Performing Arts

Lily Dale Mediums on Spiritualism

by / Sep. 14, 2016 12am EST

For an art project on Lily Dale, a small town in Chautauqua County founded in 1879 as a home to the American Spiritualist movement, the virtual reality collective known as Flatsitter conducted interviews with nine mediums from Lily Dale. The interviews, which were used for the Lily Dale project, were transcribed by Flatsitter’s Kyle Marler and are published here with permission. 

 Stephanie Turachak 

In most traditional religion, well in every day life, we consider death the death of the physical body. And that of course does occur, but we believe that when the physical body dies, the soul goes to the afterlife and that soul continues on the other side. 

I’ve been a spiritualist since I was 7 years old. My mom dragged us around all kinds of churches until she found spiritualism. To me, spiritualism is just a belief that we can be in communication with our loved ones after they have passed over to the other side and no longer have a body. So we believe that the soul continues on after the change called death. And, truthfully believe that there is no death because our soul just continues on. And we believe that as mediums we can bring through the people’s loved ones to them. As well as—when we do spiritual healing—we believe that we bring in spirit forces that help us do healing on people as well.

I’ll sometimes have precognitive dreams, I’ll dream of things happening in great detail. And then, when they do happen, it’s sort of a deja vu feeling because I’ve already experienced it in the dream time. And when I was younger I had dreams of flying in the air, and flying from my home to where my grandparents lived.

I’ve had dreams about things that were going to going to happen in advance of their happening and didn’t necessarily know at the time what it meant. When I was 19, I had a fiancé, and I had a dream that he took me to this place and all these people were dressed in black and all the walls were white, and that he left me there. And I didn’t know any of the people and I didn’t understand why he would take me there and leave me there. Within a few weeks time he had passed away in a trucking accident, and that experience happened because I went to the funeral home and all the walls were white and I didn’t know any of the people because I didn’t know his family.

We feel that we never die because is not dead because our soul continues—our soul is eternal.

I say my prayer out loud when I read for people because I feel like it kind of calms people. They kind of realize that nothing scary is going to happen when you read the prayer. My prayer: “Infinite spirit, we give thanks and love for the feeling of guidance for which we are about to receive.” That’s my own personal prayer. It was given to me in spirit, it wasn’t taught to me in classes or anything of that nature.

A lot of spiritualists come to spiritualism from different religions. They’re not necessarily raised as spiritualists. I was raised as a spiritualist because my mom is a spiritualist and she a medium healer, teacher, reverend for 45 years and she just passed to spirit a few years ago. She was a registered medium. Some of us have that background and history, and others don’t. But I think that definitely the common belief is that our souls are eternal. That’s the main thing about spiritualism. That’s our main belief. That’s the difference between us and traditional Christianity. Most Spiritualists believe that Jesus rose from the dead—so to speak—after the three day time period because they were acting as mediums and they were seeing his soul or spiritual self. So, we believe that Christ rose, not to prove that he saved us from our sins—because we believe in personal responsibility for our own sins—we believe to prove that Christ rose to prove life everlasting—and that our soul is eternal and doesn’t die when our physical body falls away.

I feel her [Stephanie’s deceased mother] presence around me a lot. When we say that we’re hearing spirit—because my primary gift is clairaudience, which means hearing spirit. When we say we hear spirit, most mediums don’t hear spirit as a voice external to themselves. Most people experience clairaudience, it’s a telepathic communication. Spirit communicates telepathically by transmitting thought. So, the medium learns to interpret their own original thoughts which originate within them, and the thoughts that are beamed in from the spirit forces. I sense her presence on the one hand, and the thoughts pop in, so I know to make that connection or link with her. And I know that it’s her and not some other spirit stepping in.

Illustrations by Bobby Griffiths, from a tarot deck created for the Lily Dale project. 

 Connie Griffith 

Well it is a religion. It’s a practice of a religion.

I don’t know how I would define it for you. But, for me, the sense of being able to seek and find answers on my own, understand what living in god / with god is like. Being able to use the intuitive as part of the practice of the religion. And, each time we do, we learn more about it. So, it’s not a religion that has a certain code or requirements in terms of knowledge. You learn as you go. There is a lot of history to it, and in studying some of the early spiritualist pioneers we learn about how they understood meaningfulness in their lives and that gives us guideposts for us to learn ourselves.

