Spirited Cassadaga, Florida

The entrance to Cassadaga’s spiritualist camp and its bookstore headquarters. Photo by Chelle Koster Walton
The entrance to Cassadaga’s spiritualist camp and its bookstore headquarters. Photo by Chelle Koster Walton

The hotel can arrange readings, although as far as the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp is concerned, it’s on the “other side of town.”

Just across the street, the circa-1905 bookstore is the second headquarters for visitors finding their path through town. It carries much of the same metaphysical gift stock, plus séance smudge sticks, stones, incense, and T-shirts that read “Cassadaga. Where Mayberry meets Twilight Zone.” I couldn’t have summed it up better myself.

The bookstore is headquarters for all manner of spiritualist events from bingo to transfiguration demonstrations. Its dry-erase boards holds the names and phone numbers of “on-call” mediums for the day. Here is where we signed up for our guided tour of the camp.

“The rules are different here,” Lilian started out. “Think of it like a condo association.”

A condo association for mediums and healers, that is. Within the confines of the “camp,” Cassadaga requires its professionals to undergo four to six years of training and a certification evaluation to hang a shingle. Cassadaga Hotel is outside of the confines, but asserts its own standards.

Certified mediums don’t need to use tools such as tarot cards, tea leaves or palms, Lilian said. If you feel you’ve picked an incompatible personality, you can ask for another at no charge. They are extremely fraud-avoidant in Cassadaga.

Along the one-street tour, we learned the camp’s history. George Colby, after a near-death experience, purchased 35 acres northeast of Orlando at the end of the 19th century. It eventually became the winter camp for the Lily Dale spiritualist community in Chautauqua County, New York.

Modern Spiritualism is a science, philosophy, and religion with its own nationwide association. Cassadaga, however, operates independently. Since its birth, 20 acres have added to the real estate of the “camp,” so-named because originally people stayed in tents while communing with the spirits and those in touch with them.

Homes along Stevens Street date to the same turn-of-the-century era. The tour, which involved intel about President Lincoln’s dabbling in the spirit world, ended at the Colby Memorial Temple, where we learned about the Spiritualist religion.

The highlight of that talk was hearing about how séances are performed. We were privy to look into the séance room with its “tipping table,” but were not allowed into the sanctified room. The table tips, we learn, as a positive response to yes-and-no questions. We were ready to sign up for one there and then, but alas, wrong night. And our readings awaited us.

Continued on next page



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