The Town Where Spiritualism Lives

By Mark A. Kellner | Posted October 29, 2019

Sitting in the southwestern corner of New York, a short drive from Buffalo, Lily Dale is a picturesque town dotted by Victorian-era buildings. Yet behind its archaic but pleasant façade lurks something altogether different—something dark.

Lily Dale, you see, was founded in 1879 as a community for those who practice spiritualism, and it’s been in operation for 140 years. The New York Post recently featured what it called “home to the world’s largest spiritualist community” in a pre-Halloween feature article. 

The newspaper noted, “With a population of some 275 residents—many of whom are practicing mediums—it looks like a town frozen in the mid-19th century. Narrow roads are lined with old-fashioned houses, many adorned with signs announcing ‘the medium is in.’ A rickety wooden auditorium in the center of town is typically ‘papered with flyers advertising trumpet séances, past-life regressions, astral-travel workshops, spoon-bending classes and circles to develop mediumship,’ [photographer and author Shannon] Taggart writes.”


“A Shadowy Subculture”

Taggart spent 18 years studying and photographing mediums in Lily Dale as well in England and Spain. While publicly saying she’s not sure she’d identify as a believer in spiritualism, “I no longer subscribe to the popular belief that spiritualists are charlatans just trying to make money off of people,” Taggart told the newspaper. “For the most part, I found them to be very sincere.”

According to the Post account, “Spiritualism—a belief system based not just on the existence of spirits, but the idea that they want to stay in contact with the living—was once part of the mainstream. It was embraced by public figures like psychoanalyst Carl Jung, evolutionary biologist Alfred Russel Wallace, poet William Butler Yeats and even Abraham Lincoln. But today, it’s almost entirely hidden.”

Taggart adds, spiritualism “flourishes in fiction and entertainment but is marginalized by academia and the media.” Her research gave her, she said, “a peek into a shadowy subculture that was once a seminal force in Western culture. A legacy that was absent from every textbook I had ever studied, including my histories of photography.”

None of It Is True, Bible Says

Not surprisingly, the Post article tells tales of mediums contacting “dead relatives,” learning secrets they otherwise could not know, and even encountering the spirit of Elvis Presley during a séance.

None of it is real, however—according to the Bible. In Leviticus 20:6, God makes clear what He thinks about the practice of spiritualism: “The person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person.”

Are the dead doing anything right now? Not according to Ecclesiastes 9:10: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” No “work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave”? That’s definitive!

The Bible also explains that serious consequences may await those who consult with mediums. “So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the Lord, because he did not keep the word of the Lord, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. But he did not inquire of the Lord; therefore He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse” (1 Chronicles 10:13, 14).

The dead aren’t talking to us; they can’t! Why not? Because they are dead in their graves. God also forbids His followers from engaging in the practice. 

It seems more than clear that anyone who practices spiritualism is toying with dangerous forces. In the ancient city of Ephesus, another hotbed of spiritualism and paganism, people who embraced the message of Jesus knew what to do next.

Acts 19:18–20 says, “And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver.”

Despite losing thousands of dollars in value, these new Christians were determined to have nothing to do with mediumship. They didn’t regard the cost of their paraphernalia; they wanted it out of their lives as quickly as possible.

Not long ago, Pastor Doug Batchelor answered a radio listener’s call-in question about using Ouija boards to contact spirits. He said, “Nowhere in the Bible do any of God’s prophets ever use these spiritualistic incantations, or methods, to try to get information or find out what the future is. The best thing is to discover the will of God for our lives, day-by-day, by following the principles in His Word. God is not going to give us a fortune cookie that’s going to tell us what's happening tomorrow.”

You can also take a look at our website, which will walk you through Scripture step-by-step to find out what really happens when we die—and to steer clear of the devil’s deceptions!

Mark Kellner
Mark A. Kellner is a staff writer for Amazing Facts International. He is a veteran journalist whose work has been published in Religion News Service, The Washington Times, and numerous computer magazines.

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