Lily Dale-Inspiration Stump
Lily Dale is a modern spiritualist community located in Chautauqua County, in New York State, at the end of Cassadaga Lake, about an hour south of Buffalo.
I went on a motorcycle trip to Lily Dale with a man friend of mine one summer. I'll never forget it, it was just such a beautiful and peaceful place. We discovered when we arrived that no vehicles were allowed in the little village itself--it's pedestrians only, so we parked the bike, removed our helmets, and just strolled through the most peaceful place I've ever been. Lily Dale has a special atmosphere all its own; a unique experience.
The Lily Dale community provides spiritualist seminars and meetings throughout the year. Summer is the height of the season in Lily Dale, and attracts people from all over.
We walked along the Fairy Trail holding hands. The Fairy Trail winds through the old-growth Leolyn forest. There were pink fairies in the trees, and a little gnome village in a clearing along the path. I was deeply enchanted. We sat in the Forest Temple for a while, soaking up the tranquil atmosphere. We visited Inspiration Stump, which was a great big stump of a tree with steps cut into it, surrounded by a beautifully landscaped garden area.
We wwent to a meeting in the Psychic Temple, where a psychic medium performed. I was somewhat impressed, more by the powerful atmosphere of the meeting and the powerful "presence" of the medium than by anything specific that she said or did.
Lily Dale Museum
We visited the Lily Dale museum, which is a restored 1890 one-room schoolhouse. There were some terrific old photos there, from the beginning of the spiritualist movement in the late 1800's, with the Fox sisters. Also, the Susan B. Anthony women's suffrage display was a wonderful step back into the 1920's.
The Fox Sisters
In 1848, two girls, Katherine (12) and Margaret (15), in the Fox family living in Hydesdale, New York, reported strange knocking sounds in their bedroom at night. Katherine spoke aloud to the unseen knocker, challenging it to a game of communication: a code was worked out for yes/no answers, and an alphabet strategy. Word spread throughout the neighborhood, then the state, then the country. Seeing was believing, and people thought the Fox sisters had proven ability to communicate with spirits.
This is how the Spiritualist movement of the late 19th and early 20th century began. It is a quasi-mystical belief system whose basic tenets include spiritual survival after death and the ability of some psychic people, empowered by God, to communicate with those who have passed on. There was a period in American history where many families would gather in their parlors with a Ouija board, or visit a medium's house for a seance, or get a Tarot card reading.
The Fox sisters went to stay with relatives in Rochester, NY, during the ensuing public tumult. They became celebrities, and performed for many members of high society as well as public performances, turning their situation into a career, touring music halls in both the United States and in Europe.
By the late 1880's, the Fox sisters began to quarrel, both with their older sister Leah, who also claimed to be a medium, and the proponents of Spiritualism in general. The two younger Fox sisters had become alcoholics over the years. They publicly confessed to the true source of the mysterious knocking before and audience of 2000 people in 1888 at the New York Academy of Music. The Fox sisters demonstrated how they could make sounds which reverberated all over the theater, by cracking their toes!
The jig was up, but there were still people who believed. The movement had gained ground; there were many people with "psychic" powers. The reasoning was, one bad apple doesn't prove the whole barrel is rotten.
The Fox sisters died penniless.
Their old family home was moved from Hydesville, New York, to Lily Dale, New York, in 1916, and was a centerpiece for the Spiritualist Community of Lily Dale. In 1955, the cottage was destroyed by fire.