SCORE: ☆☆ (2.5)
The first time I heard of Lily Dale was from a new friend we'd made on the road in California when we first started RVing. Vic and Ellen were our neighbors and, being that great minds think alike, we hit it off from day one. We started swapping travel stories, and for us being new to the scene, they were filling us in on some of the best hot spots to visit. This included spiritual & paranormal points of interest, including one called Lily Dale in Western New York. At the time, we were sitting around the campfire enjoying our coffee in California, so the last thing I really expected was to be sitting having coffee around the campfire here in Western New York! Therefore, per Ellen's advice, we took a trip to see what all the fuss was about.
Ron and I weren’t alone either. Along with our good friends Vic & Ellen, we met another like minded couple when we were in New Jersey in the summer of 2014. Robby and Jane are also full-time RVer’s with not only the same interests, but when it comes to the paranormal have TONS of experience! When you travel around, you’re able to experience so much more "urban legend" - fact or fiction - and even discover things no one ever has ever heard of before! Lily Dale is the perfect example of just that. Apparently It had been featured on shows like “Supernatural” or as a simple documentary, but I simply wasn’t familiar with it.
What started out as a few meetings here and there in 1844 to discuss alternative beliefs and measures in the village of Laona, NY, later became the religious society of Free Thinkers in 1855. Through a variety of gatherings, approvals and land purchases, it became The City of Light by Mrs. Amelia Colby in 1903 who later changed the name officially to The Lily Dale Assembly in 1906. Which makes sense as there can be quite the gathering of lilies on the nearby Cassadaga Lake. This has become one of the nations largest communities - or home - for a multitude of psychics, mediums and metaphysical healers.
The drive there was beautiful and I really had no idea of what to expect. After a short drive by the lake we came to a small one car gate on the right that signified we had arrived with a modest sign off to the right. There was an entry fee of $12 per person, which was a little surprising to me at first, but I also realize this is to keep the ill-intended at bay. The women at the gate were warm, friendly and very helpful in giving us directions on where to park. Which, in some ways were a little confusing as it looked almost like any other small town neighborhood block or small town square. We found a spot near the park of playing children on swings and noticed a small travel trailer on the edge of the park. There seemed to be power and water, but no sewer, which was interesting as we had heard there was a campground owned by the Assembly near by.
Ellen was adamant I go to something called “Inspiration Stump” there, an out door forum and gathering of mediums. She had explained that people come and sit on these wooden benches in an open air forest setting, and mediums just start giving out information for those it may be intended. There’s no cost for this and all are welcome. So, we grabbed the map that was handed out at the gate, a bottle of water and started off.
Once we started walking down the street, it became obvious the houses that lined the streets and the small town center were invitingly decorated, colorful, friendly and had a small sign that read “Medium” then followed with “opened” or “closed”. They even have their own U.S. post office that has been operational there since 1888. Some where book shops, a coffee shop, one or two gift shops, a few little dining areas that served some warm smelling foods, a hotel, several temples and gathering halls. Trying to stay focused on the one thing Ellen said to look for, we found the trail at the corner of East Street and South Street for the Leolyn Woods and Inspiration Stump.
The walking path was serene, clear, dirt/gravel but very smooth and easy to walk.
On the way to the Stump we came across a Pet Cemetery - no, not the one from the Stephen King flick (though…that did run through my mind briefly) - but a very humbly and lovingly designed area.
It was rather large and some plots housed many pets that apparently belonged to one household over time. Everything from fish to a horse, or two. Definitely worth the time to walk around it.
After we moved on from there we started seeing gaggles of people coming up the walk way, talking quietly amongst themselves, clearly all visitors like us. There were one or two on golf carts that slowly went by with big smiles on their faces, staff I had assumed. Soon the crowd had thinned out and we arrived alone at an empty Inspiration Stump. There was, however, a man there putting away a portable amplifier for a hand held microphone and he explained there several meetings at the stump throughout the day, to come back in about 2 hours. So, we did. We continued to walk the path in the woods and saw other landmarks on the trail such as the Healing Tree.
The quiet was so quiet for a Saturday - at least that was my impression. Jane, Robby and us kept looking around feeling a bit lost, really unsure of just what exactly one was to do here in Lily Dale. Yes, it was a very calm, friendly environment with many little places to just sit in thought if you liked, but no real “direction” as to what one should do.
