The Spiritual Center of Lily Dale

Chloe Heydt, at the 2015 Lily Dale Victorian ice cream social

The town of Lily Dale, an hour south of Buffalo in southwest New York state, has a reputation for spiritualism. In fact it was founded for this exact purpose. Not to be confused with a haunted town, this centre for enlightenment and healing prides itself on helping people and providing answers to life’s big questions. Every year an extensive programme of events is held over the summer, attracting thousands of open-minded individuals and the spiritually curious.

This, their 138th year, boasts an impressive roster of registered mediums throughout the season as well as daily meditation and healing sessions, yoga and astrology courses, lectures on the science of spirituality and even ghost walks. The beginning of the summer schedule is marked by Tibetan Monks consecrating and creating a painstaking Mandala in grains of colored sand. Visitors to Lily Dale often return year after year and some even buy property there, to make the spiritual centre their home. Lisa Williams tells us more about this special place and what it has to offer.

Lily Dale was founded in 1879 so it could be a village of spiritualists and free thinkers where spiritual meetings were held every year. It has now become home for many mediums around the world and we have a summer camp open from the last weekend in June to Labour Day every year, although Lily Dale is open all year round for many church services, workshops and readings.

One of the many hidden fairy houses in Lily Dale’s Fairy village

How many visitors do you get a year and what do most visitors come for?
We get on average 25-30 thousand visitors a year, and they come for many reasons. We hold workshops on various spiritual topics and in the summer we have mediumship outdoor services daily which people are welcome to come and be part of the audience.

People can buy property in lily Dale, but not in the usual way. Why restrict real estate in this way?
We don’t restrict our real estate as such, but are continuing with the history of Lily Dale to be a Religious Spiritualist Community and therefore we do require someone to be within our religion and a member of the Lily Dale Assembly and so it’s a place where visitors can continue to come and learn.

How many people live there and how long do people generally stay a resident?
We have over 100 people who live here, all year round but in the summer that number grows in size as many of our residents live in warmer climates. We have many residents who have lived here all of their lives. We like to say that once you come to Lily Dale, you take a piece of it with you and you never truly leave, it will always be with you.

Articles on the internet refer to Lily Dale as a haunted town, but Lily Dale’s own website prefers ‘spiritual’. Why is it important to make the distinction?
It’s important to us that we promote our religion and we as the residents do not see it as ‘haunted’ as we feel that is derogatory and negative terminology. Although many people may have sightings of spirit, these sightings are not negative, and we truly feel that the pioneers of spiritualism are still walking among us.

Inspiration stump, an energy vortex where the original Lily Dale Assembly meetings were held, is still used as a site of services today

Why do you think Lily Dale is such a hub for spiritual activity?
Everyone who comes here has an ‘energy’ and part of that energy stays here, from thousands upon thousands of visitors. That energy has become a catalyst for the building blocks for our spirit and spirits that come through.

How did the Pet Cemetery begin and why is it important for Lily Dale to have a cemetery dedicated to animals?
It has become a tradition and we see it as the walk home for our animal kingdom.

Can people be buried in Lily Dale?
No because of NY state law.

Your summer season of programs not only includes talks by spiritualists, but also scientists and academics. Why include both sides of the coin?
We include both sides of the coin because it’s important that we can give a scientific point of view and cover all aspects of Spirituality. We have many people searching and when we have a scientific side it helps people process the spiritual side. We find it offers balance.

A statue in Melrose park, outside of one of Lily Dale’s guest houses

Among the numerous registered mediums, lectures and workshops taking place in the summer season, Lily Dale also offers ghost walks but you make it clear they are not ghost hunts. Have you had people come to ghost hunt?
We have people from all walks of life and of course there are some that come to hunt for ‘ghosts’ but that is why we consider our walks more spiritual than hunting for ghosts.

Is there a particularly special highlight for the 2017 season?
We have season highlights throughout the summer. The Tibetan Monks open the season and then we have various speakers from world renown mediums and psychic, authors, lectures. We are hosting the Science of all things Spiritual and a Ukulele Jamboree. These are definitely events not to be missed!

This is Lily Dales 138th season, what keeps people coming back to Lily Dale?
People are searching for answers, hope and healing and this is what brings people through our gates. Everyone wants to have something to believe in, and we can help them with that. As these gifts are becoming more and more common people are intrigued and need help developing and our summer program has a variety of workshops for everyone. Plus we are a lot of fun!