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Lily Dale - Home of the Spiritualists
By:Michael Keene

The state of New York is home to many interesting places and attractions. Of course there's New York City with its bustling cultural appeal and the wonder of Niagara Falls with its stunning natural beauty. There are also the Adirondack Mountains, the Baseball Hall of Fame, and two Great Lakes to capture the attention of visitors. But amongst all of these familiar locations lies a small community that is perhaps not quite so well-known, but has a unique reputation of its own.

Lily Dale is situated in picturesque Chautauqua County, New York on the eastern side of the state. Bordered by Cassadaga Lake and old-growth forests, this idyllic place serves as the center for the Spiritualist movement, a religion dating back to the mid 19th century.

Though Spiritualism is a young religion in comparison to others of the world, it is one that attracts a wide following of believers who adhere to the belief that life goes on after death - spiritually speaking, of course.

The major tenets of Spiritualism are centered around communication between the living and the dead; in other words, living people can talk to spirits of deceased people to learn valuable information, usually about God. Spiritualism asserts that people never truly die; rather, they live on in spirit form and are continually striving for enlightenment and perfection. There are several planes of existence, with spirits always trying to achieve higher planes.

In Lily Dale, the entire community is devoted to understanding this spirit world and communicating with it in a quest for knowledge. Each year, thousands of people visit the place, attending informational workshops and seminars and associating with Mediums and Healers. Lily Dale is very welcoming to visitors, and has hotels, a bookstore, museum, and of course temples for prayer and meditation.

Lily Dale was not always so accommodating, however. In fact, when the community was established in 1879, there were only a few cottages for visitors to the grounds. At this time, the Spiritualist movement was still in its early stages and was considered quite controversial by mainstream society.

By most accounts, the religious movement began with the Fox sisters in 1848. Though they were only children at the time, their apparent communication with the spirit world was enough to convince many people that life did indeed go on after death. After communicating with a spirit in their home for some time, the sisters went on to achieve a great deal of fame as mediums, traveling from their home in upstate New York to bigger cities in America.

Most people consider the Fox girls to be the primary founders of Spiritualism, as their experiences fueled a great interest in spiritual communication. Because of the controversial nature of the movement, however, followers were typically criticized or shunned for their beliefs.

It was often difficult to find a place where they could openly discuss their convictions and ideas without being ridiculed or ostracized, so they sought places where they could meet in peace. And so Lily Dale came about. It was already in a location favored by many of the social pariahs at the time - the Spiritualists, feminists, abolitionists, radical Quakers -so it worked quite nicely to claim the land as a gathering place for the religion's followers. Though it took several years for Lily Dale to become fully established, it has only grown in prominence over the last 130 years.

You can learn more about Spiritualism and its unique place in American society with the documentary "Visions: True Stories of the Supernatural." This fascinating DVD by Ad-Hoc Productions tells the story of the Fox sisters and their startling experiences; visit to http://www.ad-hoc-productions.com for more information.

The award-winning producer of many independent historical documentaries, Michael Keene's Visions: True Stories of the Supernatural weaves exciting tales of the paranormal with historical fact.