Inside Lily Dale, the Town Founded by Psychic Mediums

In 1897, a group of Spiritualists founded a commune in Upstate New York. Still going strong over a hundred years later, Lily Dale, NY, is the psychic center of the United States. Every year, tens of thousands of people come to this tiny hamlet, located about an hour from Buffalo, New York, to talk to the spirits of the dead.

Visiting Lily Dale

The entire hamlet of Lily Dale has less than 500 year-round residents–and many of them are either psychic mediums or descended from Spiritualists.

sign at the gates of Lily Dale
Wikimedia Commons

Most people who visit the town seek out one of the 50 or so registered psychics for a session. However, there are also group sessions (many of them outdoors) as well as classes and other public events if you’d rather not go one-on-one with a psychic.

You can also enjoy the charming little town, which hasn’t changed much since it was founded at the turn of the last century. There are a handful of shops and restaurants, making Lily Dale a lovely, if offbeat, destination for a day trip.

Supernatural fans will recognize the town from the season 7 episode “The Mentalists,” where Sam and Dean investigate the murders of several mediums in Lily Dale. Bet you didn’t know it was a real place!

Preserving History

Although the Lily Dale mediums have moved on from the earliest tools of the trade, such as writing slates and speaking trumpets, they are dedicated to preserving the history.

picture of Lily Dale around 1910

Spiritualism isn’t just a gimmick–it’s a religion. And not only is the town’s history steeped in that religion. It’s also linked to the women’s suffrage movement in America. You’ll find artifacts and documents about both topics in the local history museum and library.

Is It Real?

The main question that visitors have about Lily Dale is whether the mediums are the real deal. While it’s impossible to say for certain, these are not the kind of flashy psychics you see on infomercials. The people who live in Lily Dale have a strong belief in the afterlife. They also believe in their own ability to carry messages from the other side.

During the Victorian Era, as more and more people became interested in Spiritualism, others became obsessed with debunking it. That was the case with the great magician Harry Houdini, who found Spiritualism and mediums personally offensive.

Around the same time as the founding of Lily Dale, the infamous Fox Sisters–who kicked off the craze for séances and “table rapping” in America–confessed that it had all been a hoax. In fact, the Lily Dale history museum even acknowledges that the most famous psychic mediums in America were fakes.

So why do people still pay up to $100 per half-hour session to talk with the dead? Maybe it’s for a sense of comfort and closure after a loved one passes. Or maybe thrill seekers and skeptics merely want to see for themselves what happens in Lily Dale. For whatever reason, this tiny New York town remains the spiritual hotspot of the United States.