They arrive daily – sometimes by the busload. They are the bereaved seeking comfort, paranormal enthusiasts, and the curious. They are tourists, and they come to consult one of the more than 100 mediums, psychics, and healers. Where they come to is Cassadaga, Florida – home of the Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp – the oldest active religious community in the southeastern United States.
Cassadaga, known as the “Psychic Capital of the World,” is one of those quaint little Central Florida towns you’d probably just drive through on the way to somewhere else with hardly a glance. But, choose to stop, and you’ll be set sent back to a time in American history when spiritualism and mediumship were considered as American as apple pie.
The town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and thus provides this step back in history. It’s filled with residents that don't look any different from you or me but claim to have the gift. Majority of residents of Cassadaga are trained mediums, spiritualists, and healers who share their gift with seekers and visitors alike. But the truth is, there really is nothing that spooky about Cassadaga.
Cassadaga was founded in 1894 by spiritualists George P. Colby. He was a native New Yorker who would travel the country sharing his gift, delivering readings and mesmerizing people with his seances. At one point in his travels, Colby met a Native American sprit guide named Seneca who instructed him to travel to Florida and establish a spiritual center. Colby ended up in the Central Florida wilderness and founded the camp.
Originally, Colby only acquired 35 acres for the camp, but over the years it has grown to over 57 acres of land. In the early days, Cassadaga attracted the affluent and well educated looking for answers and reassurance for the future. The novelty has since worn off and over the years, the town has become a mostly miscellaneous mish-mash of New-Age tarot card readers, numerologist, and psychic healers, living alongside spiritual traditionalists who view their practice more as a religion than anything else. But, regardless of the divide among the residents of this tiny town, the vibe is definitely unique and well worth a visit. If for nothing else other than to say you’ve been there.
How to get there:
The Camp is located just off I-4 between Orlando and Daytona Beach. It’s approximately 30 to 45 minutes from the major attractions, and very unassuming from the highway, so keep a look out as you get close.
According to folklore, the town lies on an energy vortex where the material and spiritual worlds meet. It’s part of the reason this area is visited by thousands each year.
What to do:
The main reason for coming to Cassadaga is to achieve some level of enlightenment — whatever that means for you. There are many ways to do this and they won’t cost you that much either. One-on-one appointments with psychics or healers may run you up a rather hefty bill, but the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp Church, the group that holds to keeping the history of the town alive, runs classes, workshops, and seminars daily that are open to all.
Special events like Spirit Encounters Night Photography Tours, Healing Classes, Reiki Healing Circles, Sunday Church Services and more are held at various times of the week as well. You can also take a historic tour of Cassadaga held at 2:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday each week.
Readings by the Camp's certified mediums are intended to give you insight into your life or perhaps let you commune with the dearly departed. Just remember, there are no guarantees when it comes to the supernatural, but sometimes reassurance is all we need.
Where to stay:
Unsurprisingly, Cassadaga is home to only one hotel, the Cassadaga Hotel, and according to the hotel’s website, it’s haunted. Whether this is true or not is up for debate, but if it makes you feel any better, the spirits are supposedly “friendly.”
Visitors to the Cassadaga Hotel are immediately transported back in time. The 1920's era décor is deliberate and pronounced throughout. A wraparound porch with wicker chairs greets guests, while chintzy sofas and mahogany accents adorn the lobby. The amenities are basic so don’t expect anything extravagant. But, this isn’t the type of place you go to for poolside relaxation, anyway. In fact, the Cassadaga Hotel doesn’t even have a pool. Rather, guests of the Cassadaga can make appointments with any of the in-house healers or psychics at the hotel’s Psychic Center which is located on premise. Appointments start at $70 for half an hour. Healing and wellness services are also available for guests and visitors.
Rooms at the Cassadaga Hotel start at about $65 a night but rates vary depending on the day and time of the year. The hotel also has a very strict age policy. Whether you’re heading to Cassadaga in search of real answers or just to gawk at spectacle, they take their practice very seriously and won’t rent rooms to guests under the age of 21. And, although they won’t stop you from bringing your children with you, they don’t recommend it. There are no kid-friendly areas at the Cassadaga, and that is that.
Staying in nearby Lake Helen is also an option if the spiritualists are overwhelming. There are two nearby bed & breakfasts — The Ann Stevens House, just blocks from the center of Cassadaga, and Cabin On The Lake, two miles from the town.
Where to eat:
Dining is limited in Cassadaga as well. Sinatra's Laldila Ristorante, is the main restaurantlocated within the Cassadaga Hotel. Although reviews are mixed, most agree the wine is excellent. American cuisine is served daily. There is a coffee bar adjacent to the restaurant.
If you’re looking for more variety, the city of Lake Helen is about a five-minute drive from the camp and is home to a pizza shop, ice cream store, and BBQ joint.