The town that talks to the dead.
January 7, 2009 5:59 PM   Subscribe

Welcome to Lily Dale the largest spiritualist community in the world. Just an hour south of Buffalo, NY-- it boasts an extensive summer program of lectures, workshops as well as the world’s most powerful mediums. Stop by for a reading, hunt for ghosts and see the house where the Fox Sisters first got started.

Here's a fascinating 1898 article from The New York Times. With neat examples of spirit photography.
posted by flipyourwig (23 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It's not just psychics; it's Lily Dale!
posted by greatgefilte at 6:09 PM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

"the largest spiritualist community in the world. "

Bigger than the Vatican???

(*Cough* Tetzel, *cough* indulgences, *cough* intercession for the dead, *cough* Council of Trent.)
posted by orthogonality at 6:11 PM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

Man, update New York and their Utopias. It's such a big, rich land with many pockets and yet in-between many metropoli. Wouldn't the mark of any really successful religious/separatist community be that no one has ever heard of them?
posted by The Whelk at 6:19 PM on January 7, 2009

Wouldn't the mark of any really successful religious/separatist community be that no one has ever heard of them?

I've met a lot of people who go to Lily Dale... and they aren't the shy, separatist type. Nope. Not at all.
posted by flipyourwig at 6:24 PM on January 7, 2009

that's spiritualist, not spiritual...
posted by bonefish at 6:25 PM on January 7, 2009

It's not just psychics; it's Lily Dale!

They wouldn't happen to sacrifice chickens, would they?
posted by Sys Rq at 6:36 PM on January 7, 2009

There's a Spiritualist "camp" in Indiana, Camp Chesterfield. (As the name suggests, it's in Chesterfield, near Anderson.) I went out with a friend one day and poked around. It's a pretty site, but it's purely a moneymaking venture*- as soon as they got done telling us that God bestows certain gifts upon people (precognition, psychometry, mediumship, etc.), we were handed pamphlets containing a list of psychics who were working there and the fees they charged. I was somewhat tempted to pony up for one of the cheap ones just to see some cold reading in action, but felt like I'd be supporting something I'd rather not.

*Yes, yes, like all religion, I know.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:44 PM on January 7, 2009

No, Sys Rq, that's voodoo, santeria, and such things.

Mediums conjure and commune with spirits in dense clouds of delicious turkey bacon fumes.
posted by CKmtl at 6:46 PM on January 7, 2009

Upstate New York was quite a hotbed of religious and utopian activity of all stripes in the 19th century. Shakers near Albany, the Oneida Community (what The Whelk links to) in the center, Millerites up north, Joseph Smith finding tablets near Palmyra, and Lily Dale and the Chautauqua Institution in the western part of the state.
posted by plastic_animals at 6:47 PM on January 7, 2009

I wish them nothing less than happiness. Perhaps more so because I think they are just looking for answers like we all are but are instead being mislead. o-O
posted by vapidave at 6:47 PM on January 7, 2009

There's a Spiritualist "camp" in Indiana, Camp Chesterfield.

I live close to there, i'll have to check it out soon.
posted by flipyourwig at 6:51 PM on January 7, 2009

The town that talks to the dead.... pfft. Back in the day, psychics had balls. You will kill your father and marry your mother. You can't be harmed by a man born of woman. Now it's, "I'm getting an 'M'. Does this make sense? An 'M' word. Or maybe an 'N'."

I want you to show me a town with some serious oracle action. I want to go hear a prophesy that will make me stab my own eyes out in remorse. I want to make the prophesy come true through my desperate futile attempts to avoid it.
posted by Humanzee at 7:11 PM on January 7, 2009 [7 favorites]

I didn't realise Spiritualism was still a religion with an actual church. What are their services like, has anyone been to one? And what does it cost to live in Lily Dale, the site just mentions the leaseholders fee but doesn't specify the actual cost. Not that I would live there, I'm just nosy. I know people that have been to Lily Dale and liked it, I think I'll take a drive down when the season opens if only to show my children another religion.
posted by saucysault at 7:18 PM on January 7, 2009

Humanzee> Step 1. Find a town near a volcano or some other natural source of hallucinogenic gas.

Step 2: Inhale along with them.

Step 3: PROFIT!

Personally, I'm curious - although I've been known to flip out my own tarot deck and do a reading for the reader. Most really hate that.
posted by medea42 at 7:19 PM on January 7, 2009

Oohhh! And there are Fairy Trails. I definitely smell a road-trip!
posted by saucysault at 7:25 PM on January 7, 2009

If you are someone who is open-minded to spiritualism, psychics, mediums, and healers,

You're just the kind of sucker we're looking for!
posted by doctor_negative at 7:28 PM on January 7, 2009 [3 favorites]

There was a great episode of the Coast to Coast radio show with Lily Dale as the topic.

I first became aware of the Spiritualist Church when I lived in Austin's Hyde Park neighborhood. There's a spiritualist church in Hyde Park, on an ordinary residential street.
posted by jayder at 7:50 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm dying to go there.
posted by binturong at 9:48 PM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

It's great to know that regardless of how powerful your sway in the spirit world, you're still pretty much stuck with the html ninjitsu that seemed totally jank in 1996.

The spirit world requires dreamweaver support.

All that said, i'm a huge fan of spirit photography and hope that whole thing gets bigger real quick (again).
posted by phylum sinter at 1:17 AM on January 8, 2009

saucysault: Although I don't believe it's pricey to live in Lily Dale (most all of the homes are aging Victorian cottages), one can't buy a house there unless one is a practicing Spiritualist. Since one only buys the house and not the land it's on, cottages are relatively inexpensive, while not necessarily well maintained.

I sometimes go to Lily Dale for coffee when I'm in WNY. I went to a "stump meeting"* there most recently last summer-- they hold these sort of group readings daily out in the woods, which visiting mediums are required to spend some of their time leading-- sort of like that John Edward show wherein random observers are chosen and given messages from spirit. None of the dead people I know seem to have any messages for me, a fact with which I've got no problem.

*I guess this is properly called a Message Service
posted by obloquy at 2:15 AM on January 8, 2009

I used to work at a summer camp on Lake Chautauqua, about 10 minutes from Lillydale. We always wanted to go in asking to speak with someone about joining a quidditch team. Probably wouldn't have been nearly as welcomed as we suspected.
posted by Hachijuhachi at 8:22 AM on January 8, 2009

My favorite groaner punchline:

Small Medium at Large!
posted by owtytrof at 12:56 PM on January 8, 2009

All this and nothing bout the The House in Hydesville (warning: sound), a new play about the Fox sisters? (Review here)
posted by knile at 5:32 AM on January 11, 2009

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