Jessie: At the seaside in Old Orchard, just back from a week away
One of the very best parts of my job as a writer is the research involved. Now that I am working on my new historical mystery series there is more research than ever. And since the series is both historical and paranormal the research can be a little unusual. A trip I took with a dear friend last week is a case in point.
Lily Dale, NY is the self-proclaimed “world’s largest center for the science, philosophy and religion of Spiritualism”. Located about an hour southwest of Buffalo, Lily Dale is like nowhere else I have ever been. The village is filled to bursting with mediums, Reiki practitioners, spirit painters and herbalists. When I booked a room at the Maplewood, a supposedly haunted, Victorian era hotel, I was hoping to have a taste of some of the same sorts of experiences the characters in my novel Whispers Beyond the Veil enjoy at the fictional Hotel Belden. Luckily for me, the Maplewood did not disappoint.
The Belden is imagined as a hotel that caters to paranormal practitioners and metaphysical enthusiasts of every ilk. I was delighted to see this sign hanging in the lobby:
I couldn’t help but feel my protagonist Ruby Proulx would feel quite at home in such a place. Her Spiritualist aunt Honoria certainly would! Although she would have no qualms about spontaneous séances and development circles cropping up in the hotel wherever the guests might wish. There were no telephones, televisions or alarm clocks in the rooms. Mine didn’t even have a bathroom. I couldn’t have asked for a more authentically immersive experience.
The town had plenty of activities for visitors to partake in, much like the hotel in my books. There were meditation sessions, healing services and development circles. There were special speakers, ghost walks, a library and a historical museum. There were even gift shops filled with divination cards, dowsing pendulums and healing crystals. For the contemplative visitor there was a labyrinth.
But the most popular were the platform-reading services held twice daily at a place called Inspiration Stump. People hoping to hear messages from loved ones gathered on benches in a cool and shady grove and awaited the notice of the mediums conducting the readings. I had the enjoyment of being chosen for a reading just after we arrived.
The medium who read for me told me a pair of elderly sisters on the other side wanted to say hello. She was quite certain one of the ladies was one of my grandmothers. From the medium’s description of the women I found myself thinking of Elva and Dovie Velmont. These two are amongst my favorite characters in the book and were in fact based on my great-grandmother Elva and her sister Minerva. Such fun!
Everywhere in Lily Dale there are tiny houses covered in ornate gingerbread trim and fronted by inviting porches. House after house along each of the quiet streets displayed signs announcing the name of a practicing medium who lived and worked therein. Contact information was provided and waiting areas dotted the front yards. All up and down the streets you would see people sitting in outdoor waiting rooms until called in by the medium for their appointments.
Whether the spirits in Lily Dale are more real than in other places I am not certain I could
say. But I do know it was a perfect place to read, to write and to soak up the feeling of times gone by. In my book and my books that made it magical enough for me.
Readers, have you ever gone on an unusual vacation? Have you ever visited a medium? I am giving away three advanced reading copies of my new book, Whispers Beyond the Veil to commenters today!