By Pat Foster-Turley
September 1, 2022
The morning after the séance and piano bar at Cassadaga, Bucko and I found no coffee in the lobby or anywhere else nearby, and barely running water in our shower, so forget that idea. The Cassadaga Hotel is not one for even the most basic amenities, despite the high price. The price you are paying is for something else.
It didn’t take long to stumble into that “something else.” We walked down the narrow hallway from our room to the lobby and this time noticed the fire extinguisher in an alcove along the way. Inside this alcove, crowding out the fire extinguisher, was a collection of well-worn children’s toys. What in the heck are these?
Of course, ever curious, I had to find out more. At checkout, we returned our hotel key to the gal in the gift shop who doubled as the hotel receptionist, and I quizzed her about the toys. I was told that there are a lot of children’s spirits in the hotel, and these toys are for them. If you take a toy into your room for the night, a ghost child will visit you to play with them there. What fun! It would have been good to know this last night. As I say, I’m up for anything.
But Bucko, as usual, not so much. While I was happily chatting with the gift shop gal he wandered out into the lobby, close to the exit door. He was done with this. Or so he thought. When I left the gift shop a woman with bright colored long skirt, golden necklaces and bangles, purple hair, a head scarf and olive skin rushed past me and ran to Bucko. “I’ve got something for you,” she said in a heavily accented voice and handed him a small black object.
“It’s a ——,“ she told him, but I couldn’t understand her words. “Use it to get rid of your grief.” Bucko played along and said “What? Will this give me grief?” “No, it helps with your grief and soothes you.” I chimed in and asked her to spell what it was, since I couldn’t understand her words. “Apache tear” she spelled for me and later I looked it up. Sure enough this volcanic stone, obsidian with horizontal plates of crystal embedded within, was well represented on the Internet. As legend goes, a group of Apaches fighting with the cavalry rode their horses off a cliff rather than be captured. The tears of their widows and children fell to the stream bed and solidified into these rocks. And yes, mystics use them to soak up grief. Why Bucko was the recipient of her largess we will never know, but now the rock sits upon Bucko’s dresser—just in case I guess.
We were not yet done with Cassadaga. A half-block away from the hotel was a place called “C. Green’s Haunted History House & Museum” and of course I had to see this too. An old woman met us on the porch and invited us to riffle through some bins with a collection of sunglasses, a snorkel mask, and a few other objects that she said were collected from the beach, and we were welcome to any of them for free. Why not? Bucko sorted through the sunglasses and found a couple that would replace the ones that he had recently damaged. I tried out the facemask and it sealed perfectly on my face. I was looking to buy a new one to replace my prescription mask I no longer needed after cataract surgery. Just what I needed, and for free!
We paid our $10-dollar-each entry fee and were given small flashlights and entered the barely lit series of small rooms, each with an assortment of all things bizarre—haunted dolls (for sale); Sasquatch, UFO, Creature from the Black Lagoon and other collections, screaming life-sized statues, and many other spooky things, best seen in the darkened room with our small flashlights. It was well worth the $10 each, but with our new facemask and sunglasses we received even more of value back from them.
But one last thing we had to do before leaving Cassadaga. You guessed it if you read last week’s column. We had to go back to the Lake Helen-Cassadaga Cemetery to check on the status of the full beer can we had left on the “Devil’s Chair” the day before. According to legend the Devil would drink the beer but the can would be there, empty but unopened. Well, alas, it was still there just like we left it. Full, but warm now. We retrieved it and put it in our trunk again.
Our trip to Cassadaga was over. But the memories will remain … if you are brave, check it out!
Pat Foster-Turley, Ph.D., is a zoologist on Amelia Island. She welcomes your nature questions and observations. [email protected]
Fascinating, I enjoyed both essays. Have been there just once while staying at Lake Helen but didnt have these otherworldly experiences. Of course, I dont believe any of it but…but….uh….would have left the grief stone and not taken the Devil’s beer! Le us, your readers, know if there is any follow up.
We discovered Cassadaga FL several years ago. I grew up near Cassadaga NY, home to Lily Dale, a prominent spiritualist center in Chautauqua County. When I read that the FL incarnation was founded by a man from NY in the 1870’s, I wondered if one of the NY spiritualists had been kicked out of Lily Dale and headed out for new territory or if he had just had enough of life in the Snow Belt. Thanks, Pat, for your articles!
You’re right on track there. The Wikipedia entry for the history of Cassadaga says, “The Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp began circa 1875, when the Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp Meeting Association was founded by George P. Colby, from Pike, New York, a trance medium who traveled to many different states, giving readings and seances. He was well known and in his travels was referred to as the “seer of spiritualism.” Colby attended summer Spiritualist Camp meetings at Lily Dale, New York, the town adjacent to Cassadaga, New York that would lend its name to the Florida community.