The Ghost Of Julie Dodge
By Bill Knell
It was a warm and quiet October in Saint Petersburg, Florida
during 1971. My family had moved there just a year before to
escape the hassle, bustle and crime of New York City. Being an
only child with two working parents, I knew what it meant to be
home for at least a few hours each day by myself. But at
thirteen years of age, it didn’t scare me. Coming from a city
filled with crime and crazies, I automatically walked around the
small rented home we had in a nice area of St Pete before going
in. I looked for any open windows, unlocked or ajar doors or
signs of forced entry. Once I felt comfortable that the house
was secure, I entered quickly and immediately locked the door
again. It was a kind of ritual and probably seemed silly to the
neighbors. They left garage doors wide open most of the day and
back doors unlocked until it came time for their kids to come
home from school.
Although most people thought of St Pete as a town full of
retirees, there was still a significant population of young
families and lots of kids. Most of the homes on our block were
owned or rented by young couples with children. Although it took
some getting used to, I really enjoyed the change that our move
to Florida had brought. Even the local Church we attended was a
welcome distraction from the cold, closed, cathedral style
building where we had worshipped in New York. It was open, airy
and bright. And the people just seemed more friendly. Not that
New Yorkers aren’t friendly. There just scared! When you live in
any big city area it’s a must to keep a sort of protective
distance between yourself, your family and everyone else. You
want to be friendly, but you also want to be careful.
It was the third weekend in October of 1971 and the weather was
great! I woke extra early that Sunday morning and walked up to
the 7-11 that was just two blocks from our house. I loved to
surprise my parents with the Sunday Paper and enjoyed buying
myself some treats. There’s nothing like coke and candy early in
the day! But on this morning everyone in the store seemed a bit
somber. I shrugged it off and walked back to the house enjoying
the fresh morning air. My folks weren’t up yet, so I watched
some TV. Like most kids, I hated the news. But while flipping
channels, I heard something that made me pause.
A thirteen year old girl had been found dead in her home
yesterday. Julie Dodge was stabbed to death by an older teen
neighbor who became obsessed with her. He waited until her
parents went shopping, came over to her house and entered
through the unlocked kitchen door. Julie was sitting in the
kitchen having a snack when he entered the room. Surprised, but
not frightened by him, Julie asked the boy what he wanted? He
sat down and started talking with her. They had been neighbors
for several years and the boy had done odd jobs for the family
on several occasions, so there seemed no reason for Julie to be
concerned. But then, the boy started making unwanted advances
toward her. She became scared and started screaming.
Neighbors heard Julie’s screams through the screen door and
called the police. A man working in his garage up the street
also heard the screams and ran toward Julie’s house. As he
approached the kitchen door, the teenage boy ran out and away
from the home. A woman who was also walking towards the house
saw him run out the door as well. They both recognized the teen
as a neighbor. The man and woman looked in through the screen
door and were horrified to see Julie’s body lying on the kitchen
floor in a pool of blood with a large kitchen knife nearby. The
police arrived moments later and entered the house. Julie was
dead, having been stabbed multiple times by her teenage
The boy was apprehended later that day at a friend’s house. It
seemed that he had a history of odd behavior that his parents
had successfully concealed from their neighbors. Problems at
school included threats against teachers and damage to school
property. On more then one occasion he was seen talking with
girls between the ages of twelve and thirteen. He was sixteen.
Most of those girls were smart enough to avoid him, but one had
complained that he once touched her in an inappropriate way.
Because all this had happened on Saturday afternoon, most people
were not aware of it until they watched the Sunday Morning TV
News or read Monday‘s newspaper. There were no special reports
or break-ins for local events in those days unless something of
national or international importance occurred. If there was a
Saturday evening local news report, I doubt anyone watched it.
And with the event happening so late in the day, the Dodge
murder never even made into Sunday’s paper.
I sat stunned while watching the tragedy unfold on TV. There was
film of the murder scene, pictures of the suspect being brought
to jail and a photo of Julie during happier days. A school
picture revealed her to be a beautiful young girl with red hair,
freckles and a terrific smile. And I wasn’t the only one
affected by the murder. Our Pastor spent his entire sermon
talking about Julie’s death and why bad things can sometimes
happen to good people. The entire town went into a state of
shock and mourning. How could something like this happen in St
Things were different after Julie’s murder. People starting
closing their garages, locking their back doors and became very
security minded. It was the only positive thing to come out of
any otherwise senseless and tragic death. It took weeks before
people started to move past Julie’s murder. But even then, the
crime had changed things in St Pete. That Halloween was a very
muted one. Police spokespeople appeared on TV for days before
warning potential trick or treaters to be careful, go out in
groups or with their parents.
The only solace that our family could gather from the terrible
event was that it had happened way on the other side of town and
nowhere near us. Still, it was a different experience for me
coming home from school everyday. I was almost ecstatic when my
parents agreed to let a nine year neighbor’s daughter and eleven
year old neighbor’s son stay in the house with me after school
until their parents got home from work. I was glad to have the
company. Thinking as a kid, I figured the bad guys might get one
of us, but not all three. That gave us a fighting chance!
