Book Review: Lily Dale: The Town that Talks to the Dead by Christine Wicker

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If you are not already familiar with Christine Wicker you may want to take a few moments to search out some information on her and on the many books she has written. She is one of my favorite authors in the area of religion and spirituality.

Christine has been the religion reporter for the Dallas Morning News for almost two decades. According to the copy on the back of her book, she is the first reporter/outsider to write a book on Lily Dale.

I came to know Christine as a writer with her book, Not in Kansas Anymore: A Curious Tale of How Magic Is Transforming America, another book that should be reviewed in this column. But since Lily Dale fits better with my theme, I thought I would begin with her book on that wonderful town.

Christine recently published a somewhat autobiographical account about her own faith journey, God Knows My Heart: Finding a Faith That Fits. I’d love to someday meet and talk with her. For now, let me tell you about her book on my adopted home town, Lily Dale.

If you like, you may click here: Lily Dale
That link will take you to the official site of the town and the assembly known as Lily Dale.
For an interesting brief history of Lily Dale please see Ron Nagy

The town began as a tent meeting gathering place for Spiritualists in the very earliest years of Spiritualism. Today it is the “World’s Largest Center for the Science Philosophy and Religion of Spiritualism.”

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Lily Dale is home to more than 50 mediums that live in gorgeous Victorian homes in the gated and tight little town. As you walk the narrow streets of Lily Dale you will see shingles that contain the name of a person with the title “medium” beneath. Often there is a sign-up sheet on the porch if you want a sitting. The town museum is home to many of the shingles of mediums long since crossed over.

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Lily Dale has not changed significantly since its founding in the Victorian era. While I was there I purchased post card images that were taken at the turn of the last century. I took photos of these very places. A comparison between photos taken in the 21st century and those taken in the 19th reveal little change.

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To step onto the grounds of Lily Dale is, in many ways, to step back in time and to step out of the realm where the dead are elusive and into a place where they are as close as your next door neighbor.

My visit to Lily Dale was life changing and I plan to return. In fact, should providence allow I would love to own a home on the grounds of Lily Dale and practice mediumship there in what I consider to be the most sacred city of Spiritualism.

In her book Christine introduces us to the people and a few of the mediums of Lily Dale. She spends enough time with a select few that by the end of her book the reader feels he/she has had a personal encounter with them. When I went to Lily Dale I sought out some of the mediums referenced in Christine’s book.

Christine is a reporter and the subject of Spiritualism has always been one of controversy. Spiritualism offers scientific proof of the continuity of life after death. There are those in our culture that do not believe in life after death and there are those that, while they believe in life after death, they also believe that it is forbidden to seek contact or that contact simply is not possible. So Spiritualism presents a challenge to not one but many firmly held opinions about the afterlife or the lack thereof. Christine tries very hard not to take sides but she presents the town and its people so well that I could not help feel attracted.

I love a journalist that makes the effort to set her personal convictions aside in the search for the honesty of a story. I really can’t tell you if Christine is a Spiritualist or not but as a Spiritualist myself I can tell you I thought she was fair in what she said, in how she represented Spiritualism, and how she represented Lily Dale.

In her book, Christine said that, “Lily Dale was such a gentle place that even the squirrels weren’t afraid of the cats.” And that my friends, is the God’s honest truth about Lily Dale.

Please read the book but more importantly please visit the town and while you are there why not choose one of the many mediums for a sitting. Their rates are astonishingly fair and what you will get in return will be worth far more than the money you lay down for a sitting – you will connect with a loved one and you will receive evidence of the continuity of life.

Much love,
David

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