I would have to say that the process starts with meditation. That is a key element to me in learning about myself, in being able to keep my intuitive components active. That would be the way of expressing it. It’s meditation, linking with the divine, linking with myself. Allowing myself to know that there is something greater than myself. So, being present to that on an everyday basis—that’s the first part of the process.

Then, of course, there’s the trappings around. I have a room in which I practice mediumship here in Lily Dale that has all of the component elements. So, in terms of the process, I have a room, and I have it arranged in ways that help facilitate access to the information that a client may ask, or help me better understand what the spirit might be bringing to me.

So, I have one section that has object that represent different spiritual paths. I have another section that has photographs, artwork, objects for the natural elements, the natural outside environment. I have a protector spirit—a statue that represents that, and women who are very important in my life. My family is mostly women. So, I have that in my room.

I have reference books for when I’m preparing lectures, or just learning something. All of these things—in terms of process—create the environment for me in which I feel comfortable and open to the intuitive and open to the spirit, and receiving information for my clients. In doing the reading, I open with a prayer: “Dear God, as I open my heart to your ever-present love, I feel the power of the holy spirit. That great healing force of the universe. And, I give thanks for spirit guidance, and spirit communication of the highest. Bringing words of love, truth, wisdom and understanding. Amen.”

There’s part of us that think that experiences of the past are held in the DNA of family and passed along in the human race. There are some that say there’s a spiritual incarnation of that as a memory from some other time.

I don’t have a really solid, scientific explanation for you. There are things that are held in our body as wounds or pleasures, that our body cells store as much as our brain. And so we would know in some way from the cells. The cellular memory knows the health. The cellular body knows things from our past. I really feel there are things that we know in the cells of our body that are not part of our brain function or thinking function. So, we know it. Or we have a knowing of it in some way. I call that cellular memory.

In my experience, when I work as a medium and I make a connection to those ‘in spirit’—meaning not in the physical body. I actually can receive information from them that sometimes my client doesn’t even remember at the time. Or sometimes they do remember. That’s what mediumship is—making that connection. Which is proof of the sense that we don’t die.

The universe doesn’t waste anything. Who we are as an essence might be entirely different if what we are being able to receive as mediums. We’re able to receive something from Uncle Joe or Aunt Mary and prove to you that they have a life beyond the physical body.

But, I also believe that there’s much more to that life beyond the physical body and that our goal is to be in theos—or in God. And to know that. So, there’s many levels that we can attain. And we are only our physical body in this experience right now.

 Carol Gasber 

Spiritualism is a way of life.

I live it and try to teach my students that. For it helps you so much all throughout life, every aspect. I tell them, life can be very easy if do two things: to live according to natural law and know that you have spirit guides and teachers. Whether you want them or not—they’re there and they’re trying to help us, guide us, protect us and support us.

Spiritualism, probably the thing that makes it different from some other religions—is that we believe in personal responsibility. We’re responsible for everything that we do, everything that happens to us. We do create our own happiness or unhappiness. By whether we obey or disobey natural law. So, like I said, it’s a way of life. I live it. You live it. Spiritualism.

The basic defintion of spiritualism — science, philosophy, and religion of continuous life according to what we learn through the phenomenon of spiritualism which is mediumship—communication with spirit.

I travel out of my body with control. It’s something I’ve done all my life. I remember doing it as a small child. I was very easy to put to bed because then I knew I’d be alone and uninterrupted and I would relax my body. My spirit teacher told me about progressive relaxation. I would relax my body and get into an altered state. In other words, it’s like heading towards sleep. But I maintain my awareness. I got to the point where, one more move, I’d fall asleep. And, I’d pop right out of my body and take off. There were be my spirit guide there to go with me.

I went to the moon one time. I was about four years old. In the morning, I came down to my father, and said “I went to the moon last night.” And he said, well is it made of green cheese like they say. I said no, it’s just rocks and dust. It’s dirty.

It’s something every single one of us do. In fact, it’s the whole purpose of sleep. To get the human brain, which by the way is nothing by a computer and operates according to what we’ve programmed into it. This brain is gonna say: “you can’t fly. I know you can’t fly.” And it would make you stay in the body. So, you wanna get that out of the way so that you can travel. We do itevery time we fall asleep. We go out of our body. We do this to recharge our energy body. Like a battery recharging. We all have the physical body, which is of course atoms. We have an energy body, which basically science recognizes that we produce electric energy. It’s measurable. But we just have this energy body which houses the soul.

