When I heard that the oldest continuously active community of practicing Spiritualists was along the route of my road trip through the American South East, I of course had to plan to stop and visit. Cassadaga, Florida, is a tiny community off Highway 4, about an hour north of Orlando. Founded during the peak of the American Spiritualist movement in the mid-19th century, it is now a US Historic District and continues to host the Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp for seekers, psychics, and mediums to explore the veil between our world and the “others.”
Spiritualists essentially believe that living humans can successfully interact with the personalities of deceased humans and other entities through practices such as channeling and divination. These spirits and entities offer insight and guidance to living humans, and help us along our own path. Psychics and mediums use tools like mirrors, tarot cards, palmistry, spirit boards, and bowls of water to manifest the messages from these non-human entities, since the entities don’t have physical bodies and don’t inhabit exactly the same physical space that we do. It is believed that psychic and medium skills are either a natural occurrence in some people, like athleticism or singing, while other people acquire the skill through a traumatic life event. George Colby, the founder of the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp, earned his talent after surviving a baptism in freezing lake water.
I stopped in Cassadaga for a quick lunch while traveling north toward the Georgia coast. Non-human entities contact me without the assistance of psychics and mediums, so I wasn’t interested in handing over $70 for a 30-minute reading of my Akashic records. However, I had heard of a footpath called the Fairy Trail, and after a quick meal of canned dolmas and a fresh mango, I ventured toward Horseshoe Park and the trail head.
On my travels, I’ve visited many locations that to me felt like radiant and energetically aligned places where the veil is thin. Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming and Peru’s Sacred Valley come instantly to mind. Admittedly, I did not feel such vibrations in this particular space, but perhaps I was too focused on the other visitors and the “Trump 2020” bumper stickers wallpapering the back of their SUVs. Regardless, the Fairy Trail is a work of art. It’s well-worn path integrates the natural world with villages for fairies and gnomes, and the scenery changes at each bend through the scrub forest.
The most popular spot along the Fairy Trail is a set of human-size fairy wings, painted onto wood and mounted in a way for someone to take a picture of themselves with the wings behind them. As a solo-traveler without a selfie-stick, I bypassed the photo opp and decided to take a quick look around the other attractions in the village. Before long, I stumbled into the C. Green’s Haunted History Museum, which promised access to obscure items, antiquities of the spiritualist movement, and hauntings. How could I resist?
Once inside, the Museum is packed with all that it promised. The space is a crowded foyer with a long and narrow hallway extending toward a final room. I had followed a group of three others inside, and the four of us were the only visitors. I saw newspaper clippings of the history of Cassadaga, of Bigfoot and alien sightings, of mysteries and murders solved through mediumship, and of ghostly possessions that ended in tragedy. Dolls and toys that played host to malevolent beings stared out at us through glass cases, while spirit boards, crystal balls, and scrying mirrors shimmered in the low light. As we approached the final darkened room, I held back to allow the other group to enter first, while I examined post-mortem photographs of Victorian children in stiff knickers and Christening gowns. The group of three exited the last room, and I stepped forward to enter. Immediately, I felt a pounding sensation in my head and a total darkness covered my vision. Whatever was in that room didn’t want me there. Nope. I turned immediately and followed the group out the door.
After exiting the museum, I asked the Curator about that last room. She said it held artifacts from Area 51. I asked what else was in the room. She confirmed that the ghost of a very unhappy man who had lived and worked in that room when it used to be the village post office continued to hold onto the space. Upon hearing this, I couldn’t help but wonder why stay attached to the discomfort of human suffering once our spirit is liberated from the human body? Maybe that’s why “ghosts” tend to be an unpleasant type of non-human entity, unlike the more beneficial and benevolent guides.
Cassadaga is a quaint reminder of the mysteries of death and mortality. Whether or not a visitor “believes” in the enchanted and supernatural world of the Spiritualists, each of us will one day cross the threshold into the spirit world. As is painted at a bench along the Fairy Trail, “we all have one foot in a fairy tale, and the other in the abyss.” We live in two worlds; let’s explore them both.