September 23, 2011 – This past weekend we trekked the width of the state of New York to visit Lily Dale, the famed community of spiritualists that’s been around since like the mid-1800s. It was the first day of the season that felt like Fall to me. The air was almost chilly, the town was surrounded by woodland, and somebody was growing oversized pumpkins in what looked to be a community garden and, I assume, according to some mandate from the afterlife. The ideal séance might take place at midnight in a thunderstorm, but this did nicely for what I was about to undergo.
Unfortunately, I can’t go into all the details of the place and the people we talked to since I have to save that for my book, but I can post a transcript of an actual reading session that I had with an officially registered Lily Dale medium because, well, what else am I going to do with that.
If you’ve read more than four words of mine, then you know that I’m pretty much skeptical about everything…the existence of ghosts, alien abductors, popular constructs of God, the perfect pizza, my ability to keep people’s attention. What you might not know is that I really don’t want to be. As a result, I’m always trying to navigate some sort of mental Planctae that forces me into strange situations (like this one, for instance) where I don’t believe at all what’s being put before me but am still fascinated by what’s laying there. That’s pretty much what happened here, except it happened with a little old grandmotherly woman who hosted me in the front room of her own house and said that dead people were dropping by to say nice things about me.
So I wasn’t there to try to prove the mediums of Lily Dale as genuine, charlatan, or naïve misinterpreters of brain flashes, just to learn what it feels like to have a reading and have somebody claim there's a dead person in the room with me. Interestingly, most of them record the entire session, which is why I was able to put together a transcript. I’m guessing they do this to give people blog content. I’ve edited out all of my idiotic okays, inappropriate laughs, awkward silences, and Zelda Rubinstein jokes (as well as resisted the temptation to include a running commentary), but this is basically how the first part of my talk with the dead went:
LILY DALE MEDIUM (LDM): I like to start with a prayer, and then I share with you any thoughts, feelings, or impression that I might have. And it’s kind of like working with a dream. Have you ever woken up in the morning, and you think, “Oh, I had this dream last night,” and then you try to talk about it and you can get kind of feelings and pictures and sometimes smells and whatnot, but it takes a while to kind of figure out what’s going on, so it’s kind of like that. At least that’s my experience of it.
You know, sometimes I’ll see a word over top of somebody’s head, sometimes I’ll get a smell, sometimes I’ll get a, like an overall impression in my mind and then I have to kind of sort it out. So it’s sort of a three-way process. You know, my focus is not on you. My focus is on the spirit.
ME: So it’s a different experience for you every time.
LDM: Oh, yeah. The technique is similar, but the spirits coming through present in a different way each time. So it is a three-way street. My focus is here [motions to the area around us]. This is where I want to get my information from, is away from us, all right? But I need you to help interpret it and make sense of it. So it’s sort of a three-way event., so to speak, okay?
ME: Okay, gotcha. Gotcha.
LDM: All right. So I’ll start with my prayer, and then we’ll just see how it goes from there. And I just want you to feel free to talk to me during the reading, to ask questions, to ask for an explanation of anything that doesn’t make any sense. Now, if I see you going like this [nods head], that means to me, “Yes, I understand everything you’re saying.” Okay? Sometimes people go like this [nods head] when they’re saying, “I’m hearing you, and I’m thinking about it.” Okay? But if you do this for me [nods head], that’s what I, I understand that you know what I’m talking about.
If you shake your head, “No,” like this [demonstrates], it shuts down the reading. You can say, “No,” but as soon as the head starts shaking, for me, it shuts down the reading. So I’d rather you say, “I don’t get that” or “It’s not making sense,” okay?
[Long pause. Medium closes her eyes.]
LDM: Dear God, safe in the presence of your love and guidance, we open the door to communication with the unseen world. I ask to be a clear and open channel and that light ever be my guide. We ask a special blessing of love, healing, and upliftment for Jason , that the information he seeks will be made available to him. We welcome his loved ones, teachers, and guides, all those in the spirit that wish us well and give thanks for all we are about to receive. Amen.
You know, I don’t know if you come from a Catholic family or a denomination that has priests or ministers, but I definitely see a priest or a minister with you.
ME: Uh, yeah. I came from a background of independent fundamentalism, actually, so, yeah, ministers would be more accurate than priests.
LDM: And do you have a minister that was in the family or one that you were close to, that you can place?
ME: No, I’ve kind of been out of that for a while now…about a decade.
LDM: For a while, now, okay. Well, I’m going to stay with it, you know, because it might make some sense to you, but I definitely feel the presence of a minister that stands between us. And I kind of get the feeling from him that, I don’t know, I feel like he’s talking about your youth, that you were a fair-haired boy in your youth, and he talks about you always had an ability or an aptitude for thinking ahead, is the way that he’s bringing it. And so I feel like you may have known him when you were young, that you were a rule-follower, if you know what I mean, when you were young.
ME: Definitely could be some truth to that. I definitely was fair-haired.
LDM: Definitely fair-haired…oh, thank you so much for saying that, ‘cause I’m looking and he’s got brown hair.
ME: Yeah, there’s like a spot somewhere on my head that reveals what my old color was. But definitely platinum almost. And I went through quite a few ministers, so there’s definitely a possibility that one’s dead.