The soul is the true brain. It’s the “I am” presence. It’s the real us. Our real mind. It’s the true mind. The energy body houses the soul. But that energy body has to recharge. And that’s how it does it. We maintain the connection to the physical body. It’s all very natural. We do it automatically, we have and always will. Until the physical ceases to function. It’s a very natural thing. It maintains a connection. In fact, a lot of people call it a silver cord. Just like an electric cord going from the energy body going to the physical body to keep the machine running while your’e away.

When we’re out of the body, we have experiences. Spirit can slow down their vibration and visit with us in that state because we’re energy. It keeps the molecular body going. We can travel places, have wonderful experiences and adventures, or visit friends, family members who are sleeping and join up with their electrical body. And visit with them.

We take the memory and it’s filed in the brain. And, the brain files it under the category of dreams. That way it’s acceptable no matter how crazy it is. A dream is acceptable. 

I feel that 80% of the memories we have with dreams are actually memories of what we do while out of the body. I teach class on learning control of out-of-body experiences. There’s tremendous interest. People want to know. Because sometimes they have a memory of being out of their body.

Basically, the philosophy that we have comes from spirit. But there is no such thing as death. Life is eternal and goes on. And the whole purpose of all of this is we need to refine our soul. Like you refine gold. And we refine our soul by learning to understand our true nature and our relationship to creation—how we were created. And that there is an intellect behind everything.

Scientists finally are saying: “there has to be an intelligent force behind creation, it’s impossible to have so many coincidences.” So, we refine our soul, aiming for perfection so that once again we can be reunited with the creator and be part of god.

God created our souls as a little piece of his/her soul. It is within us. That’s our soul. That’s why we have this need and desire to go home. We don’t know what we mean by home, but we know we need to go home. The whole point then is to learn everything you can so that when you do pass into spirit, you have a little bit of a head start. It’s outrageous of us to think that when we “die” as people say we’re perfect enough to be one with the father again. That’s outrageous. We still have a lot to learn to be cleansed and once again be with the father.

Stop fighting it. Go to spirit. Go to god. Let go and let God.

My life is a prayer. All my thoughts are prayers. I usually just thank god for the guidance I receive. Ask that I continue to receive the guidance. And thank the creator for the beauty and perfection of creation. May the highest and best always come through.

 Lynne Forget 

Our soul is our capacity to think and to feel. That part goes to the spirit world. (Our spirit is our life energy.)

I was totally wide awake when this happened. I had just bought my house here. It was in 1990. The first time I’d ever been away by myself for a week. I was up really early that morning, and I was writing different things. Thinking about being here by myself. Then I went upstairs to run the bath and I was singing to myself the hymn “How Great Thou Art.” And in a really good mood, and the bathtubs running, and then all of a sudden—I lookup up and I could see my mother and my father and uncle and aunt and they were singing with me. Behind them were thousands of people singing. That is something I will never forget. It was amazing. It was amazing.

 Neal Rzepkowski 

Spiritualism is an approach that leads a person to realize that there is more to this physical life—and life in general—that meets the eye. It brings through sprit identification of folks who have passed on into the afterlife. Which implies that there is a heavenworld, or more than just living on this earth and dying and becoming dust.

I went to Catholic school and they taught there was a god and angels. And I thought that you could pray to the saints and the saints would talk to God. And you wonder if they’re giving you a line in Catholic school to make you a good boy. So in high school, we came here to Lily Dale—we lived right down the road. I got my first reading when I was 16 here in Lily Dale and he brought through my Uncle Frank. By name and by description So I realized that he had a consciousness that was communicating from somewhere. That was amazing. I was impressed with that. That told me there was some truth to what I was being taught in Catholic school, and what was an eye-opener was that: Here was a non-Catholic male medium who brings through my Uncle, who was also not a saint. And, I thought “wow, this is something thats available to everybody.” If he’s a human being and can do this, then I can either learn the trick and be able to do it as well.

So I went to spirit development classes, and I realized after a year and a half (it took me that long) to realize it’s no trick. You can actually feel, reach, touch-in, communicate with a dimension that’s not in the physical realm. But nevertheless intelligent and real.

Communication is always there. They don’t leave you. It’s interpenetrated into the physical world. In this room right now, there are radio waves and if you have an instrument to tune properly, you can pick up opera channel, a sports channel, a rock & roll channel, by tuning in. It’s always there. It’s just when you use a tuner that you can pick up what’s there.

