CASSADAGA, Fla. - If you are looking for a place to disconnect and escape the hectic rush hour traffic or crowded streets of Orlando, just drive to a small community in Volusia County called Cassadaga.
Cassadaga, Florida is known for its psychics, mediums and healers, but more importantly, its spirituality.
Whether you believe in the supernatural or are a die-hard skeptic, Cassadaga is an alluring town, just waiting to be explored.
As I turned through the tree-lined roads, peaceful terrain and historical homes, I couldn’t believe I’d just gotten off the nightmare that is I-4.
“Am I still in Central Florida?” I joked to myself.
CASSADAGA HOTEL: Welcome to the Hotel Cassadaga. Rumor has it the eccentric hotel is haunted: a rumor which the hotel embraces.
“Our beautiful Hotel is HAUNTED - with friendly ‘Spirits,’ of course! People from all walks of life come to visit this charming and mysterious Inn,” the hotel posts on its website.
As I walked through the doors, there was a calming, peaceful feeling. It was like I stepped back in time, with its uniquely decorated 1920s-esque furniture and decor.
I walked past the hotel’s cafe and into the gift shop, where crystals, books, potions and many other novelties relating to the spiritual and supernatural are sold.
Before booking a reading with a psychic medium, April Roane, I chatted with the hotel employees who preferred not to be named. I asked what drew them to work in Cassadaga.
“The universe shoves and pushes where you’re meant to be,” an employee said.
The family-owned hotel offers a serene place to stay, designed for “peace and quiet,” without TVs or telephones in the rooms.
“It’s a desire to help, give assistance to others; to those feeling lost or need guidance,” another employee said.
Feel like some alone time? The hotel has a meditation station in the lobby, where you can "take a moment to revive your energy through your body, mind and spirit," according to the website.
Visitors can also book psychic readings, healings and seances. The hotel also offers palmistry and Reiki healing courses.
The onsite restaurant, Sinatra’s, offers good food, a different kind of spirits, karaoke and weekly dueling pianos.
Down the road from the hotel, on Seneca Street, I encountered Horseshoe Park and Fairy Trail, where you’ll find fairy doors and houses and trinkets hanging on trees.
COMMUNITY: The Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp is a community which lies within Cassadaga, where certified mediums and healers reside.
"Life in Cassadaga is like anywhere else, with a slight, awesome twist," healer and medium Joy Sagar said. "I find the energy of Cassadaga to be accepting of everyone that visits here. Cassadaga offers a beautiful and safe environment of healing and nurturing for everyone."
It’s been around since 1894 and this year, it's celebrating its 125th anniversary. From spirit crawls to guided tours, the camp has many events.
So, what is life like in Cassadaga?
“Life here is very quiet, most of the time. I have been living in the camp for over 20 years and the pace of life has not changed much,” resident Rev. Judy Cooper said.
But that isn’t always the case.
“We provide many activities for our visitors throughout the year, such as classes and workshops, along with special events, like our Gala Days,” Cooper said. “We hold Gala Days four times a year. We have many street vendors and mini readings. During this time, our streets are very busy, where on a normal day they are very quiet. Everyone is invited to these activities.”
Cooper said she enjoys the small-town atmosphere and the “quaint, historical homes give you the feeling of stepping back in time.”
“Being a medium, I have been able to meet some very wonderful people,” Cooper said. “Being able to share my belief in the continuity of life and seeing the joy on the faces of my clients when they hear from a loved one fills me with joy and happiness. I would not want to be doing anything else or be anywhere else.”
The Spiritualist Camp also offers a unique bookstore, meditative parks and Sunday services.
URBAN LEGEND: Just about every small town has its myths or stories and Cassadaga isn’t the exception. The Devil’s Chair, supposedly located in the town’s cemetery, is an urban legend that Cassadaga has been linked to, but in fact, the town has no cemetery nor a Devil’s Chair.
Feeling bold? The cemetery to which the legend refers to is in neighboring Lake Helen. (Legend has it the chair was built by the devil himself, and he sits in the chair after midnight, waiting for people to come.) You can read more about the legend here: http://bit.ly/2kJeFE5
In the end, Cassadaga is a pretty little town with a lot of interesting history and a good, spiritual vibe. The scariest thing I encountered was a very large banana spider hanging on its web (eek!).
"My motto is: 'Lifting humanity one heart at a time. May today this heart be yours,'" psychic medium April Roane said.
As for my reading with April? Let’s just say this skeptical journalist needed a couple of tissues.
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