A few years earlier, I had become very interested in the
paranormal. Not from the standpoint of involvement, but rather
as an interest area. Although many books about UFOs, Aliens and
various areas of the paranormal were written to take advantage
of interest in the subject and had little to contribute in the
way of new information or hard facts, there were exceptions.
Books by Frank Edwards and John G. Fuller were well-written
paranormal case studies injected with as much objectivity and
science as possible. By the age of thirteen, I can truthfully
say that I had read well over a hundred books on the subject.
This gave me a curiosity which later turned my interest into an
When it came to giving me rides to paranormal seminars, my
father usually got the duty. He was a former Air Force Officer
who had little to say on the subject and only sat through one of
the many seminars that I insisted on attending. I understood how
he felt. I started going to these events around the age of
eleven, and even at thirteen I must have looked out of place
among the crowd of mostly college students and senior citizens.
But that didn’t lessen my enthusiasm and most of the speakers
were more then willing to tolerate a few minutes of conversation
with me after the presentation. I learned much from the ghost
hunters, parapsychologists, journalists, UFO researchers and
authors who gave these talks.
A little more then a month after Julie’s murder, I flew back to
New York City with my mom. Her father had passed away a few
months before and she wanted to spend that Thanksgiving holiday
with my Grandmother and some cousins. My dad had to work and
couldn’t get away. For me, the occasion was a little more somber
then I could stomach. We were Scandinavian and they were always
big on death and funerals. They actually took pictures! To avoid
spending the next few days looking at pictures I’ve already seen
of Grandpa’s funeral and watching everyone sit around crying, I
linked up with my older cousin and made some plans. As luck
would have it, legendary ghost hunter Hans Holtzer was giving a
talk in Manhattan on Friday night.
After riding several subway trains and a bus, we arrived at a
large hall packed with Holtzer fans and would-be ghost hunters.
Hans came out and spoke for an extended period of time about
Manhattan ghosts and haunts. I was especially interested in his
work with noted Psychics who helped identify and exercise the
spirits. It was absolutely fascinating! Most of the ghost or
haunting cases were centered around some sort of tragedy. I took
it all in and wrote down many notes. By the time I returned to
Florida, much of what Holtzer said was still swirling around in
The all too brief Thanksgiving holiday was over and I was back
in school. Mr. Clark was a favorite among students like me. Once
a science professor at a prestigious eastern university, Clark
had run afoul of his peers and the administration over his
spiritual beliefs, which seemed an odd mix of Christianity and
Eastern Philosophy. He didn’t believe in evolution, but was
convinced that reincarnation was possible and likely.
Ultimately, he was forced out and ended up teaching junior and
senior high school classes in Florida. For some that might have
been unseemly and many steps down, but Clark didn’t care. He
relished the chance to influence young minds.
In his early thirties, Clark could often be found with any
number of female intellectuals and hippies in their late teens
and early twenties. They just loved his explanations of eastern
mysticism. But he was also kind of a kid at heart and seemed to
relate well to teens. More then a few of us attended talks he
gave after school on various subjects. On the very day I
returned to school he announced to his class that there would be
such a talk the following afternoon. The subject would be
ghosts! It was more then ironic.
The next day about twenty of us gathered from all his classes
and attended Clark’s thirty minute, after school discussion. It
was informative as he gave us his view on the survival of the
soul and spirit after death. But something far more interesting
happened after the meeting. Eager to tell Clark about my
attendance and take on the Holtzer seminar in New York, I stayed
around after the discussion ended and almost everyone had left.
Before I could speak, a female student stepped forward and asked
Clark for some advice. Her name was Jennifer. She had recently
transferred to our school from across town.
It’s a small world. Jennifer had lived next door to Julie Dodge
for some time before her murder and moved just a month prior to
the tragedy. The two girls had been close friends and still
regularly spoke on the phone right up until the day of Julie’s
murder. Shortly after she was killed, Jennifer started having
strange dreams about Julie. It was as if Julie was reaching out
to her. Then, just before Thanksgiving, Jennifer started feeling
cold spots in her home. Florida nights were chilly this time of
year, but the family had a modern heater which usually made the
home toasty warm. The spots centered around Jennifer’s room. One
was near her doorway and the other near her bed.
Things came to a head over the Thanksgiving holiday when
Jennifer woke up to find herself staring into Julie’s face. It
was just as real and Julie was smiling just as big as she had on
any one of the many sleepovers the girls had enjoyed together.
Then she was gone. It had all taken just a matter of seconds. No
more incidents had occurred since then, but Jennifer was sure
that she felt Julie’s presence everywhere in her home.
Mr. Clark thought it was all very interesting, but seemed to
hold the opinion that Jennifer was just missing her friend.
