Lily Dale

The idea of Lily Dale has fascinated me for years. An island of mysticism in the rising sea of rationality. A lost world. Our own little Loch Ness anachronism. Ok, that’s not quite right. I’m mixing metaphors. And there are quacks and crazies and religious wackos everywhere. But they are more concentrated in Lily Dale, contained, nurtured, encouraged. It’s a 100 acre church – with a beach!

I’m being unfair. I was there for only half a day. My expectations were unreasonable. I had hoped to find a charming little village of quaint victorian cottages with lots of gingerbread and perhaps a pervasive and uplifting sense of spirituality. In reality, the place has seen much better days. Most of the homes are run down or architecturally compromised. Mangy cats roam the narrow streets. You’d think mediums would benefit from the wisdom of the 38 billion dead, but no – bad taste in outdoor decoration and a disappointing preference for shades of purple prevail.

I attended the “Service at the Stump,” which was held instead in the Auditorium, due to inclement weather. A half dozen mediums took turns conveying messages from the beyond to the audience of 150 or so. Each took one of two approaches: 1) “I am sensing a tall man in a trench coat, he has a beard, and a stutter, and a name beginning with the letter e, or perhaps ending with e, or containing the letter e. Does anyone know this man?” 2) They would single out someone in the audience, thoughtfully ask, “May I come to you?” and then launch into a spiel based on the person’s appearance, response cues, speaking very rapidly to block replies and quickly adjust as needed.

From what I can tell, the dead are incredibly boring. They love, they regret, they want to tell us “keep doing what you’re doing, it will all work out just fine.” Sometimes they don’t have any message at all, they just stand around in a trench coat or beard with something wrong in their head or chest and wait to be identified. One constant – they almost always share one letter of their name! So okay, they are a bit mischievous. Those rascals!

An unusual number of mediums volunteered their time for the “stump” service yesterday. I suspect it’s because business is bad; serving at the stump is their best advertising. Private readings are where the money is made. Dozens of the tiny homes I passed while walking around town provided names and numbers and the invitation to make an an appointment. The competition must be brutal. And yet, there they are, elbow to elbow. You’d think such psychic power, so concentrated, would generate a glow that could be seen from space. So far, no word from NASA. Just what can be seen from the street: rusting cars and peeling paint, mangy cats, a somewhat haggard woman on the back porch smoking, and a sign out front that says, “back in 10 minutes.”

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