CASSADAGA – Spiritualism is the belief that life continues after death and that the spirits of those who have died can communicate with the living through what’s called mediumship.There …
CASSADAGA – Spiritualism is the belief that life continues after death and that the spirits of those who have died can communicate with the living through what’s called mediumship.
There are Psychic, Spiritual and Intuitive mediums. They are essentially the same thing. They talk to spirits in the afterlife. A medium uses their psychic or intuitive abilities to see a person’s past, present and future events by tuning into the spirit energy surrounding that person while receiving messages from that person’s past relatives. The Medium then passes this information, good or bad, to the living relative.
Spiritualism is an ancient art that took hold in the United States around the 1840-50s. Spiritualist camps were established in the northern states for famous mediums to provide places for spiritualists around the country to meet, exchange ideas and witness physic demonstrations. These camps were not really areas with camping facilities. Camp was just an old term used to indicate the gatherings of religious groups. Many camps had a hotel, a cafeteria, several cottages and maybe a dancing pavilion. They were so popular many spiritualists began building homes inside the camps to reside year-round. Because of the weather, these revivals only took place in the summer. There was a need for a camp in the south where the revivals could be conducted year-round. Thus, the prophecy begins.
In 1875, a medium named George Colby, was conducting a trance séance in Iowa when he was contacted by a Native American spirit guide named Seneca. Seneca told him to travel to Wisconsin and meet up with another spiritualist, and together they would be given further instructions on their mission. Once together, Seneca told the two mediums to travel to Florida and establish a spiritualist camp on a site of seven hills and surrounded by lakes. Not one to argue with a spirit, they took a train to Jacksonville, then a riverboat down the St. Johns River to Blue Springs. From there, they traveled by foot through the dense, subtropical forest, looking for the Promised Land.
The Prophesy Fulfilled
It took several months of exploring, but eventually, they found an area of high bluffs and lakes, just as described by Seneca. The two mediums soon separated over differences of opinion. Colby bought 74 acres near Lake Helen and operated a dairy farm for the next 18 years. For reasons unknown, he didn’t do anything to organize the camp he had been sent to create. Although Colby continued to correspond with the northern spiritualist, the idea of a southern camp was placed on the back burner for almost two decades.
It wasn’t until 1894 when spiritualists from New York decided to send a delegation to Florida, to look at a different location then Colby’s for their summer retreat. After inspecting another possible site in Florida for their camp they became convinced that Colby’s area would best fit their needs.
It was now official, the Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp was established in 1894. Colby was back in good graces and in 1895, he deeded the camp 35 acres of his land. The Camp was now in business.
The Camp was an immediate success. Their first meeting lasted three days, and attracted more than 100 people who came to see famous mediums and demonstrations of every physic kind. By 1898, cottages, a lodging hall, library and dancing pavilion had been built inside the Camp. Cassadaga was the place to be anytime of the year. In the 1920s, a church and hotel were built. More than 40 mediums now called Cassadaga their permanent home.
In the 1930-50s numerous articles were written about famous mediums coming to Cassadaga to perform their physic abilities before large audiences. There were spirits being materialized, mediums going into trances and speaking in tongues. Seances were being conducted on a regular basis. The Cassadaga hotel was booked for months on end and also the other hotels located miles from Cassadaga. The town even had its own newspaper listing current and upcoming events and demonstrations. Cassadaga had become the Psychic Capital of the World. The Psychic business was good, very good.
The Declining Years of Spiritualism
Beginning in the 1960s Cassadaga’s popularity began to decline somewhat. The more popular mediums were growing older and dying, and interest was fading. Certain other religious groups called Cassadaga the work of the devil and condemned its spiritualist practices. Winter visitors tapered off. Maybe the media’s coverage of fraudulent practices of a few deceptive so-called mediums sparked the phasing out, no one really knows. But rest assured, Cassadaga’s reign as the largest spiritualist community in the southern states would cease to give in to any negative outside pressure. In 1991 the Camp was designated a Historic District and placed on the National Register of Historic Places
The Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp today
Today the small community is alive and well. The Spiritualist Camp consists of approximately 57 acres with 55 Victorian houses with about 100 year-round residents. The Camp is laid out in a square, with the main road leading to two lakes – Lake Colby and Spirit Pond. Those who reside here have chosen to live in a community of spiritual people where they can worship and work in harmony with their beliefs. Many of the Camp’s residents are certified mediums and healers offering services from their homes or apartments. The mediums that reside in the Camp are not gypsies or witches. They do not use tools such as Crystal Balls or Ouija Boards. They only use their psychic abilities in their sessions.
Hundreds of visitors visit the Camp hoping to communicate with a deceased relative each month. It’s a regular stop for tour busses carrying passengers who can have lunch at the historic Cassadaga Hotel and listen to intriguing stories about the Camp history and residents. Visitors can shop at the bookstore, explore the Camp, and perhaps schedule a reading from a local medium.
Classes and walking tours of the Camp are available. Séances are conducted regularly in certain buildings and homes in the Camp. The bookstore can provide you with all of the information.
The Cassadaga Hotel was built as a boarding house for the Camp in 1901. It burned down in 1925 and was rebuilt in 1927. It’s now privately owned and not part of the spiritualist Camp. Even though it’s no longer affiliated with the Camp, it offers medium services. The front desk can assist you with information.
While you’re at the front desk, if you’re interested in things that might bump in the night, be sure to ask the clerk about the hotel’s friendly spirit – Arthur.
Today there are 13 Spiritualist Camps throughout the United States, but only Cassadaga can claim to be the Spiritualism Capital of the World.
As someone once said, to visit Cassadaga is to lift your spirits!
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