National Spiritualist Association of Churches

A "Dale" By Any Other Name


 - Cassadaga Lakes Free Association - City of Light - Lily Dale - Lily Dale Assembly

How would one describe Lily Dale?  It is a beautiful small religious community filled with caring, friendly Spiritualists who have a loving respect for life, others, Infinite Spirit, and who believe that life continues after death of the physical, with communication possible from the other side of the veil. The beautiful natural grounds and the Victorian homes bring our thoughts back to an earlier setting in time. In fact, even to a different name.

What's in a name? Well, a Spiritualist Camp called Lily Dale Assembly is the world's largest Spiritualist community. It reminds us of the early days of the religion when thousands of people flocked to "the Dale" to learn of spirit and receive communication from beyond the veil. The history of Free Thinkers in the area began long before the founding date, but it has been a Spiritualist and educational community since "1879, when members of the Spiritualist church in Laona, New York, purchased 18 acres of land and founded a Religious Membership Corporation called the Cassadaga Lakes Free Association." The Centennial Book.

The search for the history of the name did not find just one name, it surfaced lots of interesting stories about the early years. The Alden family, Willard and Corintha with son, Theodore, and daughter, Theodosia, owned the land where the Leolyn Hotel now stands, and began Spiritualist picnics and camp meetings. Picnics and camps were fashioned after Sunday School picnics and camp meetings held by some of the religions of the day.

Mrs. Alden was given the honor of naming the grounds or camp when a permanent location was purchased. Her choice in 1897 was Cassadaga Lakes Free Association. The name was changed to the City of Light Assembly in 1903 and to the Lily Dale Assembly in 1906. Some history accounts say the last change was inspired because of the lilies that grew around the Cassadaga Lakes. In fact, the Middle Cassadaga Lake was sometimes referred to as Lily Dale.

A few have even speculated about a very active couple in early Spiritualism who lived at "the Dale." They were John T. Lillie and his wife, R. Shepard Lillie. In fact, Mr. Lillie (who was the general supervisor of the vocal music because of his fine baritone voice with a tenor quality) was also active in Spiritualism on the National level, as well as at the Camp. However, not many believe the camp was named after them, or after the Victorian parlor song that was popular around that time which talked about a lady, poor Lilly Dale, dying.

The railway stop was called Lilly Dale, and when a post office was established in the area on June 27, 1888, it was also spelled Lilly Dale, with a double L. It took until 1927 to get the Lilly Dale postal name officially changed to Lily Dale.

The City of Light Assembly name did not begin because of the spiritual light found at the Dale, although there is an abundance of energy, but because the camp was the first city in the area to get electric lights. Lily Dale became a city, quite self sufficient with its own water, own fire department, own roads which were made, plowed or repaired by crews from the camp, etc.

During the research, I found Lily Dale referred to as "the Great Spiritual Mecca." After spending some time there, I can see why. The Camp's grounds, now 167 acres, are a place of peace and renewal located on the shores of Cassadaga Lake, with a variety of natural beauty lovely sunsets and the majestic Leolyn Woods. Of course, to visit Lily Dale, one must also see the swans, Lily and Dale.


PROUD BEGINNINGS - "A little Bit of History"

If you want some history of the Camp, there are many knowledgeable people, books and articles, with a wonderful, growing Lily Dale museum. It is exciting to be able to actually mingle with the artifacts of Spiritualism, its beginnings and its pioneer workers.

There is a booklet, A Little Bit of History, by Paula M. Vogt and Joyce La Judice, that tells of the beginnings of the summer movement. It would be interesting to quote the entire contents, but space only allows a few quotes, a brief summary, plus some other interesting items.

The Association developed because of the interest in Spiritualism of the people in the area who were open minded and searching in their thoughts. Mesmerism, trance, healing and spirit communication influenced the residents in western New York, and they decided to gather to hold meetings and picnics in the grove on the farm of Willard Alden. On June 15, 1873, a day was set aside to "dedicate the grove especially to the use of the Spiritualists." Lyman C. Howe was the first speaker for the "One-day" meeting. Each year, until 1877, a "One-day" meeting was held and called the "June Picnic and Sunday Assembly." Then it was extended to a three-day meeting. Jeremian Carter was inspired to extend the meeting for a "camp season." Mr. Carter and Mr. Alden, and others, worked on the great spiritual experiment. In 1878, the camp season was extended to ten days, the grounds were fenced in, and the first cottage was built in connection with the camp on the edge of the Alden's land.

When Willard Alden died in 1878, there was discord about his estate within his family. As a result, the Spiritualists found it was better to move to the adjoining property, and twenty plus acres along the east side of upper Cassadaga Lake were purchased in 1879. Spiritualists began the backbreaking work to clear the wilderness and make it a place for future cottages and camp meetings. The president, Albert Cobb, felled the first tree, and brave men and women worked hard on the home of the new association. "Everyone was determined that the grounds would be ready for the 1880 camp meeting. A hotel was built and opened on August 7, 1880, with W. J. Colville as one of the first registered. The hotel was originally the barn and is known as a "hung building." Each time additional floors were needed, the building was raised and the new floor built underneath. The top floor still shows evidence of the original horse stables.

