The New York Times has discovered Lilydale. The article is in the Style section, although the mediums and healers of Lilydale are rooted in the Spiritualist religion and might rather have seen coverage of their odd little community placed alongside other systems of belief.
LIlydale was about a two hour drive from Rochester, NY, my longtime home town. Lilydale is about a half hour from the more upscale and intellectual Chautauqua — they attract very different populations. I’ve been to Lilydale several times, always with friends who were stronger believers than I and who hoped to make contact with their dead. No one ever did as far as I know, but on one visit as we were walking to our car to leave, a friend and I were besieged by a persistent crow. The friend surmised it might be her grandmother.
Lilydale has both mediums, who put you in touch with the dead, and healers who work out of a little chapel with linoleum floors and metal folding chairs. If you want to be healed you go sit in the front on a piano bench, and one of the healers will come to you. They wear short white barber coats. They don’t touch you — just run their hands through the energy fields around you. If I go to a place I’m all in to try everything, so I presented myself for a healing. I had my eyes closed, but could sense the motion of hands around me. Finally, the healer reached over and whispered in my ear, “You have a knot in your heart and you need to laugh more.” I was in a particularly stressful stage of life, and thought the healer was spot on. I did need to laugh more.
They have a sacred spot, Leolyn Woods, where the mediums give short previews of what they can do. In the middle of the woods is the sacred stump — and old tree stump encased in concrete so it doesn’t rot. That’s where the mediums stand. You have to pay to have a personal reading, and it’s hard to get an appointment same day, so I’ve never done that.
Some of the mediums are called “physical mediums” and they can bend spoons. They give workshops to teach participants how to bend spoons too.
As you can tell, I’m among the more skeptical visitors to Lilydale — although I’m a repeat visitor. I do think it’s one of the weirdest small communities I’ve ever experienced. They have a nice lunch place though, and it’s cheap to get in — you pay by the car. If you’ve been to upstate New York and only found Chautauqua you’ve missed out on a strange and uncommon day.