Dr. Dodge the Trance Doctor
Dr. John Dodge commenced his medical practice before the Civil War in Green County. He had no actual medical training but found out from a much esteemed "professor" at a side show that he had clairvoyant abilities. Originally from upper New York state, He left in a hurry in 1856, claiming that certain influential people there were afraid of his powers and wanted to harm him.
From his home in the farm community of Dutch Hollow, located five miles north-east of Monroe, This clairvoyant Doctor treated both local patients and ones as far away as Chicago. His method of treatment lay in his ability to enter into a trance and from that state interpret the patient's illness and thus prescribe herbs, medicines, and drugs.
His day began when he entered his office, a special room set aside, in the farmhouse, that was kept very cold since he sweated profusely on cases that were particularly difficult. As a younger man he treated patients both in the forenoon and the afternoon, but by the 1880s he only had the stamina for work in the forenoon.
His wife, Sarah, acted as transcriber, since he, himself, could remember nothing of what went on once the trance lifted. The Doctor sat in a large armchair. When he entered the trance his eyes would close and his arms become rigid as he gripped the arms of the chair tightly. Sarah would then describe the patient and illness to him. After "seeing" into the patient's mind and body, Dr. Dodge would prescribe medicines, herbs, or poultices that might be applicable.
The late John Brandt, who as a boy of ten lived with and did chores for Dr. Dodge related how his grandmother came down with double pneumonia. The Doctor was called and treated her from his trance. He prescribed onion poultices to be put on both her feet. She came out fine after a few days and like so many other local believers swore by his methods.
With travel being slow and difficult in the 1880s patients from Madison, Milwaukee, and Chicago would usually write a letter detailing their ailments to Dr. Dodge. They also needed to include a lock of hair and a paper dollar as payment.
When in the trance, Dodge would twist the lock of hair in his left hand and soon would be able to "see" the person in phantom form, then make the diagnosis. If it was a hard case the doctor broke into a sweat in his cold office as he endeavored to find a cure.
Brandt told a story about a union man from Chicago , who during the Civil War lay down to drink water from a little creek near the battlefield. Unfortunately a tiny lizard ran into his mouth as he was drinking. From that time on the lizard grew and grew inside the man while the veteran lost strength and began wasting away.
"Whatever the poor man would eat the lizard took." recounted John Brandt. After seeing many other doctors first, the poor man finally wrote to Dr. Dodge, in despair, after seeing his advert in a Chicago paper. Dodge was able to use his clairvoyant powers against the ravenous lizard. He prescribed a noxious solution that would kill the lizard but not the man. In three days the lizard was gone. "It passed in pieces through his bowels", reported Brandt. The old soldier became a new man and Dr. Dodge received a letter of appreciation just about every day for months to come.
Dr. Dodge told the young John Brandt that he could have used his abilities to make money at gambling but refused to except pay in any other endeavor except for his doctoring practice or to help people.
One of the chores that Brandt did was to chop up kindling in the morning before breakfast. He used a big butcher knife for the job but quickly dulled it from old nails in the boards he was chopping up. Dodge's wife got after him pretty sharply for that. The doctor then took him to Albany and bought him a new pocket knife.
The next winter with, much snow on the ground, the ten year old John Brandt lost that pocketknife with no idea of where it had gone. One morning Dr. Dodge entered into a trance to help him find it.
Seventy years after the incident John Brandt, in an interview. recounted what had happened:
"His wife asked him in the trance where my knife was... and it didn't take him over a second, and he found it."
"She said," 'You tell us where it is.'
'No', "He says," 'You can't find it, I gotta go find it.'
'No', "She says," 'You can't go because the snow is too deep and you're sweating.... 'You can't go'
'Well, "he says," 'You can't find it.'
"But he was bound to go, so we put a big overcoat on him and he wallered down through that snow, through the barn, then up north of the barn......Oh I'd say about five or six rods beyond the barn where the straw stack was. It was all covered with snow, all buried. He walked real fast and I tried to jump in his tracks and follow him. All at once he climbs up the stack and he stopped right dead still and he gets down on his hands and knees. He sticks his hand right down, down, down. Pulled it out and it was mine...my knife."
Nowadays some might think that the tales of this remarkable doctor from Dutch Hollow stretch the imagination, but back 140 years ago he was considered by many in the Green County vicinity to be a reputable and gifted healer.
He was certainly a great friend and role model to the young John Brandt.
Note--Much of the information regarding Dr. Dodge was gleaned from a 1958 reel to reel audio tape in which Judge Roger Elmer interviewed his eighty year old uncle, John Brandt. This tape is available, in CD form at the Monroe Library