Three sides of the property were fenced in, a speakers stand built with plank benches in front, a ticket office was put up at the gate, and the grounds were beautified. The dedication of the Camp was June 15, 1880, with the speaker, Mrs. Elizabeth Lowe Watson. About twelve hundred people listened to her two hour oratory.

They were a social group in 1880 and it seems there was no dance floor at the Camp. A floating raft of logs was made by some people, called The Water Lily, and was used for about three years. When the new auditorium was completed, dances were held there on Wednesday and Saturday nights to a live orchestra. The Saturday dances were grand balls, and everyone dressed up in gowns and tuxedos. When Susan B. Anthony was at Lily Dale, she would always lead the grand ball. Then at the Iroquois Hotel, which was outside the gate, on the third floor, they had a dance hall and people would go over there in the winter time.

Cottages began to be built, but many people and events were first located in tents. In 1883, an auditorium was built. (It was remodeled in 1916.) The entire structure was fifty feet square and was simply a roof supported by pillars with curtains around the outside. It seated twelve hundred, but there were some speakers that attracted so many people that sometimes people still had to stand outside. A water tower was constructed, and that really helped the camp. Many books were donated by Marian H. Skidmore and others to create the first library.


The library moved into the Assembly Hall, first called Library Hall, it remained there until 1924, when the present library building was constructed. Lyceum meetings were held in a large tent, for it was felt that training of the young was very important.

A popular spot in "the Dale" 1890's was the billiard parlor. Later, a bowling alley, with four lanes, was added, and the billiard tables moved upstairs. They used wooden bowling balls with two holes in them. In 1946, the building's foundation was in such need of repair that it was torn down.

"By 1893, there were two hundred and fifteen cottages, and about forty families lived on the grounds year around. When one purchased a home in Cassadaga Lake Free Association, there were certain stipulations that went along with it. Designed to make the camp the nicest possible place in which to stay, these admonishments often involved thoughts we now find humorous. For example, the owner agreed that he shall not throw or discharge, or suffer or allow any other person to throw or discharge upon said premises or upon the streets..., any kind of kitchen slops or any other kind of slops growing from the culinary affairs permitted on said premises..."  The land is rented by the home owners from the Association for 99 years.

The Dunkirk train had a railroad station which was just across the bridge from the property, so people could get to the Camp without great strain or excess traveling. The ease of reaching the Camp was a great asset to the growth of the community, for the other camps around the country required the traveler take a stagecoach or horse and buggy. The roads people had to travel were toll roads and not necessarily in the greatest condition, so to be able to take a train was a real benefit.

Spiritualism and Lily Dale explored new ideas and continued to grow and progress. Mrs. Marian H. Skidmore invited the Suffragists to meet at the Camp in 1887, and for the following "Woman's Days," most of the prominent "Women's Rights" advocates appeared on the platform. "Susan B. Anthony, the grand lady of the Woman's Suffrage movement, made her first public appearance at Lily Dale in 1891...So emotion filled was the event at Lily Dale, that Miss Anthony herself wrote about that special first day.

People came from far and near. Finally three thousand were assembled in that beautiful amphitheater, decorated with yellow, the suffrage color, and the red, white and blue. There hanging by itself, was our national flag, ten by fourteen feet, with its red and white stripes, and in the center of the blue corner, just one golden star, Wyoming, blazing out along. (Wyoming was the first state to recognize woman's suffrage.) Every cottage in the camp was festooned with yellow, and when at night the Chinese lanterns were lighted on the plazas, it was gorgeous as any fourth of July celebration, and all in honor of Woman's Day and her coming freedom." Miss Anthony came to the grounds every summer for several years.

In 1895, the Alden House, on the lake across the road from the entrance to the Assembly grounds, and 23 acres of woodland, including the Grove, were purchased by Abby Louise Pettengill. She expanded and improved the old house, adding many fine qualities, and renamed it The Leolyn, after her granddaughter. The well on the side of the hotel was said to have health-giving waters, and an analysis showed medicinal properties.  

Many came each year to use the waters for healing, and stayed to delve into the wonders of Spiritualism.  There were few structures in western New York that equaled the hotel in the late 1800's.  The Leolyn was either given to the Assembly or purchased from Mrs. Pettengill in later years (two differing reports were found) and is still a beautiful place to spend time.

Improvements continued to be made—the "Octagon Building" was constructed, the swamp was filled in, the iron arch with the letters "C.L.F.A." replaced the old gate, a sewer system, was put in, fire protection begun, the children's lyceum expanded, and the convenience of a most modern town were added.  In 1989, the Sunflower Pagoda was built by William P. Bach, and he also began a newspaper call The Sunflower.

On December 28, 1900, there was a "great Lily Dale fire." It could have wiped out all of the homes, but squads of workers were arranged and a bucket brigade was organized. Five cottages were burned, one torn down and others moved, but the Camp was saved. On February 1,1901, a fire department was organized with its first president Thomas Skidmore, and the firemen were Camp volunteers.