We took this as a cue for coffee…of course if my hand is not holding a cup, that is my cue, but none the less we went into Cup-O-Joe’s. Great outdoor and front porch seating as well as a couple of small tables inside, giving you the feeling of walking into an old style mercantile with tons of britches busting baked goods. We ordered a freshly made lemonade and the others got an absolutely amazing berry pie and cinnamon roll. We sat outside and indulged all our sense; fresh air, sunshine, lemonade, sweet treats, fruit, friendly passers by and the smell of fresh cut flowers. After that it was time to venture further into the community.
There was an area on our little map that mentioned a “beach”, so we headed over towards the Lake Pavillon. Passing more well wishers, locals and shutter bug visitors alike of all ages we came to a floating covered pier were we could sit on the edge of the placid lake. I attempted to connect to the area, the history…something…but all I really was feeling was just relaxed. We noticed the Maplewood Hotel just across from the pavilion, so we decided we’d go there and check that out. To me, this was the MOST fascinating and “spiritually active” in my mind.
It was built in 1880 out of what was originally a horse barn. It was known as a “hung suspension building”, so when additional floors were needed each floor was raised and the new additions were built underneath it. Known then as the Grand Hotel, it is now today the Maplewood Hotel after it was renamed in 1903. It had a lovely wrap around wooden porch with half a dozen or so rocking chairs outside, and inside, the walls were covered in the most remarkable paintings, art work and tapestry straight out of history. In the side sitting room I even thought I had caught a glimpse of a an older woman with gray hair in tightly wrapped bun, tall, and thin in periodic clothing. Of course as I turned my head to acknowledge the woman, as I thought it might be one of the towns folk dressing up for grandeur, I realized no one was there.
Well, me being me, and always on the hunt for what may or may not be, I went to the front desk clerks and just threw it out there. “Hi, how are you? Nice place, tell me, you work here long? What can you tell me about the “woman ghost” that lives here?” Yeah, that’s me and usually that’s when Ron somewhat ducks his head and pretends to suddenly be distracted by something far away from me in another room if possible. However, the lady behind counter wasn’t phased in the least and said she wasn’t sure about that, but there was a resident ghost by the name of “Charlie” I think she said, that was known for messing with the desks electronics and phones. And some guests who had stayed at the hotel would state they thought they heard horses on the third floor - which, remember - was originally the suspended barn from way back. It was fascinating talking with them, the only experience they had had personally were that of the glitches and issues at the counter - or something going missing from the desk and showing up alter unexpectedly. We took several photos in here and moved on not wanting to be late again to Inspiration Stump.
This time, we seemed to be walking with the crowd and made it the meeting place in plenty of time to get a comfortable seating. The forest area is a forest and therefore thriving with life, which include the wispy Granddaddy Long Leg. Totally harmless (unless you ingest them, then it could kill you), but they seemed to cover the grounds, trees, brush, etc. Fortunately the seats must have been used enough there weren’t any really there.
As the people gathered and found their seats, a lady came and introduced herself over the amplified hand held mic. She stated there’d be several Mediums coming up to deliver messages that came to them in hopes of finding just who the message was for in the audience. I would find it very difficult to do what these people did, to get up in front of 50 to a 100 strangers and try to focus on some important message from beyond. Needless to say, some were new and said so upfront, others were nervous, while the one or two may as well have been following in the footsteps of Patrick Jane (tv persona from the fictional TV series “Mentalist”). However, there were at least 2 maybe 3 of the group that were truly gifted in my opinion. The messages may have been somewhat general or confused, but I thoroughly believed they were getting something and it was meant for someone there. Was I one of them? Yes, perhaps I was one of the people that got a message…then again, maybe I was just really, really wanting one. I miss my Grandmother Betty (who raised me) terribly, and one woman did say things to me that made me believe only would have been said between my her and I. It was uplifting, and as the name stated, inspirational. This “meeting” went on for little over an hour and then was finished as quickly as it had ended.
It was now getting late in the day and we still had a long drive back to Niagara Falls to where we were staying. But we still walked by the Healing Temple where many can go for a hands on blessing/healing or write down a prayer to add to the prayer tree outside. It was a reverent place and many were there seeking connection to those they felt were of truly spiritual mind. We saw the shadows of the tall trees fill the Forest Temple, walked past the Fox Cottage and Garden and finally waked the Fairy Trail on the way back to the car. We walked a lot, and it was great.
If you are someone who is skeptical or looking for out of this world validation of life after death, I don’t think this is the place for you. However, if you’re open minded, sensitive and in need of a sacred place to “re-charge” (a great descriptive word Robby used), this is it. Parts of it reminded me of Sedona, AZ, another “spiritual mecca” that I’ll tell you about another time. If you know who Jeane Dixon or Sylvia Browne were, or enjoyed the books and teachings of Edgar Cayce, then this is a place you should visit at least once in your life.