On the first warm and sunny day of spring, I drove 50 miles south of the city on Interstate 90 in search of some answers. It so happens that where I was headed, the Lily Dale Assembly in the Village of Cassadaga, specializes in that very thing.
As the world’s largest center for spiritualism, a religion based in part on the belief that the dead can communicate with the living, Lily Dale seeks to provide enlightenment, hope and peace to all those that arrive with open hearts and minds.
“It’s a typical town, but the only difference is it’s our religion and what we believe in,” said Susan Glasier, current Executive Director of Lily Dale Assembly. “But we don’t push it on others. The church is here for that. We are here for other things.”
Many, many other things as it turns out.
The Lily Dale grounds are quaint but tightly packed with winding dirt paths leading to sites with storybook names. There’s Mother’s Garden, Inspiration Stump, Cottage Row and Fairy Trail. But that’s not even the half of it. If you’re planning a trip after the official season opens on June 21, here are tips to help guide you through your spiritual journey.
Plan ahead...then be completely open
If you’re interested in speaking with a registered medium, it’s strongly recommended that you make a reservation. You can visit lilydaleassembly.org to learn more about each medium’s expertise and schedule an appointment during your stay at Lily Dale. (Each medium sets their own fees and availability.)
Before your appointment, it’s important to be open-minded.
“We always tell visitors to say a little prayer before you come, as far as who you’d like to see, but that doesn’t guarantee it. Uncle Joe might be busy or something is going on in your life that he isn’t involved with,” added Glasier. “But always feel free to ask questions.”
Plan to visit the Inspiration Stump, a retreat at the end of a quiet trail in Leolyn Woods, which features services held twice daily at 1 and 5:30 p.m. Mediums will give short messages to those in the audience. It’s a great opportunity to get to know the mediums of Lily Dale and dip your toes in this type of spiritual awareness.
Be free (of charge)
While mediums, select speakers and workshops have fees attached, there are many free opportunities to pursue throughout the Lily Dale campus. Visitors should seek:
The Lily Dale Museum: A historic one-room schoolhouse featuring pictorial displays of pioneer landmarks, early lectures, mediums and the women’s suffrage movement (Susan B. Anthony spoke at Lily Dale in 1890).
Marion H. Skidmore Library: Located on Cottage Row, the library houses the largest collection of Spiritualist books in the world.
Fairy Village: A magical walk filled with wood elves, gnomes and sprites.
Forest Temple: Operating since 1894, the Forest Temple is an area of spiritual, emotional and mental uplifting with services at 4 p.m. daily, except Sunday.
Community Beach: Enjoy a picnic on the sand with beautiful views of Cassadaga Lake.
When walking around the grounds, you may encounter people with similar goals and desires for their journey. It’s always encouraged to share your stories with one another as a way to connect in this special space.
“You never meet a stranger in Lily Dale. There is an openness here,” said Glasier.
Lily Dale is open from June 21–September 2, 2019. During the season, there’s a gate fee of $15 per person for 24 hours. This cost includes parking, all daily activities and noted weekly activities.
Story topics: Travel