The great thinkers, speakers and mediums of the times came to Lily Dale for the Camp meetings. "Between 1900 and 1903, the business of the camp proceeded in orderly fashion. Library Hall was used for meetings, classes, thought exchange, and the children's lyceum. The Octagon building was another classroom and housed the dancing school. A bath house near the beach provided 'hot and cold tub and shower baths that could be taken at any hour.' All of this, and much more, could be enjoyed for the price of admission to the grounds—15 cents a day; $3.50 for the season."

The hotel which had been called "The Grand Hotel" changed its name to the "Maplewood Hotel." Its old time charm is still intact today. "Electrical lights became a part of life at Lily Dale, and even a telephone switchboard was installed at the gate."

In 1928, the Andrew Jackson Davis Lyceum Building was constructed and given to Lily Dale by Mercy Cadwallader, the editor of The Progressive Thinker. It was dedicated in honor of Andrew Jack-son Davis, "The Poughkeepsie Seer" and founder of Spiritual Lyceums. 

The grounds of the Lyceum Building and the "Children's Acre" are a beautiful garden with a playground adjacent to the building for the enjoyment of the children.

The lovely and stately Healing Temple was inspired and built at the direction of T. J. Kelly and his guides in 1955. It was a gift to Lily Dale by Louis Vosburg and is dedicated to the principles of spiritual healing. When one walks into the Temple, a feeling of peace and renewal can be felt.

Benjamin Bartlett of Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania, arranged to have the original Fox Cottage moved from Hydesville to Lily Dale. A medium, Miss Flo Cottrel, for many years used to sit in the cottage and give readings with the raps that continued to manifest. She gave her first demonstration in Lily Dale in 1911, and was considered one of the greatest mediums at the time. 

She had been tested by many of the leading Psychical Research Societies and Scientific Organizations of the United States. Her reputation was one of definite proof and of convincing phenomenal psychic power.

Many of Spiritualism's artifacts were housed in the cottage for visitors to see. Tragically, in 1956, the cottage and all the memorabilia within it burned. The Peddler's trunk, containing a charred Fox family Bible with valuable information about the family in it, was fortunately saved and is currently on display in the Lily Dale Museum.

A handout by the Rev. Betty L. Putnam states: "The original Lily Dale Charter contained these words, For the discerning of the spirits. Truly Lily Dale lived to that early promise.. .It is a worn cliché that the first hundred years are the hardest. If that is so, then Lily Dale weathered the storms and kept the faith, knowing that the guiding light has been, and forever will be THE ETERNAL LIGHT OF SPIRIT'."





At one point in the '60's, for about four or five years, there was a water skiing school in Lily Dale. It attracted all ages, but mainly young people from the camp and from surrounding towns. Usually there were about 75 people on Saturday, and about the same amount on Sunday, to learn basic water skiing and also some fancy ski tricks. The group would then put on a ski show off the Lily Dale beach for those in the Camp. Some of the team, such as, then teenager Peggy Johnson, our current NSAC bookkeeper, were invited to other areas and countries to perform.

Os-ka-non-ton was a Mohawk chief from the Bear tribe out of Canada. He had a beautiful voice, was heard singing, and brought to New York City. He became an opera singer, made records and had his own radio program. Os-ka-non-ton traveled all over the world with his group, singing and putting on Indian plays. He came to Lily Dale in 1917, and like many people, fell in love with the area and the philosophy. So when he was done with his tours, he came and settled in Lily Dale.

Os-ka-non-ton was a remarkable spiritual healer who freely gave of his services to all who were in need. He was a favorite of all the children of Lily Dale, and a day did not pass for them without a visit to see Oska, sit in his handcarved healing chair, and visit his authentic tepee. His sister, Marge, ran the "trading post," a souvenir gift shop for many years at Lily Dale.

One story that was told in many ways was also printed in an old TNS. John Slater was at Camp Lily Dale and as "he stood near a group of young people, he overheard them laughing and jesting about Spiritualism. The story goes that he called to one of them, something perhaps like this: 'Young man, you there, standing near the young lady in the yellow dress!—be sure and stay clear of the lake today.' Later when the boy went rowing, he apparently lost control of the boat and it capsized. It was evidently some time later when the boy's body was found floating in the reeds and rushes near the shore."

Humor to put you in GOOD SPIRITS 

These are true stories that happened in Lily Dale at one time or another. 