So, in mediumship, you consciously focus on the spirit world. Bringing them closer to your awareness and realizing that you can reach to many levels that way.

When I was a child, I saw myself in the middle of a cement floor. Dark, with one light bulb shining above me. I was in an area of light. I felt I was being watched. Not necessarily that they were going to do anything bad. Just that I was being watched in the darkness and I was under this one light. Not knowing quite what to do. I still remember the dream because it happened so often. I knew that there were intelligences that were observing my presence, and yet I was under a light and I knew that being under the light, I would be OK. So, maybe that was symbolic of divine presence protecting me in light. However, I felt that the intelligences that were watching were learning as well. So, I think about it once in a while and try to get maybe a different slant on it once and a while.

In my experience, our consciousness is eternal. We’re focused here in the physical world in a physical body. The physical body—in fact—does die. But, the essence of who we are does not die. It’s something that unfolds and continues to learn through whichever mechanism it finds in it’s particular focus. I don’t feel that there is a time line. It’s hard to understand, we who are in this linear time focus of the earth. There is really an eternity which—if there is—differs from linear time. In a way we’re in all places doing all things all at once.

So, our focus happens to be right here on this earth plane at this present time when we “leave our physical body, our vehicle of expression and focus in this plane of existence in this time.” We may then have our consciousness—which is eternal and lives on and does not die—focus on another area of expression and another dimension, or in another physical dimension, or on another planet.

 Gretchen Clark 

For me, the way I experience spirit is: a lot of different ways. Sometimes I see them as solidly as I see you. Sometimes they’re more ethereal. Sometimes I see them in my mind. And sometimes I just know they’re there.

I hear them usually with my physical ear. But, sometimes I just get the essence of what they’re saying in my head. It’s different, and I think some of it depends on the ability of the spirit. When they pass, they’re not able to communicate as clearly right after they pass. But when they’ve been gone longer, then they have more ability, more energy, more ability to come through more clearly.

Sometimes, I’ll just get an aroma, not see or hear the person. So, I’ll tell the person: “I’m smelling popcorn.” And maybe their grandfather owned a movie theater and maybe they were there a lot. Or burned popcorn smell, maybe their mom always burned the popcorn and they would never let her make it. I never know how someone in spirit is going to come through. But they come through in a way that always is more important for the person that I’m giving the message to.

“Infinite Spirit God. I ask the loved ones of those I am working drawing close round and about them. That the information received may be of the highest and best, that they give information that will help them make better choices and decisions in their lives, and be aware and warned of anything that they need to avoid. I ask this in all sincerity and honesty god spirit. Thank you. Amen.”

I mean I’ve always been able to see and talk to spirit. The first one that I remember was with a grandmother that had died before I was born. And she came in to talk to me when I was 3 or 4. It woke me up and I called my mom and she came in and asked me to describe the woman who was there and she said: “Oh, that’s your great grandma.” That’s the first one. The other one that really stands out is that when I was 10 my dad died. He died in the night and his body was gone when I got up in the morning. Then, my mother sent me off, of course, to stay with an aunt to get me out of the house and out of the way for a while. I was very upset that I hadn’t got a chance to say goodbye to my Dad. And so he came into a dream one night and told me why he hadn’t been able to say goodbye. And I woke up all the way and he was there talking to me and we had a lovely conversation, and then he went on.

After my husband was killed in an accident. This was 1978. Sometimes it’s easier for them to come in when your mind is quiet. When it’s like a glass lake. When your mind is very chaotic, it’s hard for them to get through. When you’re sleeping is usually the best time, but I talk to spirit all the time. When I’m wide awake. And, I’ve told them that I need my sleep and not to bother me in my dreams unless it’s an emergency. And they respect that.

Communication with the so-called dead is a fact scientifically proven by the phenomenon of spiritualism. There’s always someone there when you pass. No one ever dies alone. They can have no physical people around, but people in spirit are always there with them. To help them make that transition into spirit. To leave the body behind. And a lot of times when we’re with someone who is very ill and passing, one of the things that we as spiritualists do—or just as people—let them know it’s ok to let go. They’re allowed to go and be with the people they love.

They don’t have to stay there in the body for us. So, a lot of times, in talking to friends and clients—people wait for permission, whether it’s ok for the people that are there in physical bodies, whether it’s all right for them to go. 

When my mother passed, the doctors called us. I was 24. They told us that she had maybe 24 hours. So, we wall showed up at the hospital. I guess it was nearly a week later. I was talking to her one day, she was in intensive care, I said: “Mom, you know it’s OK. Think of a big blanket, and you’re going to jump out and land in it.”

