As early as the 1930s, the central Florida town of Cassadaga shows up in Florida tour guides as a “spiritualist camp.” Today, people know Cassadaga as “that place for psychics” and go there to get their fortunes told.
But Cassadaga’s history isn’t just for psychics. While skeptics may stay away from the town as they snicker at the idea of having their cards read or taking an orb tour, the camp’s history may be enough to lure the skeptic or historian for an afternoon stroll through the town.
WHO: In 1875, a man named George Colby claimed to have followed his spirit guide, Seneca, through the as-of-yet-untamed central Florida backwoods. Two decades later he incorporated the Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp Meeting Association.
WHAT: Cassadaga is two places.
For people seeking enlightenment, it’s a spiritualist camp catering to people seeking a personal relationship with a higher being. These people also believe that people (and their personalities) survive after their physical death, and that mediums can communicate with those personalities. They find these mediums at Cassadaga.
For everyone else, it’s a cool historic town with hilly streets, lushly landscaped lawns, and some pretty neat architecture. You don’t need to want to communicate with the dead to see Cassadaga. You just need to appreciate old Florida towns.
The camp controls the look of the town and what gets built there, because it, not the residents, owns all the property. Residents must follow the edicts of spiritualism own homes on leased land.
WHEN: Cassadaga is a neighborhood– albeit an unusual one– and, while neighborhoods never really close, the wooded, serene parks dotted across the camp do. Unless you’re there for a night tour, special event or other appointment, arrive when you have plenty of daylight to stroll the streets and look around.
WHERE: Just outside of Sanford off I-4. Take exit 114; from there it’s about a five-minute drive.
WHY: If you don’t believe seances and mediums are parlor tricks, this is the place to go for the real deal. The folks here take their beliefs very seriously, and if you’re looking for a reading or other-wordly experience, chances are you will find one here.
Cassadaga also offers tours of all types, including haunted Halloween and orb tours. On the orb tours a guide will use a digital camera to take pictures of glowing balls that believers claim are visible only to cameras.
The history tours offer insight into the community’s past, which may appeal more to people who aren’t wholly on board with the idea of communicating with the dead.
Finally, the camp offers course in spiritualism. On the Cassadaga web site, the camp says it doesn’t try to convert people; the classes are there only for those who come on their own.
BEST Part: Spiritualism and mediums aside, the town itself is a neat walk through the past. Old-style Florida homes dominate the landscape and flowers and plants carpet every yard. Walking around the town makes for a pleasant afternoon, followed by a glass of wine on the sweeping porch of the Cassadaga Hotel.
MAGIC Question: Readings start at around $40 and go up from there (you can find a list of who’s open for business at the welcome center and gift shop). Orb tours cost $25; history tours cost $15. The camp offers other tours and services for roughly the same amounts; check at the welcome center for pricing and more information.
Walking through the camp and visiting the parks costs nothing.
Visit Cassadaga.org for more information.
Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.