125th Year Anniversary 1879-2004 

The past was fascinating, and what has been recounted here is only a minuscule minute in the 125 years of Spiritualist free thinking history. Each year, names and personalities that are indeed in the forefront of growth and spiritual upliftment, present lectures, classes, workshops for those
attending. This year some of the wonderful workshop presenters were: Patricia Price, Ted Andrews, Dick and Tara Sutphen, Cathy Snell, Bunny Starr, Rik Kristanat, Pat Bell, John White, Gretchen Clark, Wayne Dyer, Raymond Buckland, Kevin Ryerson, B. Anne Gehman, Neal Rzepkowski, M.D., James Van Praagh, to name just a few. There were sweat lodges, native American speakers, Tibetan Monks creating a mandala sand painting and presenting sacred music and sacred dance; Reiki Certification, Hypnotherapy Certification, sound, color and aura classes; mediumship, healing, home circle and Natural Law workshops; Native American flute teaching and performance; doctors, scientists, authors, etc., creating an exciting program to choose from. Each year is different, and speakers such as Dr. Raymond Moody Jr., Shakti Gawain, Ted Andrews, Patch Adams, M.D., Gerald Epstein, Dr. Rocco Errico, Deepak Chopra, M.D., Sarah Estep, Patricia Hayes, and other well known people have participated at various times. Just a few of the visitors or presenters of previous years that have been reported to visit were Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Countess Alexandra Tolstoy Robert Engersol, Helena Blatvasky, Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Doreen Virtue, Ph.D., Melissa Gilbert, Albert Hubbard, John Edwards, Mae West and Stephen King. Of course, most of the famous pioneer workers of Spiritualism served the platform of the largest Spiritualist Camp.

"The ideals that stood then, stand today, even in our ever changing world. The pursuit was Spiritual Enlightenment, Knowledge and Exploration into the unknowns to make them knowable.

"In the peace and tranquility of the lovely rolling hills of Western New York State, nestled along one of three lakes of Cassadaga, Lily Dale remains, an area untouched by modern civilization.

"Surrounded by ageless forests, the timelessness of the area lends itself perfectly to the ongoing pursuit of the founders original purpose. Hence, the attraction is to many. The many who seek and the many who are willing to share."

The above quote was extracted from a handout and tells the story well. My stay at Lily Dale was like moving from the bustle of city life and chaotic energy, to a natural gentle, uplifting, peaceful energy. A week or weekend in this atmosphere is healing. It is indeed a rare and unique Spiritual Community, a treasure each summer for the seekers. Community and spirituality are two words to emphasize. The residents of Lily Dale must be commended for they are friendly helpful and necessary to keep the summer program moving for all those who come. Talk about volunteering!


Most of those who live there, and are able, are busy helping with the programs, taking tickets, directing visitors to locations, running the wonderful museum, acting as mediums, healers, speakers or chairpersons for the daily services. Without their love of the religion and the Association, their work and dedication, the summer session would not run so smoothly, and, there is something going on from early morning all day long and into the evening. Because it was the 125th anniversary, there were 125 workshops or classes scheduled. That's awesome—at times there was more than one interesting thing happening at the same hour. Decisions, decisions, but whichever choice was made, the seeker learned something wonderful.

The summer season at Lily Dale offers a variety of workshops and seminars, mediums and healers, dinners and so many special events people wish they could stay the entire summer. There was the Thought Exchange, with lively discussions and thoughtful questions. There were message circles, spiritual healing, clairvoyant demonstrations at Inspiration Stump, The Forest Temple, and development classes, meditations, a wonderful library, message services and discussions.

Besides an individual being able to grow when they participated in the many events offered, they often experienced wonderful healing—health restoration of body, soul and spirit. Someone who visits the Dale can do something every minute or do nothing except enjoy the peace and beauty of the space. People seem to understand both are needed, and there are quiet areas and noisy, talkative spots.

Most try to expose themselves to as many events as possible each day, so the enlightenment of the place will become a familiar energy. The day could begin with meditation to set the energy, then proceed to the Healing Temple for strong vibrations of the wonderful healers, next on to a class or workshop, lunch in the courtyard of the Pagoda—Karma Cafe, or seated in the Lily Dale Cafeteria, or on the patio of Monika's Delite (mmm—garlic soup). Good food in all of them. After lunch, there are message services at Inspiration Stump, at Forest Temple, and a lecture and messages in the auditorium. There are more classes, additional healing services, thought exchanges, Lyceum, circles and a labyrinth.
Twice each day during the Camp session, people walk past the pet cemetery through the Leolyn woods to the Inspiration Stump. It is easy to feel the energy building as one enters the quiet trail that leads to the meeting place. Inspiration Stump began because student mediums wanted a place to practice, so they met in the woods to give messages to each other. The news of messages spread, and soon others gathered, hoping to receive a greeting from their loved ones. After years of demonstrations of mediumship in this location, the spiritual energies are high. Visiting and student mediums give short messages to those in attendance. These services began in the late 1800's and have continued since. The stump began to show much wear with the continued use, so the mediums now stand in front of it to deliver the spirit greetings.

"Dedicated to the principles of spiritual healing, the Healing Temple was opened in 1955. It has remained a place of peace and solitude for all those who come to renew their energies through healing or quiet meditation and prayer." There are two healing services each day and all are invited to share the healing energies channeled through men and women healers who serve the Temple. The healers serve all who come, but there is also healing received by those who just sit in prayer and meditation.


Guidelines for Receiving Spiritual Healing

  1. Please be respectful by remaining quiet prior to and during the service. When you leave, we ask that you be considerate of others and leave as quietly as possible.

  2. RELAX and enjoy the experience. Place your feet on the floor, hands in your lap with palms turned upward. Breath in and out slowly several times. You may choose to close your eyes and relax even greater.

