Every single spot of air or earth at Lily Dale is potentially haunted, at least according to its residents and devotees. Almost no reports of psychic phenomena are considered either unlikely or even too far out of the ordinary at this Spiritualist community nestled into the three lakes of Cassadaga, NY, about eight miles south of Fredonia. The community has its own ever-changing shorthand for the numinous phenomena so many report.
“Yes, we have company,” an innkeeper might say with a twinkle when a guest turns in a room key and talks about an energetic night.
“That place is loaded,” said one of my psychic friends recently in reaction to yet another story.
Places people have gathered – lecture halls, hotels, and B&Bs – are regarded to be especially psychically active at the Dale. There are as well a number of traditional outdoor message-and-apparition-sites, including Inspiration Stump, the Leolyn Woods, the labyrinth designed by my friend Sig Lonegren, and any number of overlooks of Cassadaga’s Upper Lake.
I spent the night of Thursday July 27 (2017), in the Maplewood, one of the proverbially haunted hotels. I was there to take in most of a day of talks that commenced the next morning. It was a unique program of academic presentations, in my opinion one of the neatest things the Dale has done recently. I like the objective, scholarly approach to subjective, emotional subjects. I use it in my own presentations and talks.
I didn’t sleep very well that night at the Maplewood. My right calf was acting up. It never exploded into spasm, but it was stiff and twitching all night. Clearly, I had done something wrong with my stretching, hydration, or electrolytes after my workout that afternoon, and I paid for it. I could never stretch or stroke or hydrate the calf into cooperation.
That wasn’t the only thing keeping me awake.
I experienced psychic phenomena repeatedly in my room, and all the dark hours of that night. I am convinced of it. I am not a gullible witness. I know what I see, feel, and hear.
I actually hesitate to write this, since I do not want to encourage you to expect psychic phenomena merely by visiting Lily Dal, the Maplewood, or any other supposedly haunted site. Most of the time, I believe, you are probably going to witness nothing, and, in big commercial endeavors at well-hyped sites, you are just going to screw up the energies of the site and diminish the likelihood of anybody else seeing something real. (If droves of people continually troll the same pond or hunt the same grove, what happens to the chances of encountering fish and deer?)
As for those talks I had come down to attend… The Dale had assembled some fine academics for a wonderful one-day session of talks and presentations. These men and women are not only good scholars, they are good speakers with real flair. If they represent our college faculties across the board, the next generation is in good hands. They all presented the same way, with a narrated video show and virtually no notes.
The first presenter was Leonard George, Ph. D., Chairman of the Psychology Department at Capilano University in Vancouver, BC. His Autumn of the Oracles was subtitled, “Ancient Mediumship: Oracles in Antiquity.” It profiled the oracle-tradition of the Classical world from the position that it was the precursor to the mediumship of today’s Spiritualism. He had some particularly insightful comments about shamanism. I took four pages of notes.
Early in his presentation Professor George referred to the impressive legacy of alternative spiritual energy in Western New York. With century-old nicknames like “The Burned-over District” and “The Spirit Way,” the cachet of the region is no big secret among scholars and historians. He specifically mentioned that Joscelyn Godwin of Colgate University and author of a number of elegant books on occultism was in attendance. I agree that Joscelyn’s book Upstate Cauldron: Eccentric Spiritual Movements in Early New York State (2015, SUNY Press) is the best and most readable study out there of the upstate mojo. I conferred with Professor Godwin in Hamilton, NY, when he was at work on this book. He had noticed condensed articles in my own books on the regional prodigy and was especially interested in my work with Roycroft. We shared a few words after Professor George’s talk.
The second presentation was Lily Dale: An Architect’s Perspective, given to us by Steve Bass, as you would gather, an architect. The short prospectus of the talk had me thinking we might be getting penetrating analyses of sacred shape, number, and form in the style of late Charlotte, NC, “mythic astrologer” Steve Nelson. I would not have been surprised if the talk had mentioned Native American landscape architecture such as we know permeated the site of the three lakes forming today’s Lily Dale. I was just as pleased with what we got, an urban planner’s take on a unique community’s native architecture and siting and its relationship to the atmosphere it projects. I don’t want to give his whole take away, but let us say that again I took four pages of notes. Mr. Bass is an engaging speaker with a dry sense of humor.
The third talk I attended was Harmonies Heard & Unheard, the very creative image presentation of Marjorie Roth, Ph. D., professor of music history at Nazareth College.
Ms. Roth had come up with an array of composers and performers who claimed to be in spiritual connection with some of the all-time greats. She profiled a few of our contemporaries who claim to be reaching Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, and the Akhashic Records. Others have claimed to funnel the influences of classic composers. Late Englishwoman Rosemary Brown (1916-2001) believed she was in touch with a handful of greats that included Stravinsky, Beethoven, and Liszt. There is argument about how successful any of these people were in duplicating original styles and new compositions, but, as with Joseph Smith’s angel-dictated Book of Mormon, something more than the ordinary surely seems to be going on.
I was disappointed that Charles Emmons, Ph. D., could not fill his slot. A sociology professor at Gettysburg College, he had pitched a talk titled, Science, Spirit Mediumship, and Evidence for Life after Death. The talk that took his place – on gender and Spiritualism – surely contained something that would have interested me, but I had come primarily for what I had already attended – sans the errant Professor Emmons. I decided to get back to East Aurora with time left in the day to do something, like get a workout that I was sure wasn’t going to be a max. I was still tired from the night before. Speaking of which, back to my night at the Maplewood…
There was psychic phenomena in my room all night. I know what I experienced. It was tame and unthreatening, but… It was real.
I have two cats. I know the sensation of a small cat hopping up onto the bed in which you rest. It’s a light percussion on the mattress and a virtual puff of air on the covers. It may wake you and it may not; how do you know if it didn’t? But if you are awake, even drifting, you usually feel it, even when it makes no sound and doesn’t touch you.
I was semi-awake all night because of that insurgent right calf. I felt the manifestation at least ten times. It seemed almost constant. Either it was waking me, or I was waking in time to notice it. I saw nothing. There was no ghost, not even a shadow.
Could that have been the manifestation of a spectral cat that had once had some association with the room or the building? Could it have been a long-range psychic projection of one of my own cats, home and mourning my absence? Could it have been the intentional psychic projection – a tender curse – of one of the power-people at Lily Dale or anywhere else, targeting that room or even me that night? I had been out to Inspiration Stump in the dark, and people often return from there with a bit of “company.” Just don’t try to tell me that I did not experience it. I know what I experience.