A Perham man is asking the Bluffton City Council to consider a theory he has that unmarked graves are located in the city park.
Bob Riepe, of Perham, uses a technique called dowsing to identify unmarked graves using metal rods. He would like to designate a cemetery in Bluffton where he says he discovered bodies through dowsing.
The Bluffton City Council has taken his information and is getting feedback from the city's attorney.
Bluffton Mayor Tim Pavek said there's a significant difference between scientific and non-scientific measures and ways to find bodies within the earth.
"As a city, we need to look at what is scientific," he said. "We have not made an official statement on the request. Part of it is we don't want to spend the city's money on designing or allowing something that we don't have the jurisdiction over."
Riepe began dowsing, also known as divining, in 2012 after researching and visiting St. Joseph Cemetery in rural Perham. He noticed many spots where a grave was visible but there were no markers. Through divining the old part of the cemetery, he found and identified 151 graves. Further research led him to the Otter Tail County Poor Farm Cemetery near Fergus Falls. He has identified 171 graves so far at that location.
Based on his research, Riepe published a historical fiction based on some of the people buried in these cemeteries. Further research led him to Bluffton after looking at original plots. On one of these maps there was a small square in an area that is now located in the city park that had been for a school building.
After going to Bluffton and dowsing the area, Riepe said he has discovered unmarked graves. He submitted information to each of the Bluffton City Council members with newspaper clippings and a proposal for a cemetery. He is proposing the installation of a flagpole and stones by each of the unmarked graves he has discovered through dowsing and offered to pay for it if the city donated some help. The Bluffton City Council has listened to Riepe's request and has given the information to attorneys to research. The council will provide information to the public once it has had time to look at the request and have input from the attorney, Pavek said.
"If there's a chance that there are bodies within the confines of the city park then we have to do our due diligence," he said. "But if there aren't we can't waste the cities time on that."