  3. The true value of Spiritual Healing is not always measured immediately, although you may verify and notice immediate changes. Healing energy will remain with you. ALLOW

  4. There are many healers who serve the temple. They each have their own unique gifts of healing. If you have any questions. They will be happy to assist you after the service. EXPECT GOOD

  5. Before receiving, ask that God's healing source remove all obstacles from your path so you may truly receive. ASK

  6. Only ONE Healing per service is necessary.

  7. Spiritual healing is not a substitute for medical treatment.

  8. You are not expected to discuss your condition or problems with your healer, however, general information may be helpful. Please do not ask for any messages.

  9. Remember to give thanks for the Healing brought through the healer. GRATITUDE

Healers who serve are qualified through training, and registered with Lily Dale Assembly.

A few pictures taken, with permission of the healers, during the service, show the strong spiritual energy.

This recent picture is with the Rev. Jean Warner, healer, and a young girl, Jennifer, who always comes to Jean's healing chair, as she loves the energy she feels.  The girl's mother asked Shannon Taggart, a professional photographer from Rochester, to take a picture of Jennifer during the healing.  The healer appears to be moving through the vibrational process of sharing energy proceeds.  It is fascinating that the energy around the two of them is blurred, while the rest of the photograph is clear.  There are several points where you can see through the healer and she is a larger woman than she appears in this picture.

Healer Ron Robertson was pleased to see this picture of himself and Hilda Wilkenson that showed spiritual energy during a healing in the Temple. If the picture was in color, you would see that the energy that is in front of them is rainbow colored.  Notice that the curtains of the temple can be seen through the energy.

The tranquility of the Forest Temple invites visitors and spirit friends alike to open the channels of communication between the "Two Worlds." Each day messages that prove that we never die and that our loved ones are with us from the "Other Side" are delivered through registered mediums, as well as visiting and student mediums.  The temple began operating in 1894 and has continued to uplift the emotional, mental and spiritual energies of the individual ever since.

The Octagon House was built before 1897 to be used for classes, gatherings and for dance instruction. Later the Junior League activities were held there. The octagonal shaped building is one of seven such octagon designed buildings in New York State.  Currently it is the home of the Lily Dale Medium's League which "was founded in 1930 for the purpose of promoting the Religion of Spiritualism and the demonstration of Mediumship." The League offers education, workshops, helps developing mediums, holds circles, and hosts the Wednesday evening thought exchanges. 



Suggestions for a Reading

  1. Mediumship is not fortune telling. A good reading should explain the philosophy of right living. EXPECT TRUTH.

  2. Allow the medium to proceed in his or her manner. Do not expect your first problem to be discussed at once. PATIENCE.

  3. No medium wants or needs help, but do not attempt to confuse them. Let them know when they are correct. BE FAIR.

  4. Skepticism, demanding proof, arguing or wanting things done your way only leads to failure. EXPECT GOOD.

  5. Spirit often manifests by name. Evidence comes in many other ways, description, relationships, simple tests, etc. BE WILLING TO VERIFY.

  6. Do not be too quick to say "no." Welcome the spirit even if you are unable to recognize immediately. Later, you may recall the name or the incident.

  7. The true value of a reading is not always measured by prophecy. Prediction is always possible, but you have free will to make changes. GUIDANCE is the keynote.

  8. Seek a medium's help at a time when you are relaxed and undisturbed. Put your mind at ease. RELAX.

  9. Every medium has his or her unique way. It is unfair to compare the abilities of mediums.

  10. Do not try to prolong a reading. The medium realizes when the force is gone.

  11. Before going to a meeting where there is communication with the Spirit World, whether by means of a circle, public seance, outdoor meeting or private sitting ask your spirit loved ones to attend the meeting with you.

  12. If you wish to ask a question or questions, ask spirit well in advance of the meeting. Give them ample time to get an answer. No spirit claims to have an answer on the spur of the moment.

REMEMBER: Although those in the Spirit World can see further than we, they do not profess to have all the answers, just as we, here, in the physical world, cannot know everything.

The Pagoda was built in 1898 by Mr. Bach, and originally called "Sunflower Pagoda." The building was run by Evielena Bach who sold books, took subscriptions to Spiritualist publications, and sold supplies such as stationery, ice cream, candy, soft drinks, novelties and cigars. It served the summer residents and visitors in this manner for 49 years. Since then, it has continued to function in many ways during the Camp season and is currently being used as the Karma Cafe.

The Marion Skidmore Library has one of the largest and most outstanding collections of Spiritualist books known. Marian Skidmore began it by donating her books, and others have continued to contribute. An information desk can help you locate the old books you may be looking for. It has a fine collection of rare Spiritualist and metaphysical books and because of the rarity of the material, no books are allowed to be taken from the premises. However, there is a lovely, comfortable reading and research room available.
Also, each day, except Monday when the library is closed, a video presentation highlighting the history and philosophy of Lily Dale is shown.






The Lily Dale Museum, built in 1890, was once a one room school house until 1938. Harrison D. Barrett was the first teacher. In the past few years, the Museum has accumulated wonderful artifacts and information on Spiritualism, its pioneers, and its beginning.