LDM: Okay, good, good. Because if you can’t place him, he’s got a message anyway, and for some reason he wants to be here, but the feeling, the strongest feeling I get is that he’s talking about you as being a forward thinker, all right? That where you’re going, what you’re going to do, and how you’re going to do it are thoughts that occupy your mind, all right? It’s almost as though he’s saying that you are, you’re a very internal thinker, you think things through and then you implement them and go forward. It’s sort of a scientific feel to the way that you process information. So I kind of feel that he’s come through, number one to say, “Hello,” okay?
LDM: Oh, okay. Thanks. Because that was throwing you right off. So I’m seeing, like, down the road, I’m not seeing this in the immediate future, I’m seeing this kind of down the road, you may be in a situation again where you’re working in a lab, okay? And it feels like, as I said, it’s testing things out, coming up with ideas, you know, not really manufacturing a product. It’s the research, the development, you know, that kind of stage.
Now is your mother in the spirit world, please?
LDM: This has got to be grandmother, because there’s a mother energy that comes in very close to you, and, uh…peanuts don’t grow on trees. I feel like she lived in a place where we would pick nuts off a tree.
ME: Possible. I don’t know too much about my grandmothers.
LDM: What kind of nuts grow on a tree?
ME: I don’t know.
LDM: The silliest thing is because I’ve lived around here for a long time and I would dig in the garden, and I would come up with these peanuts, you know, and I’m thinking, well, I guess at one time they must have had peanut bushes, you know, but I couldn’t figure out why they kept coming up all the time. Here, the darned squirrels are burying peanuts. It took me years to figure that out, you know. So when I’m seeing peanuts again, I’m thinking, “Peanuts do not grow on trees, I’m not that stupid anymore,” you know? But for some reason they’re showing me nuts growing on trees.
And, again, she brings through this sense of you being very inquisitive and always wanting to find out the why of things, how things works and how they go together. She’s also taking me back to college time for you, and I almost feel like that was a difficult time for you, going through college…in a relationship situation.
ME: Definitely a weird time, college was.
LDM: Yeah, I kind of feel like it wasn’t what everybody would say, “That was a wonderful time,” or “a wonderful experience.” You faced a few demons through that time.
ME: Could be accurate, yeah.
LDM: Yeah, and I don’t know why, but I feel like in your relationship, there must have been some issue or problem or situation around a relationship that upset you. And then, after that one time, I feel like you got on track and you went forward without too much trouble. So some issue around the college or time for you was hard.
ME: Yeah, that’s accurate. I don’t know that it was relationship-based, but it was definitely a weird situation, college was, for me.
LDM: Yeah, okay, so but afterwards it feels like the last year of college or the last year and a half, you sort of got on track, and then I just see you going forward.
ME: I think that’s accurate.
LDM: Then there’s a sense of love came easy to you after that, so I guess you must’ve met your wife.
ME: Not really. I met my wife about a decade after college.
LDM: Did you? Oh, okay. Because I guess when you met her, things went smooth, okay? That’s kind of how I want to put it. So, I’m just going to ask you at this point why you came today, what was sort of on your mind, what were you hoping to hear.
ME: Well, honestly, it was more curiosity than need or even really hope, I guess. I’m more fascinated by the topic than anything.
LDM: Of after death?
ME: Yeah, after death, anything related to death, all the way around the topic, I guess. So I don’t know if that messes up the process.
LDM: No, it doesn’t. Because sometimes people come in with…they’ve got these…something on their mind, and unless we address it, nothing else happens.
ME: Oh, I see.
LDM: It’s sort of like this, I want to hear this, I want to hear that. So why don’t you ask me a couple of questions and then we’ll just see how the rest of it goes.
ME: Questions like about the process or about my own direction or…
ME: Okay. Let me think.
LDM: Well, you were, you said you wanted to know anything about death or around the topic of death and perhaps life on the spirit side.
LDM: Okay, so I have brought in this one grandmother that I feel with you, and I feel an energy, maybe not with her, maybe with someone else, around paralysis, before they passed on over to the spirit side, okay? So they may have had a stroke, they may have had some sort of injury that caused them to not be able to operate certain parts of their body.
ME: One of them that definitely doesn’t apply to. The other one I can’t speak to, around the circumstances, just because I don’t know much about it.
LDM: Okay, and it may not be your grandmothers. It may be someone else. But it does come in with a paralyzed feeling. The paralyzed feeling affected the breathing, as well, so they may have been on some sort of oxygen pump. Now, um…
ME: I’m not, ‘cause it all happened when I was younger, so I’m not too sure about a lot of the situations.
|Not the medium I went to, but there was one of these signs|
on just about every house in town.
So I’m having this conversation with the sister, and I’m having this conversation inside in my head, and then all of a sudden, I got this sort of burst of information, and what it was, was to tell me that on the spirit side of life, there’s infinite compassion. And so they never rip away from people. Situations, or addictions even, that made them feel complete or whole or…the other side doesn’t rip them away just willy nilly.
So let’s say, we’ll take a good example, somebody like this lady who loved her cigarettes and loved having a cup of coffee and loved talking to people. All right, so she passes over, and she finds herself in that situation, you know, where she’s just as comfortable as she was in her own kitchen. She’s just sitting there. But at the same time she realizes that she can’t really move on in the spirit until she’s willing to give those things up. Okay? So there comes a time in everybody’s passing where they have to be willing to give up those things that they were attached to while on Earth in order to advance spiritually. But they can take all the time they want to do it, they’re never forced. It’s all when they’re ready to make that decision, and then they move forward.
ME: So what does that mean, “advance spiritually”?
Continue to Part 2, where we learn the fate of serial killers in the afterlife, talk about caterpillars and sweaters, and learn what I don’t do for a living.