe that circuitry in the device could impose a force to make it swing one way or the other without some sort of servo mechanism, I believe it is most likely conscious fraud by the proponents. Even if not, they are selling a replacement for existing life-saving techniques without adequate testing, and thus guilty of quackery by the definition of the U.S. Congress. Quack: "Anyone who promotes medical schemes or remedies known to be false, or which are unproven, for a profit." U. S. House of Representatives, 1984. (From NACAHF home page).

Please let me elaborate on the last point. The claims made by Mr. Sidman are, by comparison to the known principles of electromagnetic physics, electronic engineering, comparative zoology, and electrophysiology of the heart, flatly incredible. Therefore, before selling a device based on these theories, especially in a situation where lives are at stake and mistakes may kill people, Mr. Sidman bears the burden of providing incontestable evidence – not mere testimonials and easily-faked demonstrations. As the scientific skeptic’s community is fond of saying about paranormal claims (which Mr. Sidman’s clearly are): "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof."

As far as information on how to locate these people, one of the demonstrators noted that their research and manufacturing facility is in Williamsport, PA. And the DC address listed in the brochure is, according to a DC resident familiar with the area, probably just a post office box.

I must note that the request for an investigation is mine personally and not an official request of the Appalachian Search and Rescue Conference nor any other organization with which I am affiliated. The Communications Committee of the ASRC is discussing its potential interest in a formal test of this device – but as "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof" such testing would have to be carried out in a manner similar to the blind-seeing test discussed in the enclosed article.

To sum up, I see this as likely delusion or fraud. Not only may public safety agencies waste money on this questionable if not useless technique, they may depend on it instead of other subject location devices such as air-scenting search dogs, remote-listening devices and infrared-detection devices – and people may die as a result. What is even more concerning is that law enforcement and other public safety agencies may become unwitting accomplices.

I have a few additional resources that may be of some benefit in your investigation.

I would very much like to make known to the national search and rescue community my suspicions of these devices, and the ASRC Communications Committee may be interested in setting up a formal controlled trial of these devices – but we will wait to hear from your office about the advisability and timing of these actions. I also worry that any further communications from our kind of "hard audience" may scare them off.

Thank you for your careful consideration of this matter.

Yours aye,

Keith Conover, M.D., FACEP
past Chair, Appalachian Region, Mountain Rescue Association
founder and past Director, Appalachian Search and Rescue Conference
member, Board of Directors, Pennsylvania Search and Rescue Council
Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Pittsburgh

Enclosure: Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group fact sheet, DKL brochure, article from the Washington Post, printout of DKL Web site, recent Skeptical Inquirer articles on dowsing and "seeing with fingers."

cc: Appalachian Search and Rescue Conference Board of Directors