Due to the hard work of Joyce La Judice and other Lily Dale residents, it is a comprehensive wonder of the history of Spiritualism. The dedicated workers at the museum must know Spiritualism, besides know the artifacts. They show visitors the peddler's box, the Fox family's Bible, precipitated spirit painting by the Bangs sisters and the Campbell brothers, slates by famous mediums with messages and drawings, Spiritualist newspapers, photographs and paintings, magazines and pamphlets, early lectures or write-ups by or about famous mediums, artifacts, photo albums and memorabilia of an earlier era. The Lily Dale Museum has an extensive collection that keeps growing and is a source of research and interest. Take a "walk back in time" when you visit this display of Spiritualism's past. Ron Nagy conducts a walking tour of Lily Dale every Saturday morning throughout the season, telling those in attendance interesting stories about each building and area.

There are two hotels in Lily Dale. The Leolyn Hotel outside the camp gates has already been mentioned as an active beginning for Free Thinkers and it continues in this manner with .classes, concerts and lively discussions among the guests. 

When the first settlers of the Camp began to build a; in 1878, they put a horse barn on the far corner of the property, away from the lake. In 1880, the need for a hotel was evident, so they took the horse barn and raised it (hung suspension was very common back then), put a floor underneath, and called it the Grand Hotel. In 1883, again they wanted more room, so they raised the two floors and added another floor underneath. In 1886, they raised all three floors and added another floor.  The hotel is now called the Mapelwood Hotel and has a wonderful ambiance, fantastic artwork, many by the Bangs sisters and Campbell brothers, and interesting antique furniture.  The porch is a group meeting place between activities or a nice place to meditate when alone.

The National Spiritualist Association of Churches has their office in the home where Marion Skidmore once lived. NSAC is recognized as the oldest and most respected Spiritualist organization and was incorporated on November 3, 1893 in Washington, D.C., as a non-profit religious organization. The Rev. Sharon Snowman, NST, Peggy Johnson and Tina Lynch keep the office and book store running smoothly, answer many questions each day and hand out reams of informational literature to help those visiting to understand more about Spiritualism. 


On the second floor there are Spiritualist publications and books from the past, where serious researchers often come to seek information. It has frequently been visited by visitors from the U.S. Library of Congress and Smithsonian Institute. Sylvia Kincaid has been organizing much of the old material, to keep it for future generations. NSAC is proud of its distinct religious history and has maintained a continuous record of its history in the archives of the Research Library.

The Auditorium building is unique, with sides that open to allow fresh air in, or close to keep the breezes out. It seats 920 people, and is often filled when a feature speaker is present. On Sunday morning and each afternoon in the summer, it is used for worship services.  Occasionally, there are weddings held in the auditorium, but usually they are conducted on a smaller scale at the Healing Temple, Inspiration Stump, or Forest Temple.

Shopping is available on the grounds of Lily Dale. The Lily Dale Bookstore carries tapes, books and pamphlets on subjects relating to Spiritualism, along with a selection of children's books. The Lily Dale Gift Shop is located in the same building and has souvenirs and gifts for all ages to purchase. The Lily Dale Fire Company helps raise funds with the Second Time Around Shop where they sell new and used items, gifts, jewelry and some clothing. The Crystal Cove has unique gifts, jewelry, cards, books, oils, candles, music and more. The Bargin Shoppe has a unique offering of gifts, jewelry, souvenirs, and peanuts to feed the friendly squirrels of Lily Dale.

There are sports such as hiking, hiking, boating, canoeing, swimming, fishing, jet skiing, water skiing, and golf, available at the Camp or close by. There is a lovely tent and travel trailer park. 

There are Special Weeks such as Canadian Week, Virginia Week, and probably more. I was fortunate to be present during the First Spiritualist Temple of East Aurora,
NY, annual picnic, which is on the third Sunday in July, each year. However, I should have arrived to take the picture before lunch for two reasons. (1) The food spread was impressive and yummy looking, and (2) by the time the picture was taken, half of the people were out and about wandering the beautiful grounds. Gladys Kellerman said there were around 100 members and friends of the church who attended this year, and by the wonderful, abundant spread of food everyone brought, they probably could have fed many, many more. Helping myself to a piece of banana bread made by 92-year-old Edna Mays, I was thankful for being able to enjoy their company and the good desert.  Susan Blessing and I talked healing, as we had both been involved with the NSAC Healing Center, and Donna Azzarelli greeted me warmly like a sister. I received lots of hugs from this friendly, loving, accepting group. Aren't Spiritualists wonderful!

There is a special vibration and Sense of Community in Lily Dale, when push comes to shove, everyone that lives there, pulls together. Someone suggested going to Inspiration Stump at night, when no one is around and you will find spirit is very active too, pulling together. The Stump is a sacred spot, and you can relive the history of Spiritualism. The rows start to fill up with spirit friends and spirit mediums. They will tell you their story, talk about who is there. This has happened to many people.  