After all, Julie had never been in the new home that Jennifer
moved to. That seemed to go against the norm in days when most
haunting cases were poorly investigated and knowledge was
limited. I had other ideas.
Instead of speaking with Clark, I left with Jennifer. As we
walked out the door, I introduced myself and told her that I
thought her ghostly encounter story was fascinating. I enquired
about where she lived and found out her house was just a half
mile from mine. Like me, she rode her bike to school. Wanting to
see what the house looked like, I followed her home with
permission. Once at her house, I was about to say goodbye when
she invited me in. Her mother was home and seemed happy that
Jennifer had made a new friend, even though it was a male one.
It turned out that her older sister was the popular one in the
family. At sixteen, Christy was a stunning high school beauty.
Both girls had long blond hair and great looks, but that’s where
the similarity ended. While Christy was outgoing and exuded
personality, Jennifer was quietly polite, but not shy.
Before I knew it, I was invited to stay for dinner. Her mom gave
me a brief tour of the house, which included the area outside of
Jenny’s room. It did feel very cold for a reasonably-warm
afternoon! After clearing the dinner invitation with my parents,
I enjoyed a terrific sit down meal with Jenny’s family. Her
parents couldn’t have been nicer people. After dinner, Jenny and
I spent about thirty minutes pretending to play Monopoly in a
family room off to the side of the house. In reality, we spoke
more about Julie. I shared my own feelings about the murder and
Jenny told me more about what a great friend and person the
murdered girl had been.
Julie was always very popular and had lots of friends, but Jenny
was her best friend. The two were opposites when it came to
social matters. Julie fit in everywhere with everyone, while
Jenny always took a step back and felt like a bit of an
outsider. Like me, she enjoyed studying the world of the
paranormal. Julie was always kidding her about it, but she did
tell Jenny that if anything ever happened to her, she would come
back to make sure Jenny was alright. Then, it became so obvious
The reason for Julie’s return had to do with the fact that Jenny
was slow to make new friends and Julie may have been concerned
about her. In more then a few cases, it was unfinished business
or an inability to abandon earthly matters that seemed to keep
spirits from moving on. Holtzer had talked about a case in New
York City where a stable hand had refused to move on and
appeared on a regular basis near what was once some old stables
in lower Manhattan. Once contacted by a psychic, it seemed he
was worried about a beloved horse. Unable to know time as we
understand it, the psychic explained to the spirit that time had
moved on and he no longer needed to worry about matters that had
been a part of his earthly life. After that, the spirit appeared
I didn’t know any psychics, but I had a crazy friend named
Dennis who wanted to be the next John Lennon, loved Chopin music
and had a sister deeply into doing séances. I wondered how we
would ever sell this to Jenny’s parents? They were nice, but
didn’t seem like the types to accept the kind of whacked out
plan that I had concocted. Then an unusual opportunity presented
itself. Jenny’s dad was a high degree Mason. An annual dinner
was scheduled for just before Christmas and Jenny’s parents
needed to attend. At the same time, Christy had signed up for a
week long trip to the Bahamas with her class and prepaid. There
was no way she could cancel. Since the family had no previous
need for a babysitter, they didn‘t know any. I interjected a
thought by telling Jenny’s folks about my friend’s sister Amber.
She could stay with Jenny until her parents returned home from
the dinner. I explained that the girl didn’t drink or do drugs
and was very responsible. Since Amber would be sitting for
Jenny, she asked her parents if I could come over and hang out
that evening. Amber would drive me home. They agreed.
A week before Christmas, I arrived at Jenny’s house with Amber.
We said our goodbyes to Jenny’s folks and set about contacting
Julie. Amber was a pro when it came to séances. She had Jenny
take out some items that Julie had given her and began to recite
a sort of chant as we sat in a circle in Jenny‘s bedroom. I’ll
admit that being a spectator of all things paranormal was far
different from being involved. Hearing stories and living one
was a totally different experience.
After Amber finished her recitations, she asked Jenny to call
for Julie in a very natural way as if she were in the next room.
Jenny called out to her several times, and then we waited. It
may just have been the atmosphere created by the tension of the
moment, but the air seemed filled with electricity. We sat there
waiting about ten minutes before a cold breeze seemed to blow by
each of us. Then I felt something odd. It was like a warm
blanket wrapped around me. We all felt it. Amber said, “Quickly,
Jenny, tell Julie that you’re alright. She needs to move on.
You’re happy in your new school and Bill is here as proof that
you have already made another good friend in your new school.”
Jenny said the words with heart. Another few minutes went by,
then Amber announced that we were finished. After straightening
things up, we spent the rest of the evening discussing our
feelings about the event until Jenny’s folks came home. There
were no more incidents after that. Jenny and I became very good
friends and stayed in contact for years until she died in 1998
of a brain tumor. I visited her a few weeks before she passed on
and recall her saying, “Julie is waiting for me and I can’t wait
to see her again.” Sometimes the paranormal just tugs at your
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