Are These People Communicating With the Dead, or Totally Insane?

by:   |   May 11 2014

gal lilydale main

If you’ve ever watched an episode of that psychic John Edward’s show, or used a Ouija board, you’re somewhat familiar with Spiritualism. It’s the religion that promotes the idea that dead people’s spirits can communicate with the living realm, and vice versa. Back in the mid-1800s, the upper and middle classes in the U.S. became fascinated with Spiritualism, and started inviting pals over for séances. Essentially, these attempts to contact celebrities and dead relatives were the Victorian-era equivalent of fondue parties in the 70s, only with 100% more fake ghosts. The vintage photos you’ve seen of white “ectoplasm” coming out of the mouths of women wearing those Emily Dickinson-esque dresses? That was Spiritualism in action.

gal ectoplasm

Those photos were proven to be doctored. But the bonkers thing is that Spiritualism (pardon the pun) never died; it’s still being practiced in upstate New York. And not just in an cobweb-filled lair by an elderly woman wearing a caftan, but across an entire town. Lily Dale, which is halfway-ish between Erie and Buffalo, is a village that’s almost entirely devoted to keeping Spiritualism alive. It’s a super quaint place full of renovated Victorian houses and spots where you can communicate, allegedly, with your dead loved ones. Lily Dale’s executive director told a reporter that she and the town’s other mediums were “here to prove the continuity of life, that life goes on, to let you know that your loved ones are well, that they care about you, that they’re around you.”

gal lilydale syracuse

In many ways, Lily Dale’s got most of the standard tourist-town elements, like cafés, b&b’s, and gift shops galore. But instead of fried-dough stands and kiosks where you can have a henna tattoo painted on your upper arm, it has an Inspiration Stump (where you’re apparently more connected to the afterlife), a Healing Temple, and a Fairy Trail, which is full of tiny, creepy miniature houses like these:

gal lilydale fairy house

There was even a documentary made on the place in 2011, called No One Dies in Lily Dale:

I’m an atheist and pretty much a skeptic in all matters, but who am I to say that what’s happening at Lily Dale isn’t a spiritual connection with the other side (and that instead it’s a collective delusion encouraged by people in serious emotional pain)? There’s still a lot that science doesn’t understand, like: Why do people buy Black Eyed Peas albums? The world is a mysterious place, and virtually everything we thought was true 100 years ago has been either proven false or radically altered. Watch Cosmos, bro—it explains all this stuff better than I ever could.

Regardless of my complicated feelings on psychics and mediums, I’d still love to see this town firsthand, if only for the fun of being immersed in a place that is, vibe-wise, far as hell from my day-to-day life in NYC. Anybody up for a grown-ass road trip?

Images from,, and


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The Co-Founder and Ed-in-Chief of G.A.L.