There is something about the energy in Lily Dale. It seems whatever you need, if you will go and find a comfortable spot, sit and pray, asking for what is important to you, someone will come to you with help. They might be in the physical or someone from the spiritual, but it is as though questions are answered quickly here if a person takes the time to be open to receive. For example, in one story, a woman was concerned about her son and had prayed for healing. As she recounted the story, she said she must have "fallen asleep or something," for there were three or four people standing around, and they told her that her son was receiving healing because she had asked for it, and within seven days she would begin to see a difference in him. Sure enough, within this time span her son began to get better and made a full recovery.


In addition to the seminars and workshops offered during the summer, there are two educational facilities located on the grounds. Morris Pratt spent six years in Lily Dale before he donated the Morris Pratt Institute building, which was put in Wisconsin, then all the teachers went up there to teach.  Its main headquarters are now in Milwaukee, but it also has a lovely building on the Lily Dale grounds. MPI offers a nationally accepted correspondence course in Spiritualism, for certification and ordination. It uses the Lily Dale building for workshops, discussions, and for teaching a two-week Pastoral Skills Course each June. Alvin and Carol Gasper have begun a weekly discussion group during the summer months which has been well received.

Center For Spiritual Studies (CSS  - Spiritualist Seminary) has just been gifted a building in Lily Dale for its headquarters. Work is in progress to restore the building and restructure it for workshops and classes, with an office and library. Extensive work on the exterior of the building will have to wait until the camp has closed so any noises made will not disturb the Camp Session. The Center has recently received recognition with the State of New York as a state recognized educational institution, and will partner with another college for basic programs needed. It offers a correspondence course that is striving for BA and AA degrees. The late Rev. Barbara Thurman willed her extensive library of books to CSS, and others have also donated books. Tom Rugani is CSS's registrar who is working hard to get the Center accredited.


We all wonder what the implications of the greater awarenesses people are experiencing will do for humanity and for Spiritualism. More and more people are hearing about mediumship, meditation, spirit guides, continuing life, honoring all life and eternal progression. These concepts are a breakthrough in the evolution of humanity, a door opening as people transform from using only the five senses, to using their sixth sense, and to depending on their intuition, their spiritual gifts and their spirit guides.

Think of the culture with a new modality of thinking people working toward the greater good; of people trying to live in love; of men and women respecting nature and knowing all of God's creation is here for a purpose. Places like Lily Dale, that attract people working to transform, are wayshowers and a light to those who want to grow.  Searching people create change in society. Change is gradual, but change brings growth, especially when it is an inner spiritual change. Individual growth expands and touches others. Several speakers made comments as to the future of Spiritualism and Lily Dale. This is a brief summary of some of the discussions

  As President of the Lily Dale Assembly, Susan Glasier is a busy woman. She said that Lily Dale works hard to keep the Camp uplifting and a Spiritual community, and the future will continue in this manner as it has for 125 years. There are 428 members of Lily Dale with thousands of people that come to learn, grow and experience each summer. Mediumship is many people's first experience with Spiritualism, so it is important to keep mediumship according to guidelines set. Each medium that is registered is tested to assure ability and to guide them in the mediumship principles. If a complaint comes about a medium, it also affects the Camp, so Lily Dale works hard to keep the quality of mediums high. The Village always comes together when they are needed, looks out for each other and helps those in need. Some rarely even lock their doors. The grounds are such a pretty place, in fact, a pleasanter location for personal renewal would be difficult to find. This feeling of peace and beauty will always attract spiritual seekers.

Kevin Ryerson feels Lily Dale is part of the free thinking tradition. Spiritual residents still debate ideas, but have not abandoned the intimacy of neighborhood. The beauty and naturalness of the place, with the physical and spiritual energy shared, is powerful because there is a sense of home. Life is not without conflict or drama, but the future of enlightened persons will know that "One drop of joy transforms oceans of fear, anger and jealousy" Joy is a strong emotion, and when used to create reality, it will help overcome lower reality to transform you and the people around you. We are the new Atlantians sharing the sacred centers of the world which help align our personal sacred spiritual centers. As we practice our inner values, we become harvesters and realize the abundance of life that is available as we choose what we care to receive. There is a high concentration of healing energy in Lily Dale. It is a way station where some walk away with more guides and more energy than they came in with. Lily Dale, with its romantic past, its healing vibrations, and its spiritual energy is the future, the now. The nature of energy is to flow toward balance, and nature is all around you in "the Dale." The cities, with the financial, material or earthly goals, separate people and scatter energy. As each person leaves Lily Dale, they are disciples, so they may open the hearts and minds of others. 

A group discussion commented that if you look around at the people you see coming into Lily Dale, you will notice they are now a younger group, families and singles, in their thirties and forties. They are seeing spiritual events happening on television, in the movies, in magazines and books that inspire them to want to know more. They ask wonderful, intelligent questions and are open to spirit communication. The children and younger generation that are coming into adulthood are open to spirit energy and questioning unusual things they are experiencing. Lily Dale calls the free thinkers of every generation. Spiritualism will always prosper if we continue to interest the youth to grow and develop their mediumistic abilities, to dare to search outside of the box for spiritual truths.