 Jackie Avis 

Well, the first probably was the most powerful.

Seven years old, and I used to swing a lot. And dare myself to jump off of the swing. So, one particular day—it was a beautiful day with wonderful sky. Our house was right across the street from a Catholic church. So, I was focusing on the steeple of the church. And focusing on the clouds. And imagining what angels would be. And got as high as I possibly could on the swing.

Parallel with the top bar. I wanted to fly. That’s all I wanted to do was fly. I jumped, and floated upward. And was kind of surprised that finally I was flying. And, I was heading directly for the steeple of the church. Which I would’ve needed to go over my house to get to. So, I continued to go higher and further, and I got to tell you that feeling was just unbelievable.

All of a sudden, I heard my mother scream my name. And I hadn’t quite gotten over the house yet. So, I looked toward the back door and saw her come flying out the screen door. But, she didn’t look up. So, I followed her line of sight, and then saw that she was running for my body, which was down on the ground.

And, I knew that this was going to be a decision I had to make. Was I going to keep going, or was I going to go back. And, I saw how distressed she was, so I made the decision to go back. And, seven years later, she died. So, from a child’s point of view, recognizing that I had been given the choice and I chose to stay with her… It was a huge impact to me that in my child’s mind that she chose to leave me…

So, it took a lot of years for me to come to terms with how these choices may be made by our spirit self, because I was reeeally mad at her for a long time.

Energy never dies.

 James Barnum 

My mother always taught her children, and her students in class that: “we were born to die.”

But yet when we die here, we’re reborn on the other side. On the spiritual side of life.

It was when I was a young boy when I lived on the farm. And it was just before I went to sleep. And it was like—how can I say? Trees or the forest was opening. And it was like the trees were just moving out of the way as I was just walking forward. As I walked through there, I met a lot of people. And didn’t realize it at the time, but it was people that passed before me in my family.

Because I’ve only seen my mother’s mother once in my lifetime, when I was about six years old. Probably about a year or two before I had the dream. And my father’s mother I met twice in my life.

And, grandfathers I never met. But I met them in the dream. And so, it reoccurs maybe every couple of months. I just feel that’s more reassurance to me that they’re still around me.

I always call it my dream of the forest and all that’s in there.

I’ve always taught my students (I’ve taught class for over 20 years.) And I’ve taught my children and I’m teaching my grandchildren that this physical body is physical. But God always said he created us in his own image, which was spirit. And he put us into these bodies to experience the many things that we can as being in the physical. That’s the emotions, the feelings, learning, and helping one another. But, when we pass this physical of clay of clay of water—chemicals.

When it has died or dysfunctions, the spirit that god put within us as we know it continues on with life.

We were born to die.

But yet do we die when we go to the other side? No. We continue on in the spiritual part of us that god created. And there are so many experiences that mediums can relate to other people of bringing their spirit loved ones to them. With the identifiers, the physical way they looked when they were here on the Earth plane. And, there was always communication. So, to say that we die. Well, we were born to die. But then we’re reborn on the other side.

 Victor Abbott 

Back in the 70’s when I was searching—I grew up as a Catholic but it didn’t feel right to me as ar as heaven and hell and this kind of stuff. And so I went to a variety of different religions and I couldn’t get a satisfactory response. So, then I said this whole thing is hogwash.

Then, I had a dream whereby the Nazarene (Jesus) showed up—and I still remember it as if it were yesterday—and said “why are you getting away from your spiritual nature?”

He was in front of me and then I was sort of trying to walk away and then I said “no, I’m not walking away” so I turned around and I walked towards him—and then I woke up.

I remember that dream as if it were yesterday.

We’re energy. Everything. It’s energy.

When people come in… Let’s say a mother comes in who had lost her son in a suicide or car accident or something like that. And when you connect the mother to the son—or the son to the mother—and give some characteristics of the son, that’s very healing. Or husband and wife, that’s also very healing. Or a daughter whose father comes in and asks for forgiveness. That’s very healing for the person. So, I feel that mediumship, it’s main purpose: continuation of life.

But, also, hoping that the people that walk out of that room room feel lighter than when they first came into the room. And feel that, my son, daughter, father, mother, they just live in a different country kind of thing.

And, a lot of them, I tell them you don’t really need a medium to talk to their relatives. You can just think of them and they’re right there.