Friday, September 9, 2011

Outing: Otherworldly Florida at Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp

In 1860, a baptism unshackled young George Colby's psychic abilities.  It wasn't long before he began to receive messages that he was to travel south and found a camp for others with gifts like his.  During a seance, he met his Native American spirit guide, Seneca.  With his help, Colby traveled into Florida as far as the railroad would take him.  From there, he trekked through the wilderness on foot until he found the spot he had seen in his visions: a ring of seven small hills.  Mediums from up north flocked down to establish winter residences, attend seances, and train in the spiritual arts.  And so, in 1894, the Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp Meeting Association was born.

Fun  Cassadaga is a tiny place.  Its 300 residents live off a windy road between Deltona and Deland.  If you drive too fast, you'll pass right through it.  But for those into spiritualism - or even just a little curious about it - there's enough to do here to merit a half-day trip.

Your first stop should be the Cassadaga Welcome Center (Cassadaga Rd & Stevens St), which also houses the bookstore and gift shop.  There, you can find resources for spiritual activities, as well as tours, healers, and mediums.  Be sure to check the calendar for special events and classes.

The general tours ($15), while wonderfully weird and informative, don't necessarily reveal any information you couldn't find out on your own.  I recommend it for people who really want to know more about spirit orbs, ectoplasm, seances, and other things in the realm of metaphysics.  The casual visitor would be fine getting the annual program ($1) or one of the books that has been published on Cassadaga.

One of the many mediums in Cassadaga.
A large board shows which of the 40 healers and mediums is "in."  Someone from the store will show you the proper technique for choosing who is right for you.  Then you use a the telephone next to the board to make an appointment.  Readings cost around $40, but visiting with a psychic in Cassadaga comes highly recommended.  One acquaintance reports that a consultation predicted her eventual move to New York, among other events, years before she was considering the possibility.

Spirit Pond, Cassadaga
It's also nice to just walk around this "metaphysical mecca."  Skinny streets flanked by old wooden houses and meditation gardens lend great subjects to photo enthusiasts.  The complete silence - unusual for Florida, where frogs and cars provide a constant acoustic backdrop - can be either eery or relaxing, depending on your disposition.  In any case, you learn to understand why this site was chosen for the camp.

The Devil's Chair, Lake Helen-Cassadaga Cemetery
The residents of Cassadaga have very open minds towards spiritualism and see otherworldly communication as a natural, day-to-day activity.  That's not to say there aren't things better left untouched.  One of them is the Devil's Chair in the Lake Helen Cemetery, just up the road from Cassadaga.  The fact that no one mentioned it makes it even more unnerving.  Sit in it at your own risk.

Food  While there are places to eat around Cassadaga, I like to take the opportunity while I'm up there to go to Hollerbach's Willow Tree Cafe in Sanford (205 E 1st St).  Lunch prices are great for hefty portions of traditional German food (around $10).  Dinner gets more expensive, but take advantage of made-to-share butcher platters, such as the King's Feast for four to six people ($52.49).  There is also live music most nights.

Dessert  Be sure to try one of Hollerbach's German tortes - like the classic Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte - or an Apfelstrudel.  Alternatively, try one of over 50 wines and beers.

Total Cost for a spiritualistic journey, lunch, and dessert: $15+ per person.


  1. Cassadega is definitely an interesting experience, and interesting community. I did the orb tour earlier this year - it was fun.

  2. Awesome - did you get any spooky orb pictures?