Peggy Johnson feels we need quality mediumship, not psychics, so the Camp will continue to grow. In order for any camp to survive, there must be diversity, and this variety interests a variety of seekers.  Hopefully, when the are here and see good mediums who offer proof of survival, they will come back for true mediumship.

James Van Praagh, world famous, medium extraordinaire, is a nice guy who takes time with everyone and makes them feel special. He felt the future would find more spiritual awareness and more consciousness evolving into the mainstream of life. He has traveled around the world and has had physical phenomena when sitting with another group of mediums in Brazil and with the Scole Group in England.  Mr. Van Praagh has agreed to a phone interview for TNS, so look for that in a future edition.

Joyce La Judice thinks we will see an influx of young mediums, for the kids are getting interested again. The young people in their twenties and thirties are natural mediums, but they have to learn before they can give, so hopefully they will take courses and develop their natural abilities. Being around some of the young adults that come into the Lily Dale Museum, the questions are not just about the history and artifacts, but about 90% of the questions are about mediumship and Spiritualism. She also foresees for the future, the coming back of true physical phenomena, in controlled situations. What they do at the museum is to give out hundreds of free literature samples and the extra Summits—people are not leaving them on the ground— people are definitely interested.

Raymond Buckland, a writer and presenter this summer at Lily Dale, Mr. Buckland is very optimistic for the future. He felt, each year the religion would gain greater acceptance as a religion, and Spiritualism will eventually be part of mainstream religions. It is in a renaissance period right now, reestablishing itself. The people of England seem to be more open to Spiritualism, but with John Edwards and other mediums in the public eye now, people in the US are stopping and thinking about possibilities. These are really exciting times for Spiritualism. People are more open to explore, and many are dissatisfied with their current churches, and want more. Raymond Buckland has written several books on Spiritualism: Doors to Other Worlds, Book of Spirit Communications (which he won an award for), and he is currently completing The Spirit Book Encyclopedia of Clairvoyance, Channeling and Spirit Communication.

Sharon Snowman writes, Lily Dale is a unique Spiritualist community, a spiritual and experiential retreat for everyone who enters. The sylvan aspects and peaceful meditative atmosphere add to its tranquility and healing restorative energies. Walking through the gates of Lily Dale visitors are heard repeatedly to state they feel that they have stepped back through time and found a place of rejuvenation and peace. It is visited annually by individuals worldwide who return to partake of the Lily Dale experience. For 125 years, generations have returned to Lily Dale for the physical, mental, and spiritual fulfillment they receive. Here, they are able to partake of the universal healing energies that permeate these grounds and additionally receive veridical greetings from people in spirit that definitely prove the basis of our religion—the continuity of life. She believes that the future holds untold marvels in the areas of Mediumship and Healing. We would be foolish to assume that we have discovered all the phenomena, physical or mental that is attainable. As we have moved into the electronic age, we have seen additional phenomena develop such as Independent Instrumental Communications—automatic computer messages, automatic typewriting, Electronic Voice Phenomena, White Noise communications, and who is to say it has reached its end. It is, simply, that in our striving for our eternal progression, we awaken to new unbound reaches of paranormal investigation and research. May the next 125 years be as fruitful, progressive and enlightening.

Established by Spiritualist "free thinkers," Lily Dale continues as a community to be dedicated to the Science, Philosophy and Religion of Spiritualism. It schedules a series of presentations, events and experiences each year to share information, uplift and enlighten, create a spiritual awakening, hope and peace for those who are open to receive these loving, expanding energies. The atmosphere may be 19th Century, but the experience will take Spiritualists and seekers into the 21st Century. The World's Largest Spiritualist Community has touched hundreds of thousands and will continue to reach out to hundreds of thousands more in the future.

Today's mediums, healers, lecturers, and volunteers, continue the work at the Camp. Lily Dale is a living, growing, memorial to Spiritualism. In talking to residents and people who arrived for the first time, often they commented, "When I walked onto the grounds, my first impression was it felt like home." Many interviewed said, "Once you have been to Lily Dale, it calls you back and you come again and again." Change continues as we evolve, as Lily Dale evolves and the future is bright, for the Assembly will always be guided by spirit. Lily Dale's residents accept the challenges the years ahead have to offer. The 125 years of history of Cassadaga Lake Free Association was one of courage, stamina and dedication—surely the next 125 years will continue this tradition.

In addition to fine mediums, wonderful featured workers, teachers and speakers, powerful healers, there is laughter, wisdom, friends, thoughtful discussions—all in a place of natural beauty. There were times when I felt the energy so strongly, I knew our past was still present. As was said at the end of a service: "Please come back to see us here in Lily Dale, for here you will always find an open mind, an open heart, peace and a smile. Greetings.

  TNS wishes to thank the friends of Lily Dale who made the research trip possible.  A special thanks to Ann, Lelia, Sharon, Peggy, Anne, Patricia, and Carol.  The information received, the interviews given and the pictures taken could have filled several magazines instead of just one, but we hope you enjoy this feature issue.

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