Tucked away beside a serene lake in New York is an idyllic little town with an odd secret: half of its residents are dead, but they're still interacting with the living locals. It's just another day in Lily Dale.
Often described as a "summer camp for psychics", Lily Dale is home to the largest community of Spiritualists in the world. If you've never heard of Spiritualism before, that's understandable (its heyday was in the late 1800s), but the basic gist of the belief is that no one truly disappears when they die, they just change forms. As such, the dead can be summoned at will for advice, comfort, or even just as a fun party trick.
Today, Spiritualism may not be popular, but its few believers are still drawn together in tiny, tight-knit communties.
Purchased for $1,845, Lily Dale was originally founded as a 20 acre campground for Spiritualists in the 1870s. The group of psychics, mediums, and other dead-talkers called their land the Cassadaga Lake Free Association (another small community in Florida, the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp, takes it's name from the lake) but it eventually went on to become known as The City of Light. Finally after Spiritualism came under fire from skeptics in the 1900s, they adopted the name Lily Dale. Despite the name changes, the purpose of the town has always remained the same: to commune with the dead.
Every year, the quirkly little town sees nearly 22,000 people from all over the world, most of them eager to connect with the loved ones they've lost. Each day, numerous services occur in places like the Forest Temple, the Healing Temple, or the Inspiration Stump, during which one of the community's numerous psychics will deliver messages from the dead.
The residents take their beliefs seriously. So seriously, in fact, that you need to prove your skills as a medium just to join the Lily Dale Assembly. And unlike most who offer personal connections with the deceased, the Assembly offers refunds to clients who don't believe they've gotten a fair reading.
During the summer, visitors can pay a small fee to enter the gated community, a payment that gives them access to any number of the town's daily activities, from healing sessions, to spiritual services, to spoon bending parties and private consultations with the medium of your choice. Many guests find themselves so entranced by Lily Dale's "strange vibes" that they opt to stick around for several days, staying at the beautiful Maplewood Hotel with other curious summoners.
“This place radiates peace, love and a gentle, healing energy,” one medium told ABC News, “and everyone feels these things.”
For more on Lily Dale and Spiritualism, check out this great video below.