Flashback to two months ago- A very good, long time friend of mine was at my house and we were drinking together. She’d brought two large bottles of alcohol, rum and vodka, my favorites, as a thank you for hooking her up with a good job. As we sat on my front porch talking, the conversation turned to magic, psychics, and the occult. Talk to me long enough, that’s bound to happen. Anyway, she told me about a place she’d visited a while ago, called Cassadaga. I’d briefly heard of it, that it was the self-proclaimed “Psychic Capital of the World.” So, she told me that when she’d gone, she’d felt such a strange vibe from that place, like spirits or energy lingering, and it had scared the hell out of her son, who was maybe fourteen or fifteen at the time. Of course, I was intrigued. We agreed to take a trip down there next time we each had a day off and left it at that.
Maybe a month later, I find out that Micky, the same friend, is going home to Czech after spending the past eighteen years here in the US. I was a little heartbroken, but I’d never admit that to her. I jokingly asked, “What about Cassadaga? You can’t leave until we go there!” And she agreed. We had to have one final outing together, one final good memory.
On May 20th, we took a little road trip to Cassadaga with her son, my boyfriend, and our other friend, Mischa. All of us are heavily into spiritualism and the occult, so we thought it’d be interesting. Cassadaga isn’t far from the town where we live. You hop on I-4 and get off about an hour and a half later. I don’t know. I didn’t drive.
Cassadaga didn’t look like much at first. Dirt roads, some tiny rickety houses, and a lot of overgrown woods. Micky drove to the edge of town and parked outside the church. The picture was taken as we were leaving, but I didn’t think to take one when we arrived, so that’s what I have.
After walking around the outside of the church, we headed toward the town center and main attraction, Hotel Cassadaga, seen in the pic at the top of this entry. There was a little stone shack on the way labeled “The Healing Hut”, but it was closed, and we got the distinct impression no one really wanted to deal with the dumb tourists, so we snapped a few pics of a sweet memorial, and continued.
It was at this point that I began to notice the houses, really notice them. I didn’t take photos of them because damn it, people live there and that would have been rude, but they were so unusual and absolutely gorgeous. Each one was entirely unique. They were all shaped differently, and all painted in garish colors. Some were bright blue, others forest green, and many had a red door. Micky told us the red doors were supposed to be where the psychics lived, but later admitted she wasn’t sure if that was true, because she couldn’t remember where she’d learned that. Most of the homes were wooden, and old, probably still standing from the 40s or 50s. There were dozens of cats running around in the wildflower covered yards, and very few people. In fact, Cassadaga’s website claims that there’s only about 57 residents in the entire camp. That’s right. Cassadaga isn’t even a town; it’s a “spiritualist camp.”
Because we’d arrived around 6pm, the bookstore/information center was already closed, which disappointed me, because I was looking forward to finding a book about the local history and practices, but I got something better at the hotel. I got to chat with locals and learn a little about the place.
After wandering around the hotel’s gift shop full of locally made jewelry and assorted stones, crystals, and incense, my boyfriend and I decided to sit outside the hotel to wait for the others to finish shopping. Did you notice that lovely black Harley in the foreground of the hotel pic? Well, when we sat down, the owner of that bike and his wife started chatting with us.
They told us it was their son-in-law’s birthday, so there was a party at the hotel that night. At first they thought we’d arrived for the party, but we quickly explained we were just visiting. The woman told us that they didn’t get many tourists, because no one knew Cassadaga exists. Even their official website looks like it was slapped together in twenty minutes by a guy who kind of knows what he’s doing with web design. (I know. Pot calling the kettle black and all that.) She explained that the people who lived there were the children and grandchildren of the original generation. At this point, I asked if they ever get outsiders moving in, and she said it was rare, but the residents are open to it if the newcomers have an open mind to their way of life. She explained that she was a nurse in the next town over, but a lot of the residents make a living telling fortunes, reading tarot cards and the like. She said that Cassadaga is unlike anywhere else. It’s peaceful, it’s quiet, and it’s friendly. I had to agree. While she talked about the town, her husband and my boyfriend traded biker and jail stories.
When our friends returned, we walked down to Lake Helen, where there’s a lovely park with a playground and a long walking path.
While walking down this road, I did feel something odd. It felt as though we were being followed, and the road itself is something I’ve seen in a dream before. I can’t claim there’s any significance to it, but it was comforting to know I’d seen it before. In fact, the whole camp was comforting and inviting. It sparked my imagination, and I found myself looking longingly at those weird little Seuss-like houses with their “Psychic Readings $30” signs. I thought that maybe one day when I either retire or make enough money working from home, I’d like to try to move out there. It felt like home.
As far as the spiritualism goes, I am skeptical. Most of it felt like a bit of a gimmick, and I think that I’d eventually clash with their beliefs, but I love the place. There’s raw energy there, and whether its due to the somber nature of the place or the sheer amount of history and belief there, I can’t say. All I know is I felt happy there. I felt welcomed.
One of the coolest things I saw there was on the walking path through the woods by the lake. The founder of the camp’s home had once stood there, and when it burned to the ground, it was left as a memorial. You can see the stairs leading in from the path, and if you walk past the stairs, you can find bits of roof and foundation still there.
Cassadaga isn’t a place for everyone. There’s not much to do besides chat with locals and walk around, but if you’re into spiritualism or the occult at all, I would definitely recommend going to see it at least once. I plan on making another trip there eventually, and staying a weekend in the hotel, which is supposedly haunted by friendly spirits, according to them. All I ask if you do go, is be respectful. This is where these people grew up, and where they live. And besides, they have beautiful sunsets.