Lily Dale, Susan B. Anthony, Ron Nike discussed on The Atlas Obscura Podcast


Now, if you come to lily Dale expecting the residents to all be new agey women with flowing scarves and crystals, you'd be wrong. In addition to being a spiritualist and the local historian who runs the town museum, Ron Nike is an air force vet and a former prison guard. He was also immediately suspicious of me. Like, how did you come to be? No personal course. No person. Well, are you from? I just talked to Joanne. I said, I'm not going to talk about no person. I'm not in the mood today. You're not from here, though? No. Oh, okay. When I visited Ronnie lily Dale's museum, it took him over an hour to warm up to me. But we ended up talking for almost half the day about the town and the people who have kept alive for the past 140 years. He showed me maps and black and white photos from lily Dale's early years. 6, 7, 8 or more streets there, all the laws were full, so in 1887, they bought from Norse street all the way to the Lake. When the town expanded, there were some growing pains. Take their forest temple, an outdoor space for services. Back in the late 1800s, it was set up in a pretty poor location. There was a fence the whole length of the property went all the way down and there was a pig horn on the other side. They would have four temple, and it was a pig farm next to pink born for next time. Those people were tough. Yeah. They kind of ruins the vibe, but I feel like it ruins the vibes. You can't hold your breath that long. Despite setbacks like this, the town continued to grow. It gained followers and fame. And the museum is filled with artifacts punctuating this history. Ron walked me past chalk, tablets used for writing messages from the dead, hotel guest books that recorded famous visitors, and even a collection of paintings allegedly created by spirits. But aside from seances and ghost paintings, spiritualism was radical for another reason. It gave women real power in the 1800s. Most mediums were women. They still are. And beyond their own communities, spiritualists fought for causes like women's rights and the abolition of slavery. Ron showed me a wall devoted to lily Dale's role in fighting for women's suffrage. We stopped at a photo of Susan B. Anthony, who came to lilydale to give a speech in the auditorium. Susan Anthony was not a spiritualist. She was here, she had a reading and she says, I didn't like that person when they were living. I don't want to hear from my now on their dead. Susan Anthony for you. It's easy to get the impression when you're visiting lilydale. That spiritualism is still thriving religion. But it's not. Like Sharon said, today, most people don't even know that it is an actual religion. And it's also become a bit of a punchline. I think that's why Ron was suspicious of me. Many outsiders come to lily Dale's skeptical, or judgmental. Thinking everyone here is either gullible or lying. But that's not what I saw. I saw people who seem to sincerely believe the principles of their faith. And many practice that faith in a way that actually seem tells me. While most Americans push death to the margins, lily Dale keeps their dead close by. So are these all shingles from? There are strangles from mediums that passed away. I put some of the more prominent mediums up there and some of the when a prominent medium passes away. The shingle that once hung in front of their house gets added to the wall at the museum. It's a patchwork of colors, fonts, names, and stories. The town is filled with memorials like this. So is there anything you'd recommend me checking out while I'm here? What's really cute is the fairy trail. Is that where they scatter ashes? Did I read that? Sometimes they put the ashes or and if you walk towards the stump on the left hand side is a pet cemetery. That's nice. I took Ron's advice and I visited the fairy trail. On a short path through the forest, there were several adorable figures of fairies and gnomes, along with small memorials and prayer cards. One showed a photo of a young man and a woman. It said, not a day goes by that you aren't missed. While I was in lilydale, I attended several services. Out of respect for everyone's privacy, I wasn't permitted to record, but I'll explain a bit here. Some of the medium's readings were vague. Some were incredibly specific and accurate. And some were totally off the mark. This happened at all the services I attended. But what also happened was this. One woman laughed about her mother who passed away decades ago. She remembered how her mom always overdid it with the maple air freshener. Another woman was comforted by a medium and fellow audience members, as she recalled a miscarriage. Whether or not the mediums were correct, wasn't important. It was the time spent talking about death. For processing the love and the grief for the people we've lost. As I listen to other visitors talk about their loved ones, it was clear that this safe space, a space without skepticism, without judgment. It had value to them. And now I get why lily Dell has survived for so long. But then again, maybe this isn't that surprising. After all, you.

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