Lily Dale: Where People Never Die
Lily Dale always held an eerie fascination for me. Growing up my best friend Kim and I would listen to stories from her mom about Lily Dale. She would tell us how every summer the “gypsies” as she called them, would come and settle in this small community to tell peoples futures. Lily Dale was only about a forty five minute drive from my hometown in Pennsylvania. I remember the first time Kim’s mom told us we were going on an adventure. Her and my mom were going to take us up to Lily Dale, we would pack a lunch to eat by the lake on the grounds and explore the town. Kim and I had all these images and expectation in our mind mostly from the stories we heard. I remember leaving early in the morning and driving the scenic route along the southern shore of Lake Erie. There were rolling hills with frequent vistas of the lake. The August morning was already warm enough to roll down the windows. Summer air accented with the smell of water from a mild on shore wind. Miles of grape farms stretching as far as the eye could see to the south. As we left Pennsylvania and entered New York, we had about 20 minute drive until we reached Lily Dale. We started envisioning what it was going to be like and started “creeping” each other out. I remember driving and seeing the big wrought iron sign first welcoming you to Lily Dale. It was surrounded by a big brick wall and a lot of moss that lent to the ethereal feeling of the place. The community is gated so we had to pay to enter the grounds. As you drive in, you feel like your back in time. The houses seemed dilapidated but had a Victorian style charm to them. There were square wooden signs attached to poles implanted in the front yards of many of the cottages. The signs, each uniquely decorated with the mediums name on it enticing you to come in for a reading. I remember very tall trees enveloping the whole place and feeling very unsettled inside. One place that stuck out in my mind was a clearing in woods with a huge tree stump. The stump was the focal point in the clearing also enshrined by huge trees, just like being under an umbrella. The sunlight diffused through the trees and danced on the ground adding to the mystical feeling of Lily Dale. Many park benches were arranged facing the stump, like pews in a church facing the alter. We gathered here with a large group of people, many believers but also a few skeptics, in hopes of a chance connection with a loved one who had passed over. The medium stood up on the stump and reverently bowed her head in prayer before she started her public readings. I remember her looking in our direction and my heart started racing, she came over and said, “Someone over here has a loved one that passed very suddenly recently….” We knew she wasn’t referring to us, but the heightened anticipation we felt as she approached sent a shiver down our spine. This area referred to as inspiration stump, was and is considered hallowed ground and the energy vortex of the community. It is here where mediums come to commune with spirits. The memories of Lily Dale may be skewed by time but it still holds the same fascination for me.
This quiet, quaint community in upstate New York is the oldest and largest spiritualist community in the United States. Spiritualism is a religious sect that believes that no one dies they just transition to a different level of spiritual awareness. Spiritualists believe they can communicate with the dead through mediums who are people with a higher level or sensitivity of consciousness. The town houses forty resident mediums seasonally and holds a variety of classes, workshops, healing services, and seminars with an array of guest speakers from around the world. How did this all begin? Who are the residents of this community and why do they return each season? Why do people flock from all over the country to visit time and time again? What kind of people visit Lily Dale?
In an online interview,...
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